Before I became a full-time writer, I thought music was too distracting to play while I was writing. I thought I needed absolute silence. Then I got a job as a staff writer, and suddenly I couldn’t hear myself think.
Stuck in the middle of a bustling open-plan office, I quickly discovered that if I wanted to focus and meet my tight writing deadlines, I needed music.
But not just any music. If it’s too slow, your mind can wander. Too fast, and you can’t concentrate. Too personally meaningful, and you’ll experience the emotion in the music instead of putting it down on the page.
The right writing playlist takes a little planning.
Once you assemble a good writing playlist, it becomes a valuable writing tool. You’ll have songs for different moods, different characters, even different settings.
Not only will your music inspire you to write better, it can also help you stay focused and keep you writing longer. That means you’ll get your book done sooner.
Case study: It Happened One Doomsday
When I sat down to write my debut urban fantasy novel, IT HAPPENED ONE DOOMSDAY, I had a real challenge ahead of me.
First, being a guy, it can be difficult for me to write from a female character’s point of view.
Plus, sandwiched between all of the supernatural action and drama, there’s a real love story. I’ll admit, that wasn’t the easiest thing for me to write.
Reviewers often talk about this book being tinged with romance. (“The quest to save the world is tinged with romance,” says Publishers Weekly. See?)
But I didn’t want this book to be actually labeled as a romance. Being a guy, I wanted this book to appeal just as much to other guys, too.
After all, in this book, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse all drive muscle cars. There’s a battle to save the world from fiery destruction. It’s pretty epic stuff.
So I went out hunting for personally meaningful music that somehow balanced all of that action and suspense with a powerful love story.
Plus, you know, car chases.
After trying plenty of different genres, I ended up listening to a lot of 80s pop. You know, the cheesy songs you love to crank up when you’re driving late at night. Or maybe that’s just me.
At the same time, I discovered that writing from a female character’s point of view was much easier when I was listening to female vocalists. Strange, but true.
So I ended up scouting through hours and hours of female vocalists covering some of my favorite 80s and 90s songs. And I filled out my playlist with some cool remixes and whatever else happened to inspire me.
The result? I can turn on the soundtrack and it instantly transports me into that world. Check out my actual writing soundtrack here: https://soundcloud.com/laurencemacnaughton
How to create your own writing soundtrack
1. Start a new playlist and label it with the title of your current work in progress. Use the same source for all of your music: YouTube, Spotify, iTunes, Soundcloud, etc. The important thing is to keep it all in one place, so you can press play and forget about it. You don’t want to have to interrupt your writing flow to fiddle with the music.
2. Begin with a simple playlist of maybe half a dozen songs that you really enjoy. They should be songs you know so well that the lyrics won’t distract you as you write. For some variety, you can also look for remixes and covers of those songs.
3. Add songs to your playlist that remind you of a particular character, setting, or story line. If you play that song every time you write about the character or setting, the song itself will start to emotionally transport you to that place, making it easier for you to write about it.
4. Writing is an emotional experience, so pay attention to the feelings that these songs evoke in you. Make note of which songs get you charged up, which ones make you sad, which ones make you feel upbeat. Add in a selection of songs for different tones: action, comedy, drama, suspense, etc.
5. Over time, keep collecting songs and branching into new territory. Periodically, remove songs that have lost their impact or distract you from writing.
Remember, creating an effective playlist takes time and a little work. But if you do it right, it can become a powerful writing tool that instantly gets you into the zone and keeps you there as long as you want to keep writing. That’s priceless.
Laurence MacNaughton is the author of It Happened One Doomsday, The Spider Thief, and Conspiracy of Angels. Get free stories, bonus features, and more fun stuff at www.laurencemacnaughton.com. You can hear his soundtrack at https://soundcloud.com/laurencemacnaughton.
You can connect with Laurence on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Google+. Visit his author page on Amazon.com for more information and to order books. It Happened One Doomsday releases on July 12th but is available now for pre-order.