Music to write by.

My 160GB iPod is almost full, so I have quite a bit of music to choose from when I am writing. I don’t want to go all Stephenie Meyer and start listing particular songs that I write to, but I do find that certain genres and artists are better to write to than others.

Though I’m a huge Bowie fan, I don’t tend to choose his music to write to (so far). My most recent picks have been Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode, Emily Haines, and Tin Machine. (Okay, there’s a bit of Bowie in there if you count the Tin Machine…) I also love listening to the soundtrack for the film ‘Cat People’.

I pick what I’m in the mood for, or what might help write the scene. So far, none of the music has been very perky or cheerful, but neither has the book.

Oh, and… Happy Hallowe’en!

Writing habits

What are your writing habits?

I’ve become fairly dedicated in my own habits since I redid my entire novel outline and came up with the New Plan. My week goes like this:

Monday to Friday: 1hr per night, usually between 7-8pm, for four of the five days. (It never fails that one of the five ends up being busy for one reason or another.)
Weekends: 2hrs daily, usually between 8-10am (before I make any commitments to my day), with more in the afternoons/evenings if I have time.

I’d like to write more during the week, but household chores, dinner, and cats keep me from doing much more. I also take some time every night to catch up on Twitter, blogs and news. I can hardly wait until the Christmas holidays because I have managed to have 11 days off in a row, and I hope to get a lot of writing done (around all the family stuff.)

I joined a writing club.

The city library has a creative writing club. It’s something I didn’t know about until I went looking at the program brochure for the fall, but apparently it’s been running for several years.

Though nervous, I signed up. I didn’t know what to expect but so far I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve only missed one session (due to the election). Each session includes a writing exercise (30mins) and sharing what you’ve written with the group. Sometimes I find the exercise easy (when we had to write a fairytale), and other times I find it quite difficult (writing about something that was on a random section of map we were given). Even if I have trouble with the exercise, I always try to write something, and then share. It’s a pretty non-judgmental place.

I’m not sure how many other people in the group are working on books. I know one lady is working on a memoir. I didn’t say that I was working on a novel, but rather that I was looking toward publication as a goal. We’ve yet to have the opportunity to read from work that we’ve completed outside the writing club, so I haven’t had a chance to share any of my material. I would like to share some of it (though not the sex scenes because I think I’d feel uncomfortable reading those aloud to the group) and see what the general reaction might be.

The writing club runs till mid-December, then starts up again in the new year. It’s twice a month on Mondays, so it doesn’t cut into my regular writing time too much.

Why Paris?

I’ve been fascinated with Paris for a long time. I’m not sure what first interested me, but once I started working on my BFA, Paris was always there.  It helps that the city has been a centre for the arts for centuries. One of my larger essays for my Canadian art history 300-level class was about Canadian artists that traveled to Paris to learn (and then usually came home again.) Conveniently, my character Sophie has a similar focus for her art history thesis.

I’ve traveled to Paris, just the once. If I had the money I’d go back regularly. There’s something about having all these fantastic museums in the same city, just waiting there for your visit. It’s also one of the most walkable cities. When I was there I walked from the Arc de Triomphe and avenue Wagram down to the Ile de la Cite and back. I don’t know about where you live, but it’s tough to cover that sort of ground in most cities without being detoured by freeways or other pedestrian-unfriendly areas.

But that doesn’t answer the question, Why Paris?

There was no way that I was going to be using my hometown for a setting in my novel. I just don’t think that there’s enough about it that is interesting. If I lived in a larger centre, that might be a different story altogether. I could see setting something in Vancouver, or maybe Toronto or Montreal… but not here. Some authors seem to do really well with novels set in their hometowns. Laurell K Hamilton comes to mind, with St. Louis. And Anne Rice with San Francisco and New Orleans.

It was the club and cafe culture that drew me to using Paris as the setting in my novel. The artsy culture that, (mostly) unlike my hometown, thrives and is right out there with everything else. It’s visible, it’s accepted, it’s part of life. It’s not tucked away in some hidden little cranny for only those ‘in the know’ to enjoy. And, most importantly, how many different types of people can you have encounter each other in a jazz club? The possibilities are endless.

Sex? Yes please!

I was chatting to my mother about my novel, and she asked me if there was going to be any sex in it. I said yes, and she asked why.

Firstly, I’d rather have sex in a novel than violence. (I’d also rather have sex in a film, too.) Secondly, I think that people likely have sex more often than they experience violence. I’d like to think that, though I know there are people whose lives will have that reversed. I want to look at intimate relationships, and that often includes sex.

I’m not writing for an audience that only reads award-winning novels. I know that I’m writing for an audience that likes romance novels, that likes erotica, and that enjoys something a bit beyond the norm.

Character Studies

I do some sort of study for the majority of my characters. But for the little bits and bobs for those peripheral characters, the ones that are passing through, or even just those people who might catch your eye as they’re walking on past, I rely upon my people-watching addiction. Whenever I’m out of the house, waiting for the bus, walking downtown, going to the grocery store, or traveling (my favourite), I’m always watching.

You know how your mother told you to keep your shirt tucked in and ironed because someone might notice? That someone is most likely me. I won’t say anything, and I don’t bother making value judgements about what you’re wearing, but it might get noted down on a scrap of paper and filed for further reference.

Two quick descriptions from while I was waiting for the bus:
A professorial type, late 40s, trying to look hip with his carefully chosen jeans – not too worn, but still trendy – and violet sweater vest over a lavender shirt and matching tie. What makes the look are the square glasses and the tweed jacket with elbow patches. And just a bit of stubble with his salt-and-pepper hair.

A tall, stooped older man, scuffing his shoes on the sidewalk. He’s plainly dressed, but his clothes are ill-fitting. He’s holding a paper cup of coffee and at first glance it appears that he is muttering to it. Give him a robe and some rosary beads and he’d be a monk instead of just a bit crazy.

Bienvenue and welcome.

Consider this my foray into Web 2.0 as I work on my novel. I keep reading about securing my ‘brand’, but as “alyssapalmer” and “” were taken, I’m using “alyssalinnpalmer” instead. Take that, people with my name!

So…. the novel.

A chanteuse and an art thief wager over the innocence of a young traveller.

I was going to say “A French chanteuse”, but it seemed a bit redundant. Though I wonder if it would be helpful for those who have no knowledge whatsoever of French? I’ve been trying out both on friends and family and the use of “French” in the premise seems to help establish the scene. I’m tempted to say “A Parisian chanteuse” (or “Parisienne”, if I was going to be fussy) to be even more specific.

Anyway, that’s it. I’m working on a rewrite, and I’ve essentially canned 50K of the original 60K~ story. I’m far more confident with the New Novel, and I’m in possession of a full and detailed outline. Hopefully this time is the charm.