Brad Younie


Category: Writing

Soundtracks to Write By

I’m easily distracted when I write. It doesn’t matter where I am or what is going on around me. An empty house could demand my attention as much as one full of people. It’s my ADD getting the better of me.

Putting on headphones (actual headphones, not earbuds) and playing music solves this problem nicely. But it has to be the right type of music. I can’t just throw in some rock, metal, or other stuff I usually listen to and expect to keep my head clear. The music is just too engaging. Nope. I need music without lyrics. No words should be going into my brain aside from those I create for my story. So, what do I listen to?

Movie soundtracks!

I’ve found that movie and show soundtracks not only block all the distractions and let me write, but they can also set the atmosphere for whatever I’m writing. So, I’ve started building a collection of soundtracks. It’s still smaller than I want, but it’s still growing.

Each book I’m working on has its own atmosphere, so when I sit down to write, I choose a soundtrack that both fits the mood of my work-in-progress and sounds good to me at the time. 

For example, when writing The Wand and The Scepter, I listened to The Mummy (the Brendan Frasier version) and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The former fit with the Egyptian theme like a glove and the latter was chock full of Wizarding World goodness. 

My latest book is kind of a supernatural modern noir mystery, so finding a soundtrack was a little tricky. The Sherlock Holmes (Rober Downey, Jr. version) has worked well, even though that has more of a Steampunk feel. I’ve found that the John Carter soundtrack works well for most of what I write. 

So, if you have trouble keeping your attention on your writing and can do with a little added mood, try a movie soundtrack! 

Rereading the classic novel, “Deryni Rising”

I first read Deryni Rising back in the 70’s when I was in Junior High. It became one of my favorite fantasy novels, and I have looked back fondly at it ever since. I remember wanting to be Kelson Haldane. Well, maybe not King Kelson, but a Deryni like him. I remember how Katherine Kurtz managed to bring the complex, yet colorful setting alive and pull me into the story, where I felt like I was wandering the halls of Rhemuth Castle alongside Morgan, Duncan, Kelson, and the other many characters in the book.

Lately, I have stepped up my game as a writer. I’m now in a writer’s group, and I have written—an am writing—several novels. I’m immersed in editing most of them at this point. I’m in a frame of mind where I look at the books I read from an editor’s perspective, letting me see the stories in a way I’ve never seen them before.

I reread Deryni Rising recently, and I discovered something both fascinating and wonderful. I figured out how the esteemed Katherine Kurtz let the reader look inside each character’s head without it becoming confused or chaotic.

In one scene, I was in the head of Alaric Morgan, one of the books main characters, and I was fully aware of the stress he was under and the urgency of his work. Then, Queen Jehana stormed into the room and began shouting at him. As it happened, I was inside Morgan’s head and experienced the argument through his perspective.

Then Jehana turned on her heel and left the room…

And I followed.

With the ending of the argument and the physical change of the Queen leaving the room, I had switched perspective and was now marching down the castle hallway, trying to keep up with Jehana as her mind seethed over the dispute. I heard what she was thinking and I understood her point of view—even though I didn’t agree with it. She went through a doorway and had a heated conversation with Prince Nigel—she was always angry throughout the novel.

And when she left Nigel, she left me as well. I stayed behind in Nigel’s room and head.

This technique was brilliant because it not only accomplished the necessary task of keeping the reader abreast of what was going on, and what everyone was thinking, but it actually pulled me into the story, where I felt like I was there walking beside them. When they had inner dialog, it was as though they were talking to me.

I think it was this subtle means of perspective shifting that helped make the book so magical for me—beyond the intriguing characters, fantastic yet realistic setting, and suspenseful plot.

Deryni Rising was not one of the first fantasy novels I ever read, but it has stood the test of time to remain always one of my favorites. And now, it has taught me how to handle stories that involve a large ensemble cast—something I was hesitant to attempt, but am now looking forward to.

Writing for Wattpad

I have several books that I’ve been working on that I plan to get published the traditional way: query, query, query for an agent. Hopefully get published. One is already immersed in that process. But two things happened that expanded my horizon: I decided to write a fan fiction novel, and I discovered Wattpad.

Now, how did these two things open up opportunities for me? I mean, after all, the books you post on that site are given away for free. And you generally can’t publish fan fiction for money.

Well, I’ve been hearing good things about Wattpad and thought it might be a good platform for getting some of my work out there for people to read. In fact, I’ve heard it can be a very useful site to help kickstart an author’s career. But I haven’t posted anything on Wattpad yet, and my gut tells me my first attempt might be fraught with mistakes that can hurt its ability to succeed. I kept thinking the first novel I post should be a test, so that if I don’t get all the Wattpaddy things right, I can learn from it and not feel bad for having wasted a perfectly good novel.

But I can’t write a novel I don’t love. I want everything I write to succeed. So, I needed to write something I love that I can’t get published for some reason. But what?

Then I saw the movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and I got inspired. I saw how JK Rowling’s Wizarding World is so much larger than Harry Potter and Hogwarts and ideas suddenly came to me. I wanted to write a novel in that world.

So, now I have a wonderful novel whose story and characters are completely my own, even though they live in someone else’s world. It’s fantastic, and I want the world to read it and enjoy it. And yet I can’t publish it for sale.

I can, however, publish it on Wattpad.

It’s like the two were meant for each other, and I’m embracing that relationship wholeheartedly. I’ve contracted an artist to do the cover art. I’m editing the book to make it as perfect as possible. I’m researching everything I can about how to make your novel successful on Wattpad, so that the readers can enjoy the book without any frustrations. Although this book is never likely to get picked up by a publisher, I still want it to be as successful as it can.

I can’t wait! I’ll still plug away trying to get some of my novels published the traditional way, but I now plan to embrace Wattpad as one of my valid publishing options.

A Pantser or a Plotter?

A question I’m sometimes asked when I tell people I write novels is whether I write “by the seat of my pants” or plot everything out in detail. Both are valid ways of writing a book, and which one to use depends on the writer. Some people prefer to write the book as it comes to them, having no clear idea of how they’ll get to the end of the story–or even how the story ends. Others are more comfortable planning everything out, creating either an outline or storyboard that describes each scene in the book.

My answer to this question is… both!

When I get an idea for a story, it almost always comes with an initial scene–usually what becomes the opening scene of the book. And ideas never come gently to me. They always strike me with an intense passion that makes me want to act on it right away.

So, I start by writing that first scene that came into my head. Often that first scene transitions to a second scene, then a third, and so on, until I have a few chapters written. These scenes come easily and flow one after the other in succession.

Writing that first scene right away is important to me because it gives me the chance to create the voice I want to use for the story, and to see if I enjoy writing it. There’s nothing worse than taking the time to storyboard an entire novel only to find your heart isn’t into it when you get down to writing.

But at some point, the next scene doesn’t come easily, and I find myself lost. The story went on the right path to get to where I was, but I now have no idea where the story will go.

That’s when the index cards come out. I would pull out a deck of blank index cards (or nowadays, I go to the Corkboard view in Scrivener) and start building a storyboard for the rest of book. At that point, I storyboard everything, right up to the end, creating a new card for each and every scene in the novel. I don’t bother to storyboard what I’ve already written. I just start where I left off.

But I’ve found I often don’t follow the storyboard too closely. At some point, I get back into the flow of things, and I’m writing by the seat of my pants again, following a path that perhaps runs parallel to the one I storyboarded, but is distinctly different.

Now, I haven’t always written this way, but it is the technique that has enabled me to finish a first draft. Nothing else has worked for me.

I have a process for creating my storyboards, which I’ll detail in an upcoming blog post. So until then, keep writing!

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