Advice

General

On Majors

An excellent question was sent to me on twitter today via @SarahWilli308 as to why I didn’t major in English if I’m such a great writer. Well, first of all, let me say that I hope you guys think my writing great. I so want you to enjoy my stories! Second, I didn’t major in English because I had no idea that I would one day write books.

I think most people know that in college I started out in Musical Theatre and ended up in History with my goal being to go on staff with my campus church. Several things happened to change that— the big one being Callaway sweeping me off to Blacksburg so we could get married and have babies— but my last stop before becoming an author was being a homemaker and scooping ice cream part time. It was kind of soothing, the pace of my life. I have no complaints.

But! I do want to say that my degree in History has been very good to me. I did a lot of reading, writing, and researching for my major. I don’t know much about the arc of a story or adding in plots, but I did study a lot of real life stories that had their own twists to them, and that has helped me shape my books. I’ve been fiddling with the history in The Selection as well as some projects for the future, and knowing how to find that information and align it has been kind of crucial. All in all, I’m glad that I studied what I did, because if I majored in English there’s a very high chance that I would have been burnt out on reading and writing and might never have pursued it at all.

So I got to thinking… What majors besides English might be good for people who become authors? Here’s my short list:

Communication. Well, maybe. This was my major for a whole semester, but things were never properly communicated to me, so I got out. Yeah, that’s for real. But if you happen to be one of those authors who speaks at high schools, libraries, and conferences, knowing how to do that is a good idea.

Theatre. I think this is obvious. Plots, characters, setting. You can study it in 4-D! Also, you get your hands on scripts, which might be good to understand if Hollywood comes to woo you.

Accounting. You think I’m crazy, and that’s totally cool. Here’s the deal, I’m only halfway through the experience of my first book, and the math is way intense. You have your advance and 15% goes to your agent, and then you have to do special taxes because you’re considered self-employed, and then you have to set budgets for the rest of it like living expenses and swag and going on trips to promote your books and OHMYGOSHTHATSALOTOFNUMBERS. So, yeah, if you have math down, you’d be five steps ahead of me.

Psychology. Talk about being able to get into your character’s head. Sheesh.

Anthropology. This is all about understanding humanity. If you really get people and can make your characters feel alive, feel very human, then you have a great start at making readers connect with them. To me, that’s kind of the point.

Physics. Okay, I’m totally lying on this one. No idea.

 

What about you? What did you study in school? Has it contributed to your writing?

The Selection

Music & Writing

So I’m a nerd for music. Used to be kind of a huge thing for me. FACT: In high school, when people asked what I wanted to be, I always said “a diva”. And I meant that in the “I’m a musical goddess” way. Not the “I’m spectacularly bitchy” way. Actually, if I whipped out my senior yearbook right now, half of signatures start “Dear Diva”. I was pretty determined. At the time.

Anyway.

Now I write books, a much better outlet for my creativity, but music still holds a dear place in my heart. Also, I live with Callaway and he likes Elbow, Radiohead, and the Beatles, so I’ve been exposed to lots of new sounds over the years. And I take all of these things and let them inspire me.

Last week in a blog post on Presenting Lenore, I was asked for a theme song for The Selection, and I gave what I feel kind of sums up America’s attitude about the whole Selection, which is Fairytale by Sara Bareilles.

I think that music can really make a scene happen, so I wanted to share some thoughts with you on using music for your stories.

  1. Don’t necessarily listen to music that you like. I think it helps to hear fresh lyrics and melodies, things that you might not think to pick up on your own. Stretch your ears! (BTW, thanks to all my twitter peeps who are sending mixed CDs!)
  2. Writer’s Butt is a real thing. Any chance you get to think on your feet, take it. Put in your headphones and take walk. The new sights will get your mind going, too. Bonus!
  3. Instead of making a playlist for your story, try making one for a character. If you’re trying to get someone’s voice right, put yourself in their head. If they like death metal, you need to get on that.
  4. I also like making mood mixes. I have ones for love, anger, and sadness. Some faves to get you started:

LOVE: Dark Blue by Jack’s Mannequin.

ANGER: The Pretender by Foo Fighters.

SADNESS: The Special Two by Missy Higgins.

 

I hope you enjoy! So, thoughts? Any favorite songs that just get your brain going?