Things are gearing up for ROR. I’m back teaching at QUT in a couple of weeks, and I have a short story workshop that I’m teaching this Saturday – I’m printing out my notes as I type this. And then I’m reading ROR manuscripts in my spare time, as well as great works of literature for a course I’m teaching (if you haven’t read Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf, you really should, it’s quite something). Which is to say, that I’m a bit busy.
I’m also starting the first draft of a new book.
Now, I’m not getting a lot of time to focus on the book at this stage, but in first draft mode most of what I’m doing is getting the ideas down, and seeing if I can work out how the book wants to pace itself, which, with this one, is fast. I don’t have a lot of time to get into the right mindset, and I want to get this draft onto the page, so I’ve created a neat trigger to get me right into the story.
With most stories I write there’s usually something of playlist to them. The last one — of which this new book is the sequel — was weighted to Americana with a bit of Punk, reflecting the protagonist’s taste in music.
This one is leaning towards Grunge, particularly the Afghan Whig’s excellent album Gentlemen. It’s going into darker spaces, and Greg Dulli’s nasty but very ernest posturing is perfect.
For me music is an instant and visceral entry point into the story. Which is never more important than in the first draft. The moment I start playing certain tracks, I’m there and in the story.
You should give it a go.
Think about music that is thematically linked to what you’re writing, or who you are writing about. You might be surprised what you come up with. One story of mine, Tar Baby, was written to Moby’s God Moving Over the Face of Waters I played that bit of music over and over again. Every time I hear it now, all I think of is my character Harmony facing the TAR on the edge of a crumbling cliff, then tumbling down, down, down into its depths. My neighbours probably have a different reaction.
These days I’m not quite so obssessive. The playlist or album kicks in, and usually runs through once, and then the music has done its work, and all the noise I’m making is the scratching of pen on paper, or the tap-tap-tapping of keyboard, which are, ultimately, the sounds you want to hear.