Another Monday is upon us, which means another fab author is visiting.
Please welcome Nat Burns.
The Sonata of the Written Word
I love a good sonata, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata is simply amazing. Mozart’s joyful pieces make my heart giggle figuratively along with each riff. And how could one not sway to Waltz of the Flowers by Tchaikovsky?
Each of these pieces is created from the mind, ear and heart of the artist. Is the creative process for a novel any different?
I guess this is why I’m a lifelong writer. Sure, I’ve served in a lot of different roles, from greenhouse worker to bookstore manager to managing editor for a medical publishing company. But, no matter what I’ve done, I always return to the music of writing. It’s how I best express myself.
Music? Writing? What is that crazy Natty on about now?
Let me tell you.
At a very early age, I, more so than any of my peers, began to hear the music of words, of language. It was as familiar to me as any classical piece heard in my neighborhood. And what a neighborhood! My family and their friends were from Ireland, which could explain a lot. Gaelic is an incredible language, filled with lyrical musical tones and impossibilities.
I keenly recall listening raptly, standing at the kitchen table, elbows on the red Formica surface and legs crossed at the ankles. My eyes would travel from speaking mouth to speaking mouth, every now and again nudging up a drooping sock with the toe of one foot, as I memorized the music of the stories the adults told. I heard about the wee folk of the Sidhe, the native inhabitants-fairies- who went underground because they could not bear the decimation of magic in Eire. I heard about the enchanted Lares, who had to be appeased with regular offerings of food and gratitude. I heard about the neighbor’s boy, Sahmel, who lost his job and began walking the streets, begging for money or food to feed his hungry brood of three. The table consensus was that they all would help him, of course. The gentle sighs of compliance and quiet agreement were music to my ears. A type of andante would happen that spoke powerfully to me.
I began reading at three. I began crafting full novels at ten. I still have a haunted house novel written in pencil, in my curly ten-year-old handwriting. I was hooked. The stories came to me as though works of music, compositions that, once heard in the head, had to be cemented onto the page. They, to date, haven’t stopped.
Now, an author of almost twenty books, I often edit books for new authors. Publishers seek me out to provide input to these novice composers of the written word. It becomes evident immediately which authors hear the music and which authors will not allow it. I have discovered, after thirty years of editing and writing in many fields, that it is often fear that turns off the music in a new writer’s work.
They fear that firm writing rules will be broken.
They fear others may see their work and poke fun at their stories.
They fear their writing will never be professional enough for a publisher to truly consider.
They fear using words incorrectly and many struggle to actually find the right words they need.
Self-fulfilling prophecies, all. This is what I tell them:
Composers always overcome fear, for the song will out.
Lead with the quote, the dialogue. Always. This empowers your song.
One character sings at a time, with short arias from other characters to highlight certain passages, all leading to the crescendo of your plot.
And most importantly: Read best-selling or popular novels slowly and listen to their music. Create a notebook for the express purpose of copying passages verbatim from these novels that are similar to what you wish to write. Savor them as you would any song by Bruno Mars, Rihanna, Meghan Trainor, Bach, Keith Urban. It doesn’t matter who. It is all music and music is language.
Textbooks have one song, literary novels another, but commercial genre fiction is the loudest. You’ve heard about formula novels? Maybe they are just the same rhythm repeated with different verses.
Here’s an example of music.
Mary sidled up to Tina and said, “I’m going to the store now.” This sentence has too much fugue, or a composition restated on different pitches and in various keys. Not necessarily pleasant to the visual ear.
“I’m going to the store now,” Mary said as she sidled up to Tina. This is melody, pure and simple. Soon the author’s ear, if she listens, will tune to this pattern and anything else will jar the flow of the music.
To be a commercial fiction author, one who sells memorable books, I would argue that the author must learn to hear and then transcribe the music of the written word. Let the songs fly uninhibited. Fall in love with words and say phrases, passages, loudly in the shower until they form the song you need to sing. You can worry about quarter notes, half notes, whole notes after the song is composed. Then you fix it, so the song is your song, pure, harmonious and strong.
Desert Willow Series Book 1
Release date: February 16, 2018
Romance / Science Fiction
When Lily Dawson’s estranged father passes away, she’s forced to return to her childhood home in New Mexico to settle his affairs and prepare the sprawling cattle ranch for sale.
Once there, Lily is dumbfounded by what she discovers. It seems that her Air Force father has been assisting the federal government in protecting the United States from alien threats—threats from other worlds.
Lily has no intention of taking her father’s place in his work. But when a new menace emerges, she reluctantly steps in to fill his shoes.
Airman Hunter Moon has been assigned to bring Lily Dawson safely to the President. Their attraction is immediate and when Lily is hurt, Hunter is there. And Hunter will always be there.
This is the first adventure in the Desert Willow Series.
MEET THE AUTHOR
After decades as an award-winning journalist, poet and playwright, it was natural for Nat Burns to turn to fiction, and to explore the lives and loves of lesbians. With a long history of reporting on the music scene in her monthly Lesbian News column, she’s an editor and proofreader who also spends considerable time as a systems analyst. She lives in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas with her partner. Nat is a member of the Board of Directors of the Golden Crown Literary Society.
Nat’s debut novel, Two Weeks in August, won a 2011 Alice B Committee Lavender Certificate for new writers.
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