Writing Horror to Music (and other playlists)

I’ve never once wanted to go as deep into my characters’ brains as to know what kind of music they would listen to. However, as I go through this last pass of my current work in progress, I am finding that I have to write a few extra chapters, and it’s forcing me to delve into what it is that they would be listening to.

While I’m still compiling playlist on YouTube to help me, I’m actually, as I edit, falling back onto something I was listening to more during the winter, and I think maybe in the fall? But it’s an hour of ambient haunting music–and I just love it. It’s subtle, it’s quiet, it blocks out the background noise of wherever I am, and it puts me in a fantastic writing mood.

The only problem is that it puts me in the mood for writing horror–which is fine, that’s not to say at all that I don’t write horror. But i’ts just a little too over the edge for what I’m writing now. As a result, my characters are slowly getting creepier.

However, I actually just wanted to share this track, because I just think it’s so great.

Haunting Music – 3 Hours 
Haunting Music ~ inspiring, motivating music for reading, writing, drawing, painting and art
Posted by White Noise  Relaxation

It should also be noted that White Noise Relaxation also posts happy music for studying, chill out lounge, morning bossa nova, ukulele, Christmas music for children, and so on. I make mention of this so that you know that this particular YouTuber is quite eclectic, and if you don’t need horror-type music, then you can still find something that might suit your needs.


I would love to know what music you write/study to. What genre do you write? What topics are you studying? Do you do something else with certain types of music?

A Tribute to the Story Grid Podcast

I listen to a lot of podcasts. I do a lot of driving, and I do a lot of things that involve my hands, but not my mind. I constantly like to learn and gain information. So listening to podcasts really is perfect for me.

I generally like to listen to the news, especially news regarding the States since I’m abroad, I like to listen to science stuff, interesting little nuggest of discoveries, but really, I like listening to writing podcasts.

I think I’ve been listening to the Story Grid Podcast for about a year now. I’m not really sure when I started listening to it. The premise of it is Tim Grahl who is learning to write a novel based on Shawn Coyne‘s method of the Story Grid. This podcast has followed Tim from the planning stages through maneuvering through his first draft. Each episode is basically a conversation between Tim and Shawn, where Tim asks him questions about his novel and Shawn, an editor with decades of experience under his belt, answers and guides and trains him.

I generally skip episodes, but that’s fine. Mostly because I have a lot of things I want to listen to and so I just look for episodes that look like they might pertain to me in the moment. However, the nice thing is that I can still catch on to what they’re talking about without having to go back. There are a few times that it references other episodes, but rarely do I need to go back to them to know just what they’re talking about.

However, I just want to say what brilliance this podcast is. There are a few reasons that I recommend it:

  • Insight into the publishing/editor side of writing
  • How to shape your drafts and editing
  • Creative Marketing
  • Creating better Readers

I’m about to go into university to study English so that I can be a publisher/editor. This shows me what it means to be just that, and man it gets me revved up! This is actually what hooked me on the podcast.

But for those who are writers or even just avid readers, this is a brilliant podcast to listen to. It walks you through the ins and outs of the hero’s journey, and why you want to make sure you use it. It compares it to pop culture for points of reference. And really does go into depth for all those little rules that you read about that writers have to follow but with little explanation.

What’s more, Shawn is the author of the book The Story Grid, and really, this podcast is all about selling and promoting his book, which is really why I think this is brilliant. It’s a very informative and in-depth marketing scheme. He’s showing how affective his method is, he’s advertising himself as a skilled editor, and he’s selling his book. The brilliance, in my mind, goes on to Tim.

Tim Grahl is not new to the publishing world. In fact, he runs a company which is all about helping writers to sell their first thousand books on http://www.BookLaunch.com. All the while he’s learning how to write a book that’s going to sell, he’s already selling the book that hasn’t even made it to it’s phase two of revision.

The whole podcast is selling both The Story Grid and this soon-to-be young adult novel. The promotion of both has been going on for well over a year. It’s fantastic, really. You know how I know it’s fantastic?

I hate young adult novels.

I know, hate is a strong word. But generally, to me, they’re an easy way to sell books that don’t have much depth, and they’re just not interesting to me. I’m not into coming-of-age stories. I did that myself. I lived it. I don’t need to live it again through angsty teenagers.

But! I actually want to read this book that Tim is writing. I’m now fascinated by it, and I already know that once it’s published (and with the following already behind it, publishers would be stupid to refuse it, if he doesn’t already have a contract for it) I’ll probably have my name down to buy it.

But that’s what’s being demanded of writers in the publishing world now. You have to have a following, you have to be able to show that you have people willing to read your work before you even send off your first manuscript. It’s stupid. Publishing has become a popularity contest, or so I hear.

However, while annoying and superficial and demeaning to the art as it is, it does provide an opportunity. That opportunity is marketing creativity. It is getting your name out there in your own creative way so that you can get followers ahead of time. And I think podcasting is a fantastic way of doing it.

I mentioned earlier that this podcast was good for becoming a better reader. I”m currently reading a book that I’m struggling with. If I hadn’t already said I’d write a review on it, I would have already put it down. However, I was listening to an episode the other day, and I realized that what they were saying about character arc and story development could be applied to how I was reading this. I began looking at the book differently, and noting these elements that I just didn’t see before. While I was struggling to figure out not only how I was going to get through the book, but what I was going to even write about it because I just felt like there was nothing there, I now can see points that I can specifically talk about from a deeper perspective.

Any way, give it a go. There’s three reasons for you.

Laying to Rest

When I moved to Wales this last time, it was rather tumultuous. While I’m really grateful to those who helped me, it was still quite difficult. A massive part of the difficulty was when my grandmother died. For those of you who don’t know, she was very much a passive part of my motivation to apply to university in the UK. I wanted to be near her in her final years.

Well, she passed last November, only slightly over a month from my arrival. And yesterday, we laid her to rest.

She was of course cremated in November, with the family there  to say their words and spend time remembering her. But yesterday we scattered her ashes. It was really a fantastic day for it. The sun was shining, the sky was clear, and the bay was calmly excited.

There weren’t very many of us, and looking back on it, I’m quite glad for it. There was a close friend of the family who was kind enough to take us out into the bay on his sail boat, my mom, and me. There was Prosecco and wine and sun waves and islands.

We took the boat out along the usual race course, for “Mrs. T’s final race,” as friend put it. We made it around the buoy, something that I, myself, haven’t done in at least twenty years. As we came up alongside the island, under the watchful eye of the abandoned cabin, we sprinkled Granny in the sea.

I suppose this is the part where I reflect, but in all honesty, I don’t know what to say. I can say that she’s the closest person to me to have passed on, and that it’s a loss I regularly feel at random times. I feel it when I’m driving to Blaenau-Ffestiniog, somewhere I don’t think I went with her. I feel it when I’m making instant noodles. I feel it when I smell the plants after it’s rained.

And while those times I feel sad, and that I’m missing something now, I know I’m not. I know that I’ve had the chance to experience a really wonderful person, and that every time I miss her, I am breathing life into who she was, and I know that she still has a presence.

I suppose that would be my reflection on the matter. As for yesterday, it was an experience, but not something emotional. It was a beautiful day on a boat.

A Sample Chapter of My Novel

Brooke's Return, the Usual, N. J. ThompsonA few years ago, I participated in NaNoWriMo (2014), and was successful. That is to say, I was able to write the full 50,000 words in the 30 day time period.

Three years later, I’m still working on it. As time has gone by, I’ve been editing it, slowly, or perhaps swiftly, but still unable to figure out just what is wrong with it. Well, I’ve finally figure it out and am working on remedying it. However, I wanted to share a chapter of it. This is from the middle of the novel, but a piece I think could potentially act as a stand-alone. As a result, I used it as a bit of a cheat for my weekly flash fiction that I post on my website.

But really, what I’m hoping for is some constructive feedback. So, give it a read, let me know what you think–keeping in mind it is the middle of the story, so more than likely there will be questions answered elsewhere.

Without further adue:

Brooke’s Return

Benefits of (Camp) NaNoWriMo

I read an article a while ago that was basically slating on National Novel Writing Month (and by extension, the rest of its events such as Camp NaNoWriMo in April and July). The article was called “5 Reasons Not to Participate in NaNoWriMo” by Janice Hardy, representing Fiction University. You can of course read the article yourself by following the link in the title of the article, but I’ll summarize it for you before providing my counter-argument.

The article articulates that we are busy being, and that writing is meant to be creative and fun, and that a daily word count goal can be stressful, which can hinder your creative process, and can hinder you as a person due to competition. If you fail to meet your goal, that can be deterring, and might put you off your project altogether. I think that essentially is the gist of it.

I will, however, give a nod, that yes, ther are some people who just don’t function in the way of pressure as a motivator. But All the writers I know, and all the other creators of anything that I know, all do really well under pressure. And for them, I’ll write this:

Five Reasons to participate in (Camp) NaNoWriMo (Plus Some Bonuses):

  1. Time is Precious
    The article I mentioned does make a good point, we just don’t have time. But I think that’s all the more reason to participate in National Novel Writing Month, and it’s camps. It helps us to learn to manage our time, and to focus on what is important. And at the end of the day, if you are a writer, then that is what should be toward the very top of the list.
    When that is your drive, then you begin seeing little empty spaces of inactivity as opportunistic. Waiting for the bus? Whip out your phone and type out a few lines in your note pad.
    What’s more, because time is precious, I look at the span of my life. I, personally, have a dozen novels knocking around in my head. And if I take three years to write each of them, I might never see half of them complete. This shows that if you break down the minimum length of a novel into 30 days, that you can easily get your first draft done in that amount of time. And you know what it means if you can get your first draft done in that amount of time? Then you can do you second draft in that amount of time, again.
  2. Competition Can Light a Fire
    I’ll start this off by picky-backing on the last point. Because once you completely that 50,000 word count, or whatever it is you accomplish in that month, then you know you can do it again. Or, you can do better next month. You can increase your word-count goal by 5,000 next year, or next month. You can say that You wrote your first draft in one month, you can probably get it revised in two weeks. Then you can have it edited again in a week. Who knows where that personal competition will push you.
    That being said, competition has been used as motivation in academics and the professional world for years and years and years. There is something fun in friendly and healthy competition. And that’s what NaNoWriMo is. You have the option to be put in a “cabin” with other writers and you can strive to keep doing better than they are, make bets with them, whatever. However, it’s that subtle push to motivate you forward when you’re feeling stuck and burnt out.
  3. Support Groups
    Speaking of the Cabins, NaNoWriMo is a great place to meet other writers. Sure it’s not face-to-face, but it’s still allowing you communication. You can run ideas by people in your cabin, you can ask them what they think of a sentence, for alternative words for something, and so on. You can get to know them and then you have a writing connection. A variety of people participate in this events, including agents, publishers, teachers, students, pastors, anarchists, social justice warriors, politicians, and so on. Each individual doing this is a resource to help you through your writing. And you are a resource to them as well.
    Also, while I mentioned that you might not be meeting those in your cabin, you actually might be able to. There are options where you can find other participants in your area who would be wiling to meet up and talk writing in person–just be safe about it!!! You can also create a cabin for you and your friends as well, which is quite common.
  4. Pressure Can Light a Fire
    I don’t know about you, but when I was in college, I could not focus on an essay until the night before it was due, to the frustration of my teachers. They would want drafts and I would hand them outlines with points and give them references. But what was because there wasn’t any pressure. I needed the pressure of the deadline to fuel me. It reaches past my procrastination-finders (such as the itch to reach for Facebook or Twitter, or the need to see what my cousin who I haven’t talked to in years is up to) and finds those wells of creativity and knowledge that I didn’t know existed.
    Forcing yourself to come up with 1,667 words a day (or whatever your daily word goal is) puts that squeeze on you. When I started my novel, I just had a conversation piece. I had no idea where it was going. Then, after trying to force those words out to get to that daily goal, I created the history of a handful of characters, their emotional troubles, their desires, their own forces forward. I created a world.
  5. We Like Numbers
    I recently read and reviewed a fantastic book called The Circle, which is all about social media and how easily it is that we get sucked into a digital world. It sucked me in purely by giving me numbers to focus on so that I could see how well the main character was doing. Numbers are a way of measuring something, a quality/quantity measurement, and we thrive off it, whether we like to acknowledge it or not.
    Participating something that makes you focus on that word count, then you’ve got a way of knowing how well you’re doing.
  6. Forming of Good Habits
    At the end of the day, the reason I got into NaNoWriMo was because it was forcing me into a daily routine. And if you want to get good at anything, you need to have a daily routine for it. Being in the habit of sitting and writing, not caring what it is as long as words are getting on the page is what it is about. It’s getting you into that habit.
  7. It’s Damn Fun
    I don’t think this needs any more explanation. You either dig it, or you don’t!

So that’s my argument to the initial article slating NaNoWriMo. I would love to hear what works, what doesn’t work for you during this time. Do you participate in CampNaNoWriMo? Do you think it’s just obnoxious? I want to know!

Being a better reader

While I’m working hard to get get my writing out there, trying to create more fiction for the world to read, trying to prove my professionalism, and just trying to get known as a blogger (ha!), I have to remind myself that it is a two-way street:

I have to read.

That’s not to say that I don’t like to read, because I absolutely do dig it. I’m posts of the past I’ve made vows to read x amount of books in x time because I just don’t do it enough. In fact, way back when I started this blog, in the before school times, I said that I wanted to go for an English degree in part because it would make me read more.

I wonder what it is that has deterred me for so long?

This is in part the reason why I’ve committed to writing bi-weekly book reviews. Not only am I now held accountable for reading, but I’m really looking into what I’m reading and I have to be kept to a schedule. It’s a good thing. I thrive on deadlines.

But there’s something more important that I should be doing that I’m not doing nearly as much: reading fellow writers’ blogs. I subscribe to so many of them, but I rarely actually go through my WordPress reader feed and click on the entries. How can I expect to learn and grow as a writer if I’m not reading the work of my blogging peers as well?

This is something I intend to work on. However, it’s finding te time that I’m struggling with. I’m so busy trying to be supportive on social media, the online writing groups, the newly published authors whose books are recently released, the news, and writing my own things and participating in self promotion, as well as working full time, entertaining family while they’re visiting, and the rest of life–where do I find time to read and support my fellow bloggers?

As I stand in the ice cream shack that I manage, scrolling numbly through my Facebook page, I wonder what on earth i can give up to make me a better reader.

There’s an obvious solution here, you know.

So! Instead of scrolling through Facebook while waiting for customers, I chose to write this post on my phone. See what I did there? An ample opportunity to be reading and instead I’m working on my own thing, complaining about how I’m promoting the work of others!

I promise I am going to change this, hopefully.

Hold me to it! Make me accountable!  A slacker, poke me with a hot stick and tell me to knock it off! You have my permission.

About Andrea’s Story

Every Friday, I post a piece of flash fiction on my website. That is really going to be the bulk of what this post is about. However, I want to start off by sharing my recent entry in my travel blog, Hopscotch and Woolgathering, which is mostly just a fun musing of my misadventures in trying to pick my mom up from the airport.

Now, about Andrea:

Andrea is 36 years old and lives in Washington State. After some upsets with the law, she started life anew in Spokane, working in fast food while she put herself through community college and on to university. Now, in her mid-thirties, she is well off in her position as an assistant to one of Washington’s billionaires and socialites, completely transformed from the hoodlum she was in her twenties.

This story, this piece of flash fiction is not about Andrea now. This story takes place 22 years previous, when she was finding herself, when she was discovering what the costs of freedom are, and just how chained her life was before.

This is Andrea’s Story.

Andrea's Story, the Usual, N J Thompson


Andrea is a part of my novel-in-progress, the very novel I started for NaNoWriMo 2014. It is nearing its finished stages and will hopefully be released into the world. Andrea is one of the main characters, who finds her life once again entangled with Brooke–the knot thought to be unstrung.