Music and Writing

Over the past month, I’ve been revisiting a story I wrote several years ago. It has a nice premise, but the story itself was sort of a wreck. There was very little in the way of plot, and no conclusion at all. The characters and setting were both strong, and I think the mood carried through well. But in general, people who read it would end up wondering, “What’s the point?”

But I love what I was trying to do with that story, and since there’s an anthology I’d very much like to submit to, I decided to dust it off and see what I could salvage. Because it ties in with some of the novels I’ve written, I’m constantly waffling on how much detail needs to go into the story. I ran it past my critique group, and their verdict was: more detail than is currently in there. I got some great feedback from them on a lot of aspects of the story, and we met a week ago. Since then, I’ve been diligently rewriting the story again.

Haha, no I haven’t. Actually, I’ve been percolating those suggestions until I’ve got a good idea of what I’m going to do with them. I’m nearly at that point. So in the meantime, I’ve been making a playlist to go with the story.

My musical habits change in the autumn. I get restless in the autumn. I feel a little more fey in the autumn. My imagination kicks in high gear in the autumn. So in the autumn, I listen to more Loreena McKinnett, Sarah McLachlan’s early stuff, Emilie Autumn, Flogging Molly, Dar Williams, that sort of thing. The past couple of weeks, it’s been Flogging Molly.

I love Flogging Molly. I discovered them in 2003, shortly before I started writing about these characters. I don’t know if it’s because of the timing or because of their music, but I associate Flogging Molly with the Regent’s-verse. I sneak in references to their songs when I’m writing, and I wrote an entire subplot inspired by their line, “Hell says hello.”

So any playlist that goes with a Regent’s-verse story has Flogging Molly in it. It has to, or I don’t feel like I’m in the right mood for writing it.

I think everyone knows music affects mood, but I know some people can only write in complete silence. I’ve never been that way. I have to have sound. Sometimes I listen to ambient noise on my phone (Ambiance is a great app for that, on both iOS and Android), but most of the time it’s music. And the music almost always has to fit the genre I’m writing in. If I’m writing epic fantasy, for example, it has to be instrumental, movie score, movie trailer music, or medieval music. (One odd exception was my last NaNoWriMo novel, which was about dwarves–for some reason, I listened to a lot of folk metal while writing that, and it was exactly what I needed.)

Writing urban fantasy provides a lot more leeway, since it’s set in modern times. So here’s my “Inheritance” playlist–what I’ve been listening to as I integrate my thoughts about the story:

  1. The Last Snowfall – Vienna Teng
  2. Hell and Back – The Airborne Toxic Event
  3. Saints & Sinners – Flogging Molly
  4. Recollection – Keep Shelly in Athens
  5. A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like a Kiss) – Glasvegas
  6. This Present State of Grace – Flogging Molly
  7. The Other Side of Sorrow – Skyedance
  8. Possession – Sarah McLachlan
  9. Molde Canticle – Sissal
  10. Snow – Grey Eye Glances
  11. What’s Left of the Flag – Flogging Molly
  12. Landsailor – Vienna Teng
  13. Hold On, Hold On – Neko Case
  14. If I Ever Leave This World Alive – Flogging Molly
  15. Portions For Foxes – Rilo Kiley
  16. The Snowy Path – Altan
  17. Real Life Fairytale – Plumb
  18. Raven Boys Instrumental – Maggie Stiefvater
  19. The Breaking Light – Vienna Teng
  20. A Sorta Fairytale – Tori Amos
  21. Faery Child (Cruxshadows Mix) – Dreamside
  22. Somnus (Thief Mix) – Maggie Stiefvater
  23. Level Up – Vienna Teng

So where do you fall? Writing in complete silence? Writing with mood music? Writing with music that has absolutely nothing to do with what you write? Writing to the sound of wind and waves?

The nice thing is, there’s no right or wrong way. At least I’ve figured out what works for me, and if I ever get stuck, a simple change of my music can often unstick me.

Tonight I’m going to finish that story. :)

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