22 October 2014

Building a Novel Playlist

My NaNoWriMo prep is elaborate and ornate and all kinds of other things suggestive of ritual. I've been NaNo-ing out novels since 2008, the first year that I tried NaNo and won (not the first year I tried), but I've gotten better at plotting and researching and psyching myself up for it since then.

Today I've been working on my soundtrack. Soundtracking a novel is a way to use the poetry of others to serendipitously inspire your own plots.

The basic idea comes from the fine folks at Storywonk. The scariest and best part is that you're not allowed to use music that you already have an emotional relationship with or any emotional associations. You don't want to be trying to work on your novel and end up thinking about your best friend and that time you drove all night and sang a song at top volume. You want to focus on your novel. So while you build your soundtrack you're going to be getting to know some new music and new musicians.

For me, the Indie / Folk category on The Music Ninja usually resonates very well. I usually work my way through The Indie Dojo until I have 16-18 songs to pick from. If you're working on a budget, there are free downloads among the songs, and you can listen to the whole song via TMN while you're deciding if it will work for you and your soundtrack, so it's a good resource. There are others, but I'm a bit limited by not being in the US, and this is what works for me.

SO: you go through new-to-you music until you find a bunch of songs that you like and that you think fit with your project. This is an intuitive process, so you'll have to feel your own way through. Then you go through and assign a song to chunks of your novel. How you do this is up to you, but I basically find a song that represents each of my main characters including my antagonist(s), then I pick an "opening credit" song, a "closing credit" song, and a song for each of the major turning points of my plot. (Yeah, I'm a plotter not a pantser.) You can pick a song for your setting, a song for the tone of the book, a song for your theme(s), whatever works.

The fun part is that you can use the songs to help you build your plot. I haven't designed my major plot points yet but I've picked a bunch of songs. I expect that as I go through my song list and start arranging them, the plot will emerge.

Once you've got your songs picked out, you arrange them in an order that makes sense to you. Every time you work on your novel, whether you're plotting, brainstorming, doodling some notes on your main character, or actually starting the draft, you play your playlist. Once you've been doing that for a while and you've got an association between your novel and your playlist, take the playlist with you and play it whenever you can. It will help keep the fires of your novel burning, and will allow you to create associations and think about plot points so you arrive at the page each day on fire with ideas.

I've had amazing things happen with little snippets of song lyrics: sudden resonances, amazing coincidences, and bits of dialogue or even just character attitudes that have helped me deepen my work.

x-posted to my tumblr

3 comments:

L.G. Smith said...

Oh, that is a great idea. This project I'm going to focus on is perfect for this sort of mood setting. Actually, a Kate Bush album would probably do it. Music is another thing I don't normal do while writing, but I'm trying to shake things up this time and write on fire.

And, by the way, you are a MAD woman! 100k in a month? I bow at your NaNo feet. :P

Deborah Walker said...

Good luck with Nanowrimo, Elizabeth. Just this morning, I've started a new novel. So, I can't play along because that would be cheating.

Elizabeth Twist said...

There is really no such thing as a NaNo cheater, Debs. They call themselves "rebels," and they include people who are continuing work they've already started. You could still totally use November to boost your word count.

On a related note, congratulations on starting a new novel project! Very exciting stuff.

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