Genre Tropes And Expanding Horizons

By Brian Kaufman

My wife and I carpooled with a friend on the way to a writer’s conference. The conversation turned to our chosen genres. My friend wrote fantasy, so my wife—an ardent reader—began asking about favorite authors. Fantasy was not a genre she often enjoyed, but she knew a fantastic number of writers in the field. My friend seemed confused by the names and eventually explained that he didn’t read fantasy though he wrote fantasy. 

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Of Pigs And Plots

By David E. Sharp

Storytelling follows predictable patterns. Most plots fit into a handful of archetypal structures. This phenomenon has inspired readers to speculate how many stories actually exist. Aristotle boiled it down to two. Georges Polti placed the number as high as thirty-six. A digital tool known as the Hedonometer analyzes the emotional shape of stories and supports Kurt Vonnegut’s assertion there are six basic plots. However, the number that appears most often is Christopher Booker’s idea of seven stories making up nearly all storydom.

A Handy Dandy Periodic Table.
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Learning Curves And Karma

By JC Lynne

If you haven’t noticed, Northern Colorado Writers had transitioned to a new website format. The backend of the new site is really what precipitated the move. What’s the old adage about making sausage? Um, yeah. The features behind the scenes will, touch wood, offer us an opportunity to streamline all manner of things.

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Toccata And Writing in D Minor

By Katie Lewis

Music has always been an integral part of my life. I sing in my car. I’m always wearing headphones when I go on walks. And I love cueing up a playlist when I write.

As someone who played violin throughout school, I’ve always had a strong connection to music. I got a CD player and two albums for my tenth birthday: NSYNC’s “No Strings Attached” and the soundtrack to the “Pokémon: The First Movie.” It was the year 2000, don’t judge me. In any case, I would spend the next twenty-one years filling any silence with music.

So, it was only natural that I would slip my headphones on to read. Some of my strongest memories from Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter stick with me because of the “soundtrack” I gave to them. As a result, certain songs only represent triumph or heartbreak to me, even today.

When I first started writing in middle school, it was on the family computer in the living room. Once again, I turned to music to help drown out the sounds of my brother playing video games behind me. From that point on, music became the director of my imagination. To this day, I’ll put on a new song and find myself crafting a scene around the beat. I can’t help it.

From Beethoven to Lizzo

I’m far from the first person to write to a soundtrack. The kind of music that inspires and does not distract differs from person to person. In an interview with The Atlantic, Stephen King said he listens to heavy rock like Metallica while writing. On the other hand, Pulitzer Prize winner Viet Thanh Nguyen listened to composer Philip Glass while writing The Sympathizer.

In an age where you can pull up just about anything on YouTube or Spotify, the sky’s the limit for your musical inspiration. One genre that may seem odd to some is actually video game music. And no, I’m not saying that just because I’m a Millennial.

Designing for New Systems – World Builder Blog

Video game music is composed in a particular way. There are epic tracks for big story moments in the game, but the absolute goldmine is in the mundane background tracks. Games are never silent, after all. That would be boring. So, these tracks are designed to help players engage in the game’s world without distracting them. Likewise, these same tracks can energize you to write without pulling your attention away. You can try for yourself with the music from The Legend of Zelda or Skyrim.

There’s certainly no rule that says you have to stick to orchestral music. While writing my short story, The Peony House, I listened to a playlist of albums from Japanese artist Sakuzyo. I chose that artist for two reasons. The lyrics, though few, were in Japanese to minimize distractions. His mix of classical and electronica songs gave me a boost for action scenes and softer melodies for the rest of the story.

An Oxford study found that background music helps increase performance on creative tasks.

Personally, I find songs with lyrics distracting (though not always). I prefer soundtracks from movies or video games and songs in foreign languages. I’ve found that this allows me to vibe with the beat but stay focused.

I also change what I’m listening to depending on what I’m writing. Action scenes get something punchy. Meanwhile, quiet moments call for something slower. Sometimes I find myself drawn to a particular artist or album. Other times I’ll make a playlist of cherry-picked songs. It really just depends on how I’m feeling at the moment.

Lately, I’ve been watching a lot of Korean dramas (before Squid Game *puts on hipster glasses*). As a result, I wrote a novella to the soundtrack of The Devil Judge. I looked it up because I had just finished the show but found the music inspiring all on its own. Ironically, there are classical songs, pop/rock songs to emphasize when the tables have turned, and a whole host of moody songs. The entire album was perfect for the atmosphere I was trying to capture.

In short, there is no right or wrong kind of music to write to. Maybe your happy place is the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack. Perhaps it’s Beyoncé. It’s perhaps Rammstein. Or you need complete silence to write, and that’s fine too. I find silence unbearably distracting, but many people need it to put their thoughts in order.

If you’ve never tried writing to music, I challenge you to give it a shot. You never know what might click. Hopefully, I’ve dropped plenty of examples, but here’s another one: I wrote this entire post while listening to Japanese guitarist Miyavi.

Why Soundtracks Up Your Game

Playlists by Bestselling Authors

Music to Help You Focus

Let’s Resolve to Be Resolute.

By Shelley Widhalm

I’ve fallen off the writing bandwagon and am accomplishing everything else on my to-do list.

Luckily, I’m good about making New Year’s resolutions (see New Year’s Resolutions | Psychology Today) and sticking with them. Though January is my least favorite month, short days and too much snow. I love goal setting because of the whole self-improvement thing and the easy excuse for self-reward.

Lists are a great way to get motivated for New Year’s writing and editing resolutions. Also, new notebooks don’t hurt.

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Not Your Average Daydreaming

By Brian Kaufman

In elementary school, each dreaded report card had a segment called “citizenship.” The section was designed to tell the parent how well the student behaved in class. One category was my nemesis—Uses Time Wisely. Back then, an S (Satisfactory) was hard to come by. I was an N kid (Needs Improvement).

My ongoing sin was daydreaming.
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Dream Big And Little And Everything in Between

By Melanie Peffer

Since my first book for the trade audience (the general book-reading audience available through regular book dealers), Biology Everywhere, many people have asked me questions about writing a book. They wanted to know about everything from my writing process to navigating self-publishing to my motivations to write in the first place. 

Stupid sh*t we tell ourselves.

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Bah, Humbug!

By Katie Lewis

Whether you personally celebrate it or not, Christmas is undeniably ubiquitous. The Halloween decorations come down, and the Christmas lights go up. Store speakers across the land pump out carols, new and old, and the sight of Santa Clause himself crops up everywhere. Though I know this post will go up after the holiday in question, I still find myself fascinated by the foothold the Holiday Season has on our culture.

A Major Award.
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Emerging into The Light

By David E. Sharp

I recently completed a heavy-duty writing project with many rewrites, deep edits, and firm deadlines. Months of work spanning most of the past year were finally complete with the click of a send button. Shooting the last line edits to some server to a router that may bounce them to a satellite and then return them from orbit to another server. It arrived at my publisher after a right turn through the virus check and a quick left at Albuquerque.

Maybe not THIS disoriented.
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