Mood matters

I had one of my students ask me a really good question, yesterday.  “How do you keep your tone consistent across writing sessions?”

The student was talking about having difficulty writing papers, but then again, the problem transcends all writing modes: academic, essays, blog posts, or fiction.  It’s not easy to keep the tone consistent.  With some things, the consistent tone isn’t as important: if you happen to be writing a novel, the mood may change from scene to scene.

For a short story, you really do want to maintain a consistent tone.  For a short paper, likewise.  Same with a longer paper.

So, if you get interrupted in the writing process, how do you get back into the same headspace?

I don’t know what would work for everyone, but I can share what works for me:

Music.

I listen to the same music while working on a project.

What I do is find the music that fits the mood I’m trying to create.  And I pull it up on my laptop, plug in my headphones, and write.  If I have to stop, I stop.  I go do what I have to do, deal with what life throws at me (teaching class, grading papers, doing housework, wrangling children), then go back when I can.  I back up anywhere from a page or so to a chapter or so, edit, and turn my music back on.  Puts me back in the right headspace to continue with what I was doing.

I did that with Detritus, at least until I got hijacked by The Schrodinger Paradox.  Which I’m still working on, as I find the time and energy.  And The Schrodinger Paradox has it’s own music that suited through part 1 and 2…until part 3, when I had to find something else to suit a different mood/tone.  Sometimes, characters have their own theme music.  Not as often, with me.

Mood is important for writing.  Music influences mood, puts you back where you need to be to finish the job you need to do.

Again, this is what I do.  Your mileage may vary.

 

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Since I last posted…

It’s been wild.  I have been poked, prodded, scanned, sent for a biopsy (which wasn’t done), and then a total thyroidectomy.

(By the way, kids…one of the worst allergies to have after you’ve had even minor surgery is the one like I’ve got to morphine and codeine.)

Since then, I’ve been poked, prodded, meds adjusted sharply upwards (twice), and generally not had either the time or inclination to write.  That was changing…and then my laptop died.  I’ve since acquired a new one, and found out that some files didn’t transfer off when my last laptop died.

(The last laptop was revived by a heroic friend, and is living a life of ease in retirement with my sister, who uses it less than a tenth as much as I used it.)

In any case, the brain fog has (mostly) lifted, and I’m (mostly) regaining function.  There are moments where I’m able to think straight enough to write, and have the energy to do so.  What I’m actually lacking right now is the time.  Especially since the kids are still out for the summer, and I’m still trying to get caught up on the things I let drop while I was un- or under-medicated, then recovering from surgery.

On The Schrodinger Paradox:  I’ve got quite a bit written out long hand that I need to work on typing into my draft.  I know where it’s going, for the most part, tyrannically semi-functional government and all.  I am very much looking forward to seeing how it comes out.

On Normalcy Bias: I’ve got about a half a dozen stories (and pieces of stories) drafted out long hand that need to be typed up and revised as I go.  I have no idea when that’s going to get done.

On my textbook: Last semester, I tried something new.  I tried teaching a class where we wrote a regular paper, then three research papers.  It…worked.  Sort of.  Especially when you consider that I was only semi-functional during last semester (and nearly non-functional through January and most of February).  I’m going to tweak the idea, to teach the papers I used to teach as the basis, but add the research component to each of them, one style per paper (four major styles that I know of).  Which means I’m going to need to redo the papers within the chapters…

On the writers’ handbook for grownups…yeah, I need to think about what to put into it, how to organize it, and finish writing it.  I doubt it’s going to be a very long book, but the style’s somewhat conversational–or at least, that’s what I’m trying for.

With all of that, we’re also trying to get things done with the house, get me in with a specialist in town to get my thyroid hormones balanced properly, keep the bills paid, and minimize all of the other spending as much as possible, in hopes of recouping as much of what we have spent as possible.  We really need to come up with a downpayment so we can get away from the neighbors that moved in north of us in May.

Seriously, who leaves peed-in diapers just laying in the back yard, especially when they have dogs?

 

updates

So, I finished the first part of The Schrodinger Paradox not too long after I’d posted the last time.  I had to back up around 2K words (got stuck) and go in a different direction, but the finished first draft was 36.5K words.

I’ve been working on part 2, on and off.  I started with 2.5K words, backed up a bit, rewrote some more, then kept going.  I’m just under 4K words, right now, but it’s a little bit slow going.

The full blood panel I mentioned showed that I was very low thyroid function, despite the meds, so my doctor ordered a sonogram on the gland.  And then scheduled a thyroid uptake and scan for me, set for next month.  One item in the instructions is making life difficult, right now: I am to go off my thyroid meds–the only think keeping me functional at around 60% of what I used to be capable of, instead of hovering around 25-30%–for the next four weeks.  I can’t take supplements containing kelp or iodine or eat seafood for the two weeks prior to the test.  And I can’t have salted foods for the two days prior and two days of the test.

I’ve been off my meds for two days, and I’m already feeling the brain fog creeping up.  I’m feeling my energy (what little I had) bleed off.

It’s going to be incredibly difficult to do anything with my fiction until this is done with in early mid February.

Hell, it’s going to be difficult to do the things I must do: classes start a week from today, I don’t have a textbook ready (and may well have to simply wing it, taking notes and working on the textbook as I go).  I don’t have my course site ready (will be working on that starting this evening, since I have to rewrite the Course Policy Statement, and come up with a course schedule).  I’m pretty sure I’m going to be depending heavily on the Hacker book* this semester.

Right now, my plan is to start with one of the harder but more useful papers that I’ve taught every semester, then move to teaching a paper in each of the three major research styles.  Paper #1 will be a practical proposal, paper #2 will be an MLA researched persuasive.  Paper #3 will be a paper in APA, over a topic in a hard or soft science, business, or in teacher education.  I’ll push for persuasive, but will accept otherwise; third person perspective will be a must.  Paper #4, the last one, will be a Chicago style paper, and will be over a topic in history, communication, or current events.  I should be back to medicated and functional part of the way through paper 2, which will make the rest of it a lot easier.

The last thing on my list of updates is that I’ve started outlining and drafting a basic writing guide, one aimed at adults who’ve been dis-served by their education, and haven’t learned the basic building blocks of writing.  I’m actually starting with the parts of speech, and will be discussing building sentences.  I’m also planning on having a glossary of terms that may have never been properly defined.  If there’s anything in particular you’d like to have explained with more clarity, please leave a comment and let me know.

Right now, I’m still working on explaining the parts of speech.  I’ve got nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and verbs done; I’ve got adverbs, articles, conjunctions, and prepositions outlined.  The project is currently sitting at around 2K words.  I’m planning on working on it as I can, since this is knowledge that I’ve had, and have been teaching for years.  It’s easier to get that out, at the moment, than it is for me to think of new material.

 

 

*The Hacker book I’m talking about is A Writer’s Reference.  It’s pretty basic, but good for its function.

Been a while…

So, Andrew got a job, last July, between the end of summer semester classes and the end of finals week.  Since then, I’ve picked up responsibility for getting the kids to school, doing some grocery shopping, making the Sam’s Club run, and a few other things.

My time and energy to write has been…severely curtailed.

I’ve continued having random health issues throughout the year, including that my thyroid medication still is not bringing me back up to where I need to be, not to mention not helping as much as it should be with weight control.  For example, right after I got over my bout with pneumonia in January, and then the bout of week-long stomach flu that left me with an allergy to wheat, I lost something like thirty or thirty-five pounds.

I’ve never had trouble maintaining weight lost, not until after my thyroid quit working.  Now?

I didn’t change either types of food, amounts of food, or amounts of exercise I’ve been getting; however, I gained twenty pounds back.  And this is on a daily intake of somewhere between a thousand and twelve hundred calories.

That…should not have happened.

In any case, I’ve spoken with the doctor about it, and she’s ordered a full blood panel workup to try to figure out what’s going on.  So that’s progress, sort of.

The doctor has directed me to continue taking my thyroid meds (duh),  maybe start on a multi-vitamin (again, I do when I can–they don’t always agree with me), and continue to avoid eating things that contain wheat (again, duh–eating wheat hurts until it’s gone the way of all food waste).

None of that really helps my energy levels, nor helps much with being able to think straight.

That doesn’t stop me from trying.  I do have draft books with fiction sketches roughed out, one for my novel I’m working on, and one for short stories, and bits from the fourth Modern Gods book.  And trying to figure out how to get my finished stuff all the way finished, covers and all.

As for currently finished projects…I do have the third installment in the Modern Gods world done.  The problem is that my cover artist is facing a bit of a personal life crisis, and I’m hesitant to try to find someone else.  I also don’t want to distract her from what she’s dealing with right now–I really don’t want to be the straw that broke the camel’s back with regards to added stress.    I also have a short written for that world that I’m planning on publishing soon, Kindle only.  Don’t ask when, because I’m not sure.  I’m still trying to figure out artwork for a cover.  I think I’ve got an idea, but…the execution is where I’m falling flat.

My current project is The Schrodinger Paradox–a story in three parts, the first part of which starts about ten years from now, with a significant time span between part one and part two.  I’m anticipating something around 120-150K words total for the novel.

I’m currently about 33K words into it.  I’d been stuck at about 31K words in due to lack of time and energy for a couple of months; however, since Christmas is behind us, the kids will be heading back to school as of January 5, and I will not be going back until after MLK Day, I should have even more time to get what I’ve got done in my draft book transcribed, and expanded.  I’m hoping to have part one done soon, so that I can keep going and get this done soon.

 

I have been terribly neglectful.

Not just of this blog, but of writing.  Detritus, which I’ve been writing on since November, only has around 21.5K words.  The short story collection, tentatively titled Normalcy Bias (which is what I write on when I get stuck with the novel) is around 26K words.

It’s been hard finding the time and inclination to write.  Yes, the kids are in school, but so am I for the times Kathryn is off in preschool.  When I’m off work, she’s underfoot; unlike her brother, she doesn’t toddle off to play by herself–she needs constant interaction because she’s a very social little critter.

Add, on top of that, pneumonia in January, a nasty stomach flu in February, and learning to live with an acquired gluten intolerance that looks to be permanent.  It seems like every time I get my feet back under me, something else comes along to knock me off balance again.

I do have plans, though, for how I’m going to do better.  I’m in the midst of grading my research papers, and my students are blogging, now.  I’ll have some time to work on grading, and on my own stuff, over the next two weeks.  Because that’s all that’s left of the semester.

The kids are in school for three weeks longer than Andrew and I will be–their school goes through May 22, and our classes are done on May 1.  I’ll have three mornings a week to get stuff around the house and writing done, and I plan to run them up to my mom’s for babysitting once a week over the summer.

The neglect will end.  It has to.  Writing is, sometimes, that which keeps me sane.

Well.

Sorry all–it’s been a rough fall and early winter.  I’m not going to get Fire and Forge out anytime soon, either: there are a few problems in the way.

1. My cover artist was planning a wedding, then honeymooning, then dealing Christmas prep, and then health issues over Christmas, so she doesn’t have the artwork done.  No worries, though.  She always pulls through.

2. My scanner died.  And the new one we want is going to cost us around $85.  I won’t get paid until the end of February.  Which means that “Bar Tabs” won’t get published until February.

Now, onto some good news: I finally have the music that Detritus wanted to be written to…and I’ve got another short story collection in the works.  I haven’t quit writing.  It’s just been a little problematic.

And…I think…

I think the first draft of Fire and Forge is finished.  The last chapter isn’t wanting to come, and the chapter I just finished seems to be a good conclusion/foreshadowing of the next book. 

Final count of the first draft of the story proper is 87,000 words.  There will likely be quite a bit added, within the next couple of weeks (setting it aside for at least one, before I dive into revision–I collected papers to grade this morning). 

And editing, for me, never takes as long as drafting, unless I end up writing multi-thousand word additions to more than one chapter.  Which has happened in the past.