Codename WTZ: The Music

I can’t write without music.  I know, zero surprise.  But I can’t.

The first step in my writing process (after the initial idea, of course) is building a writing playlist.  For those who don’t work this way, it may seem like a diversion.  “Shouldn’t you be outlining?  Developing character studies?  Doing research?”  Yes, yes I should be doing all of these things.  In fact, I am doing them while choosing the playlist.

I write cinematically, for lack of better term.  Every scene plays out in my head like a film.  My morning commutes are often spent with my eyes closed, picturing my characters and letting things unfold–winding them up and watching them go.  Every great film has a perfect score and/or soundtrack.

In building a playlist, I am defining my characters.  What music do they like?  Do they care about music, or is it another distraction in our digital world?  Do they have anthems?  What is the main mood of each one?  Music defines that.  Music also shapes the tone of the story.  Is it dark and gritty?  Brooding with a slow build?  Is it frenetic or playful?  Choosing the music that will accompany me through a lengthy process sets the vibe of the project.

Once the first raw draft is on the virtual page, I then set out to create the soundtrack.  Writing playlists are usually 200+ songs deep–unwieldy beasts meant for a shuffle.  The soundtrack, which I share on a book’s details page,are the songs that are directly referenced by characters or set the particular vibe of each chapter.  They’re the core of the characters and their journey.  Sometimes, my favourite songs to write a project to have no set place in the final soundtrack.  Sometimes, I endlessly repeat them to get that draft done. Either way, the soundtrack is distilled to the critical pieces for the next step:  revisions.

All of this is to say that my new project, codename WTZ, is entering revisions now, and I’m very excited.  Taking a few months away from the story has given me new insights into scenes that felt rough or incomplete on first go.  It’s also given me time to hammer out the soundtrack for the journey.

So, what does a team of security guards groove to while slaying zombies and dealing with demanding corporate lawyers? Take a spin below and find out!

New Year, New Project

*peeks out from her blanket fortress of winter cozy*  Is it 2016 yet?  Yes?  Excellent!

For many people I know, 2015 was a bumpy ride, self included.  It was one of those awkward years, filled with metaphorical growing pains, highs and lows in rapid succession, and Muses that didn’t necessarily want to cooperate on busy schedules.

It was also the year I released Waiting For A Star To Fall, a book I’m very proud to have in my catalogue, and the year I toyed with Kindle Select and other promotional tools as an indie author.  That’s the thing about choosing indie: you don’t simply write, or even promote.  You must coordinate every detail, from cover art to typesetting.  And while I’m quite happy to do so, it’s always nice to put an end to that cycle and create again

Nanowrimo 2015 kicked off the new creation cycle, yielding the first draft of a project I’ve spoken very little about–until now.

Codename: WTZ

I’ve never enforced any rules on my writing.  I don’t have a set genre, nor a proverbial playbook that guides my stories.  To date, I’ve written paranormal mystery and a legal suspense-thriller.  I simply walk in with characters, wind them up and watch them go.  Their interactions and growth (or lack thereof) are all that matter.

It shouldn’t be surprising , then, that I see nothing unusual about my next project being a zombie tale, laced with dark comedy.

We’ve seen the zombie genre from the perspective of many:  military, everyday families, teenagers, cops… It is a genre we devour eagerly.  We’ve seen it played for scares, for gore and for laughs, and we’ve lapped up all three. There’s a reason AMC keeps churning out new shows about the undead.

For me, the best zombie stories are the ones that really explore how zombies echo our lives, and the ways we live them–or fail to live up to their potential.  I also love the ones that can make me laugh at the doom.  My next book, which we’ll affectionately call WTZ for now, marries the disgruntled apathy of the working class with the first seventy-two hours of a zombie apocalypse.

Joshua Rivers, a struggling student trying to pay his tuition for his final year of university, reluctantly takes a security job at a prestigious office tower.  Assigned to the swing shift–deemed the worst schedule possible in the industry by his peers–he is thrown into a world where drunks and self-important businessmen assault, demean and dehumanize anyone in uniform, and employees take it with a smile.  It is a world where catching wrongdoers becomes a game, and where energy drinks are arranged in a hierarchy of potency, as they shamble through the long hours on little sleep.

It’s also a world where the zombie apocalypse arrives, with the expectation they will defend their blast-proof glass palace for barely more than minimum wage.

WTZ is a look inside the lives of the faceless people most of us pass daily without a second thought:  security, maintenance, store clerks.  It’s also an exercise in creative zombie slaying via office supplies.  As Josh and his coworkers fight for their survival, their mantra is one many of us have echoed in our lives:

“I am not getting paid enough for this.”

In the coming months, as I begin the process of editing the book, I’ll be sharing more about the six people at the heart of the story.  Like my very sweary Brit, who made research particularly fun for this one.  For now, you can read the first-draft take on the Prologue over on my Nanowrimo profile.

Happy New Year!

Nanowrimo 2015: Pants, Plot or Skeleton It?

It’s three days to the kick-off of Nanowrimo 2015 and as I pull together my prep notes, agonize over which characters will live and which will get nommed by zombies, I have to ask a critical question of those taking this leap with me:

Are you a plotter, pantser… or a member of my skeleton crew?

skeleton

You’ll hear a lot from Nano types about those first two options, so let’s get them out of the way:

Pantser:  someone who flies by the seat of one’s pants and writes straight from the brain.  I did this for my first Nano experience.

Plotter:  someone who outlines the entire book in advance of the wacky, sleepless world of Nano.  Last year, I wrote Waiting For A Star To Fall this way.  It was the most I’ve outlined a project prior to starting.

Usually, though, I fall somewhere in the middle of these options.  This is where I propose my third option:  the Skeletoner.  What’s that, you ask?  Chances are, some of you Plotters out there are actually skeleton-style writers.

Skeletoner:  someone who roughly outlines the general arc of their novel, but feels free to deviate, add or shift the story as the spirit moves them.  Basically, they’re Pansters who need a loose framework to support their creativity.

One of the things that frustrated me with writing Star last year was having to adjust any changes I made like a ripple throughout the outline.  Granted, Star was one of those books that came together very neatly and the Muse made very few detours.  I do have to wonder, though, if the outline threw up roadblocks.

So I’m going back to what got me through so many writing projects in the past: the skeleton system.  I outline the book, sure, but what that really amounts to is rough mile markers and key scenes.  Is it subject to change?  Absolutely.  I’m already changing it in my skull as I write this.  Could I decide to add some wild new zombie slaughters along the way?  Why not?

What I have is a loose itinerary:  introduce characters; introduce zombies; terrorize poor characters as they terrorize the people they hate serving; and maybe let them live at the end.  Maybe.

I’m not the only one to endorse less outlining and more freedom, by the way.

So tell me, fellow Nanos:  which of the three are you?  Are you maybe realizing that you don’t so much as plot as make a wishlist?  Is your November writing vacation set in stone or subject to flights of fancy?  Or are you simply going to spin the globe, point a country out and write all about it?  Let me know in the comments below!