Tag Archives: Writing a novel in 30 days

NaNoWriMo Day 2 Updates: Best Music to Listen to while Writing

I am taking part in NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. An event where thousands of aspiring writers sit down to write the first drafts of their novel in a span of 30 days.

I have been attempting it for the last three years, but failing spectacularly (Imagine Manoj Prabhakar in a World Cup semi-final). I found that it was because I was ill prepared, and had no idea where my plot was going to take me. This year, I spent a few weeks in October getting my plot ready, diving my story into chapters, and developing the sub-plots in my head.

This seems to be working wonders, as I don’t have to sit down to think about what to write. I have a brief idea of what happens, so it’s only a case of how to write it. It reduces the burden on me to come up with an interesting story; all I need to do is focus on maintaining the flow.

If you’re an aspiring writer, I urge you to follow my Facebook page, where I shall be putting up regular tips, updates and follow-ups of my struggle with trying to finish my first draft in a month. If you’re not a writer, kindly bear with my posts this coming month. They will mostly be scrambled rants about the vagaries of trying to write. If you do not connect to the rants, I am sorry.

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#NaNoWriMo DAY 2

It’s the second day of NaNoWriMo, and the challenge really, was to sustain the josh of the first day. First days are beautiful and sunny and inspirational and all things Rocky Balboa. But it’s the day after that’s an acid test.

Assuming the average first draft of a book is 50,000 words, the average word count per day in NaNoWriMo is 1666 words per day. At first, the number seems daunting. But scratch a little deeper, and you’ll find it isn’t as unsurmountable as it seems.

On days when I’m well and truly stuck, I like to divide my day’s writing into paragraphs. Assuming every paragraph is about 200 words on average, I have to write about 8 – 9 paragraphs. Doesn’t sound so difficult, does it?

And if you further break it down, a paragraph usually deals with a single idea – a description, an action, a memory, or a set of dialogues. Which means that I have to trudge my way through 8 or 9 key ideas. And THAT, sounds extremely doable!

And so I sat down to write for the second day.

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But before I get down to the mundane events of the day, let me answer a question I’ve been asked related to writing.

WHAT SORT OF MUSIC TO LISTEN TO WHILE WRITING?

Most writers wouldn’t recommend listening to any music at all. However, most writers do not possess the focus of a coked-up squirrel, like I do. Which is why I need a distraction to end all distractions.

Also, in the world we live in, it has become harder to focus, tougher to push away our distractions. A ping from a friend, a forward from a relative, a buzz from an actor on Twitter – we are a ping away from distraction crumbling down like Kuki Sharda. (Dear God! I beg your forgiveness).

However, listening to music while writing is a tricky matter. Unlike running, or working out, or cooking – you can’t have music that pushes you forward. It cannot be music that makes you feel pumped up. It has to have a calming effect.

At the same time, it cannot be AR Rahman’s greatest instrumental playlist either. Great and evocative as they are, Rahman’s tracks bring with them a memory tucked away in the back of your head. They carry with them recollections and reminders and thoughts and feelings. Thoughts and feelings are distractions when you’re sitting down to write.

The song cannot have lyrics too, as the words of the song will mess with the words you’re trying to write. So that eliminates most music forms popular in our times. The music shouldn’t evoke strong emotions, its work must merely be to calm you down. To get your monkey mind to transform into a saint.

I tried a number of options – white noise, sound of trains and sounds of rains. And yet, none of them seemed to work. I tried elevator music – Brian Emo’s Music for Airports and Thursday Afternoon. They’re both fantastic albums, but they’re too elevator-y. Too bland, they invoke no inspiration, they inspire no provocation. Instead of egging me to write, I felt that the music made me feel like a crack addict who was tied to the metal bed in a psychiatric hospital.

It was after much searching through the underbelly of the Internet that I found my answer – classical music. Western symphony music has no lyrics, moves from emotions in a smooth manner, and makes everything seem grand.

Don’t believe me? Play Rossini’s overture to The Thieving Magpie the next time you’re taking a dump. Tell me if you don’t feel like it’s the greatest dump taken in the history of human civilization. I found a fantastic radio station – KDFC – run by the University of Southern California. They have playlists, request shows and mostly classical music that helps me to calm down, focus and type. I often find my fingers keeping tempo with the music, speeding up towards the end of the performances, and slowing down when the next one begins. I’d highly recommend listening to western classical music.

Before you accuse me of being an anti-national, here’s why Indian classical music didn’t work for me. I have listened to a lot of Indian classical music. The instruments evoke memories in me, and I cannot be completely detached to Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia, Zakir Hussain and Shivkumar Sharma. These beautiful gentlemen were a part of my growing years, and I needed something that was neutral and unemotional for me.

However, I would also highly recommend Hariprasad Chaurasia’s albums Morning to Midnight – Morning to Dusk, Pure Joy, and (for completely biased reasons), Hriday.

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Day 2 Updates:

I got back from my office at 9.45. Our cook had cooked meal-maker curry in the day, and had merely added daal to the menu. This prompted me to have a Masala Dosa in the office (a huge shoutout to the wonderful cooks who make the dosa in the Microsoft campus).

I reached home to find that the geyser (which was installed in the heyday of Bahadur Shah Zafar) had been repaired, and I took a shower. I rolled a joint, and sat down to jot down what I’d be writing today.

At 12, I began writing, going smooth till I’d hit 890 words. I found myself stuck with a particular question (What sort of food would students in the Mahabharat era eat?). I had a quick discussion with my friend, and the harmless question stretched on for an hour and a half.

By the end of the discussion, we had charted out the daily schedule for the Kaurava princes at Dronacharya’s ashram. We knew what they would do on regular days, and on holidays and festive occasions.

We had also created a menu for students in the Dwaapar Yuga, and what they’d be given to eat on holidays. By the end of the discussion, we saw that the time was 3.30. I wished my friend goodnight and sat down to write myself to sleep, managing a healthy 1682 words for the day.

Lessons learnt on Day 2:

  1. If you’re stuck with descriptions, carry an exam pad and sketch out the places, doodle out the exact details, and then proceed to explain them one after the other.
  1. If you’re finding it difficult to focus, classical music is a great option to resort to.

So, on the third day of November, I stand at 3315 words, and well into the second chapter of my fourth book.

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If you’re an aspiring writer, I implore you to take part in NaNoWriMo. There are wonderful fora across the Internet where authors sit and discuss, debate, and bitch about the world. All through this month, I shall be posting unsolicited advice, tips, and updates about my struggles to finish my book in a month.

If you’re not an aspiring writer…I envy your life!  🙂