Until the chemistry is right

Many people think that it is important to have a title before you begin writing the book, but I think you should never sit around waiting for the right title to strike before you start writing. Crack on with the story, put in the hard work and the title will come eventually — Darren Shan

I think I may have come up with a title for my second novel. Imagine that.

It took me the weekend to come up with something. I’m not entirely committed to it yet but it feels like a good fit. I’m just going to let it linger for a bit.

Kinda like trying a new fragrance. A new blend of essential oils and aromatics. My blend already has the base and middle notes. I’ve been working with those from the beginning, refining as I move through the writing process. I’ve been playing with the top notes and they are the last pieces to the fragrance puzzle. A book title, book cover art work and the discerning eye of an editor as she combs through the manuscript once I’m ready to hand it over to her. The top notes are slowly coming together. Let each ingredient settle in, one by one. I have to see how the new title takes to the characters and the story landscape. They have to mingle. They have to be a really good fit before I can commit.

There will be chemistry. The good kind, I hope. Seriously, the last thing I want to have is the lab exploding in white hot heat. With some things, I’ll let the explosion happen. With the book, I’ll only tolerate a little smoke. Just enough to not set off the water sprinklers.

Now that I believe I have the book title, I can move forward with figuring out the art for the book cover. Can I do this myself or shall I invest in someone who has a bigger wheelhouse than me? I think I’ll have the answer by the end of this week.

I can also go back to the manuscript and work on a second draft. There’s one thing I want to add to it already. Just a handful of lines of dialogue. Then I’ll go over each scene (paragraph by paragraph, if necessary) to see if I can put a little more spunk and sparkle to what’s already there.

I stayed away from the manuscript for two weeks. But it was never far from my mind anyway. I wasn’t sure how I’d handle that length of separation but I ended up finding a couple of stories to read online that had consumed certain aspects of my imagination. Let’s just say when I go in, I find myself going in for all or nothing.

And I have to drag myself away from all-or-nothing and turn my attention to a different kind of all-or-nothing — my novel, my characters, my boys. It won’t be difficult to fall back in with my boys. They know what I’ve been indulging in and, no surprise, they whole-heartedly approve of this particular indulgence.

Now, I must head back to the lab and play with all the notes, work with my boys. Just a little more experimenting, just a little more refinement until the chemistry is just right.

Getting it done

When I return to the writing process after being away from it for awhile, the first part of it always is being honest with myself: What am I into right now? Is it rock bands and guitars, is it noise, is it dance beats and electronics? Is it space, is it clutter? — Trent Reznor

When I finished writing my first novel, I never asked myself what interested me at that moment in terms of what could be my next novel. I wondered what I could write for a next novel but I never purposefully connected it to my interests. And I guess I assumed they would come out of whatever interested me at the time.

I can’t even remember specifically when the characters for the second novel charged into my life. I remember working on one idea when my boys burst in and demanded my attention. Who am I to say no with the kind of entrance they gave me?

Anyway, I never did a self-evaluation, as it were, to see what interested me or obsessed me. It just happened. That’s about as much as an explanation as I can provide.

As a writer, I haven’t asked myself what authors have I read whose work intrigues me. To be honest, I don’t read books these days. I read, but not books. Too much on the go. The times I have tried to make time to read a book I find interesting, I have failed to finish in a timely manner. You don’t want to know how many books I have not finished reading. Some folks would call the number of unread books shameful.

The things that do interest me are music and films. Most of my ideas are born out of that combination. But I do have non-sequiter moments. These are things I’ve touched on in previous posts.

The bulk of the music I listen to, isn’t what most folks would consider to be Top 40 stuff. I hardly listen to that at all. Doesn’t interest me. It may have something to do with my age but I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. I don’t care for a majority of what’s considered current.

I prefer contemporary instrumental, classical or orchestral. Although, I have to admit I have been listening Smashing Pumpkins’ Ava Adore and The Glitch Mob remix of The White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army. The White Stripes tune is conjuring up imagery and ideas for a third novel.

I figure if I’m actually toying with an idea for a third novel, then I must be close to finishing the first draft of the second novel. You know what that means… I’d better get my ass in gear and finish the first draft so I can figure out the third novel.

I’m approaching the final leg of the draft. I’m pretty chuffed yet mildly disbelieving that I might actually be this close to completing the first draft. It is frighteningly exciting. And I’ll be more excited when I’m actually finished. Although my definition of finished might be a little different than most folks. We’ll see how it goes.

Gotta double down and get ‘er done.

Emotive space

I think it’s almost a law of nature that there are only certain things that hit an emotive space, and that’s what was always special for me about music: it made me feel something — Kate Bush

If you were to ask me who is my favourite female singer, I would automatically respond with Debbie Harry of Blondie.

But if you were to ask me which female singer has been a strong creative influence on me, I would have to say Kate Bush.

For those who like to keep track of shit like this, most of my creative influences are men. Ramin Djawadi. Ludovico Einaudi. Luca Guadagnino. Guillermo del Toro. Francis Lee.

They have influenced and still influence how I want to tell stories. For those who are not familiar with Djawadi and Einaudi, they are music composers. Yes, they influence how I see and tell stories. On a number of occasions, their music has evoked imagery and feelings that have informed the way past and present fictional characters behave and why they behave a in a particular manner.

There are a few ways for me to access the emotive space Bush talks about. But none have been as profound as music.

Music conjures imagery and feelings that pop into my head and give me something that is an equivalent to an epiphany. Canadian jazz musician Michael Kaeshammer’s version of St. James Infirmary was a catalyst in the creation of the my first novel.

My current playlist is always in a state of fluidity but Djawadi’s and Einaudi’s works are mainstays as I work to finish the first draft of the second novel. Other artists have a presence in my writing process, like UK singer/songwriter Jono McCleery.

I suppose I should mention the names of the pieces of music that make up part of my playlist. But I won’t do that simply because the music might give away the relationships between my characters. They are not so much spoilers as they could reveal the tone of the story I’m telling. I may share the playlist when the book is ready for public consumption.

But there is one piece that has landed on my current playlist I am willing to talk about beyond two sentences. That piece is Bush’s Running Up That Hill. Arguably that song may be the most used piece of music in television shows. C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation and Warehouse 13 are two shows that I know of, who have used the song. However, it’s not the original version by Bush that was used. Placebo’s cover was used by C.S.I. and a band called Track and Field did their own version of it for Warehouse 13.

As a side note, there is a band called Track and Field, based out of the UK. But they don’t seem to be the ones who covered the song. There is speculation the band was created just to record the song for Warehouse 13. I think the word used to describe this band was that they were a “project.”

I only discovered the Track and Field cover last week while I was wandering through YouTube trying to satiate my latest obsession. I’m not going to say what or who that would be. But I will say there is a theme linking my latest obsession to the characters in my second novel. I’m just going to leave it at that. I may talk about the theme but I will not name my obsession here.

Anyway, I heard the cover, figured out who performed it and wanted to buy the song. But, of course, the damn song is only available on the U.S. iTunes. What the fuck, folks? But I did find it on Soundcloud and I have no idea how many times I’ve listened to it.

Listening to Track and Field’s cover of Running Up That Hill took me to another part of the emotive space I regularly inhabit. I only access that area when the song/piece, characters and where I’m at with the writing, collide to give me a eureka moment. I don’t access it all the time and I have no way of knowing when it will happen. It just does. It has produced a collage of imagery and moments for the novel that I will be adding as I get closer to finishing the first draft.

I have always loved Kate Bush and her music. And I appreciate any well-executed cover of Running Up That Hill. Placebo’s cover of the tune was the first to blow me away. It just spoke volumes to me. But it’s funny that that cover wasn’t the one to give me my epiphanous moment last week. Hearing the simple combination of vocals, piano and drums in the Track and Field cover did it for me. It quietly opened another door in that emotive space and I was stunned.

Listening to it had me falling in love with the song all over again. Its lyrics and lietmotif evoke a myriad of intense emotions. It speaks to, or better yet, encapsulates the dynamic that exists between my three main characters. It asked me a question and I answered it. That answer is the key to finishing the novel.

It thrills me to no end that my writing process works no matter how far along I am in the story. No need for warming up. No faltering. Just rolling along with the scattered moments of genius. My genius is low level genius, but it’ll do. Happy to have any kind of genius. Period.

Now, back to that emotive space, my happy place. Back to feeling something.