Monday, November 4, 2013

WriMo in Progress - Audio/Visual Edition

My pace is slowing, but the quality of the writing has vastly improved. I feel as if I'm finally into the swing of things, and so today feels like the first day of proper Writing. I know I should be working on the novel, but it's a lazy sort of day. I've been a bit distracted, taking bites out of the day's goal rather than tackling it as perhaps I should. But I'm up to 9027 words, so I'm still on track. I thought an update was in order, and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention some of the A/V aids I've been using to help get the job done. I've already touched upon software to some extent, but there's more to writing than where the words go. 

When it comes to preparation for a project larger than a few pages, I find an outline helps. Usually, I'll worth with a narrative outline, or something more like a summarizing -play-by-play. I've read Tony Buzan's Make the Most of Your Mind, and while the majority of his methods have proved invaluable over the years, I never could get the hang of "Mind Mapping". Something about translating the abstract into a visual medium, perhaps; it's as if the instructions I've read were missing a few integral steps, the whole process eluding comprehension. Nevertheless, being a fan of Literature and Latte as I am, I just had to try their latest offering, the "Mind Map Plus" program Scapple.

Scapple is an extremely simple application, which is what makes it so tremendously useful. There's an array of options--the style of the notes, the way in which they're grouped and connected, even little things like the background and note's colorswhich help the user tailor the program to their needs. It's essentially a means of jotting notes, as one would in a notebook, but more convenient.

Photo from
My attempt to plot the timeline of my novel, to be quite honest, looks a mess. You can lead a writer to software, but you can't make him organize his thoughts with it. It's still useful, however, to see which portions of the story originate, feed through, or connect to other portions of the story. The above example, presented by the folks at Literature and Latte, is understandably a tad more presentable, but I wouldn't give up my nightmare of a Scapple file for the world.

Redacted because *Spoilers*
As for audible assistance, I haven't yet settled on a "soundtrack" for this year's WriMo. During my first effort back in 2011, I listened exclusively to the score to 2002's psychological scifi movie Solaris, composed by former Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Cliff Martinez. Based upon Stanislaw Lem's 1972 novel of the same name and directed by Steven Soderbergh, the movie stars George Clooney as a psychologist sent to investigate the situation aboard an observatory space station orbiting the titular planet. The film is described as a "meditative psychodrama", and Martinez's score matches brilliantly in tone.

As my novel, The Lesser of Two Earths, was to be an exploration of psychology and sociology set against the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic dystopia of sorts, the score set the mood perfectly.

In the case of The Third Face of Janus, however, I've found it difficult to settle on a single source of musical inspiration. John Brion's score to Charlie Kaufman's 2008 masterpiece Synecdoche, New York could work, at least for some scenes, but Janus is of two minds, and I need more freedom to switch between them than listening to a single score will allow. I'm a firm believer in the ability of music to boost productivity, however, so I had to employ something to that effect. In the end i decided on two somethings: Focus@Will and Coffitivity.

Focus@Will offers a number of themed music channels purported to be "attention amplifying", "scientifically designed to engage with your brain's limbic system." There's been some talk recently on the web about the benefits of particular types of music, at low volumes, facilitating creative output. Focus@Will was the first example I'd come across, due perhaps to the fact that their site is so well constructed, user friendly, and effective. Not only do they provide the aforementioned music channels, they also provide (to subscribers) customizable session lengths and productivity trackers. It's the science of personal soundtrack, boiled down to its most simple. 

Coffitivity, born of the same science as Focus@Will, and geared toward the same audience, presents an alternative to music. Enjoy working in coffee shops and cafes? Now you can enjoy the auditory ambiance of those places without leaving home. Choose between 'Morning Murmer', 'Lunchtime Lounge', or 'University Undertones', whichever variety of background chatter suits you best. Both sites offer streaming to smartphones as well, for anyone writing on the go. Maybe the chatter at your favorite coffee shop just isn't doing the trick, or the Zen channel on satellite radio is throwing too many of the same tunes your way. Focus@Will and Coffitivity have you covered.

Whatever your methods, writing at home or abroad, to music or in silence, keep writing the good write. Have any you'd like to share? Leave a comment below! For now, I think I'm going to make a pot of Earl Grey tea and loop my personal theme music, Eric Satie's Trois Gymnopedies, for a while. I've got the 10k word mark in my sights; best to strike while the iron's hot.

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