Do What I Say, Not What I Did

By Brian Kaufman

In a previous blog post, I admitted to blocking an editor at the entrance to the men’s room to sell him my first novel. He suffered the pitch, and I left with his business card in my wallet. No surprise that this was not my only embarrassing writer’s conference story. Lest you feel compelled to repeat my missteps, learn my Padawan.

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Healthy Habits, Hearty Word Counts

By Katie Lewis

You would get a hundred different answers if you asked a hundred authors how often and how much writing we should all be doing daily. From conferences to advice blogs, the recommendations vary widely. Some claim you can only improve your skills by sticking to a daily writing habit, while others say it’s a recipe for burn-out. Personally, I believe that writing is like any other creative endeavor in that everything comes down to individual preferences. 

Photo Credit: https://www.instagram.com/writingmemes/

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Nobody to Blame for Those Torches And Pitchforks, Except You.

By David E. Sharp

“I don’t like it,” my wife said after hearing about my latest story concept. I always appreciate her honesty. It’s what makes her such a great sounding board.

“What don’t you like about it?” I asked.

She told me exactly what was bothering her. This book is the third and possibly final installment in my Lost on a Page series. The second volume launches in May, and she is one of a handful of people who have read it before publication. She has a vested interest in these characters and their stories.

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Battle of The Bards: Poetry Is A Challenge

By Shelley Widhalm

Writing a poem a day is like marriage—it’s a commitment that takes loyalty, honesty, and authenticity. 

Saying “I will,” I undertook the Poem a Day Challenge in September 2017 and have written nearly 1,600 poems since. I missed a few days in winter 2020 during surgery recovery and at the end of 2021 when my schedule got overwhelmingly busy.

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That’s What She Said.

By Katie Lewis

Photo Credit: Memedroid

Salutations from my sickbed. For the last week, I’ve been laid low by my second bout of Covid-19. Some things have been easier this time, and others have been worse. One aspect of my convalescence is the same, though: lots of Netflix.

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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