A Little Writing Music

A Little Writing Music

by Kathy Edwards (from The Market List #5)


Stuck? Don't just sit there watching the dust motes sparkle in the sunshine. If you are feeling mind dead, add music to your writing. Music is wonderful for putting life back into the moment. It adds scenery and tone; the characters begin to move; pretty soon your fingers are flying over the keyboard and the story is beginning to unfold. Carefully select your CD's and take up the beat and the spirit; a little writing music can change inaction to production.

What sort of music? That depends on what you are writing and the kind of music you enjoy. I find the best is music that you don't sing along with. Words seem to work at cross purposes for me. If I am singing the words and/or the music in my head, it stops the flow to the page. That doesn't mean it has to be an instrumental; not at all. It just needs to slide into the background, pick you up, and sweep you along.

You want to have a few suggestions?

Well, let's see. . . I can tell you what I like and why, then you can go from there and experiment a little. I write mostly fantasy, but I am not sure the music I like is at all genre specific.

I think CD's are best because you can program them easily and there is a repeat button. Remember, this is for you, while you are writing. This doesn't mean you won't drive others in the house wild. That isn't always as bad as it seems either. Because they tend to go into another room and close the door or leave the house entirely. (If you catch a bit of a smile in that, it was intended.)

Pick out a piece of music that matches your mood and/or the mood of the piece you are writing. Want happy macabre? Try Nightmare Before Christmas, program only the instrumental pieces and hit repeat. Writing something eerie, dark and mysterious? How about Chant, Byrd Masses, or perhaps Interview With the Vampire soundtrack (again you may want to program out the one vocal if you find it distracting.) Working on something with lots of action? Go for Heavy Classics I or II, Night on Bald Mountain, or maybe Alexander Nevsky. Just want that 'something' in the background? How about Enya, Lorenna McKennitt, Passages, The Piano, or maybe one of the Brandenburg Concertos. I have a friend who thinks Metallica also fits into this same category.

Try different things, use what works. Stray from the usual fare. There is a lot of variety out there, look around. Go to one of the music stores that let you listen before you buy and try out a few, till you find a couple you think will work. Experiment, go down aisles that you have never ventured into. Try music with an Oriental flair or perhaps something in French or with a Spanish beat. How about a recording of nature sounds? Thunderstorms or whale music may be just what you need. Never listened to classical music? Try one of the ones I've listed above for starters, then branch out if you like it. Theme music (soundtracks) from movies is often better than classical music for writing. Remember, this is not music appreciation time, you are looking for music that inspires your mind to wander, music with enough 'edge' to it that it prods you to action. Theme music is designed to fade into the background while it paints vivid scenery, often it has enough 'action' in it, to keep you from getting too relaxed.

What is my all time, all around favorite? Don't laugh -- it is the soundtrack from Conan the Barbarian. I got a cheap tape for my son as a gag gift one Christmas. We found it was great for speeding up the homework sessions. Everything went better and faster with it in the background, whether it be algebra or English papers. We wore the tape out and now have a CD. Both kids are now honor students in college, and I have sold my first story. Got to give some credit where credit is due - Going to put him on now and get to work.. Go Conan!


Here is a list, by subject, of the titles referred to in the article, so you can easily find and listen to them.

Movie Soundtracks:

Conan the Barbarian. Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, music composed and conducted by Basil Poledouris. Varese Sarabande, 1982.

Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas. Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. Walt Disney Records, 1993

Interview With the Vampire. Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. Music composed by Elliot Goldenthal. Geffen, 1994

The Piano. Music from the Film by Jane Canpion. Composed by Michael Nyman. Virgin,1993Classics:

Heavy Classics I. Angel, 1991.

Heavy Classics II. Angel, 1994

Byrd Masses for 3, 4, & 5 voices and Ave verum. by the Hilliard Ensemble. EMI Classics. Reflex, 1984

Night on Bald Mountain, "1812" Overture, The Sorcerer's Apprentice. Boston Pops. Arthur Fiedler. Musikfest, 1976.

Prokofiev. Alexander Nevsky, Lieutenant Kije. Orchestre Symphonique De Montreal. Charles Dutoit. London, 1992.

Bach. Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 3, 4 & 6. Infinity Digital, 1994


Enya. Watermark. Reprise, 1991.

Enya. Shepherd Moons. Reprise, 1988.

Lorenna McKennite. The Mask and Mirror. Warner Bros., 1994.

Metallica. untitled (Black Album). Elektra, 1991

Gregorian Chant and Modal Music: Passage 158 BC - AD 1611. Empire Brass Quintet. TELARC, 1994

Chant. The Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo De Silos. Angel, 1994

Copyright © 1996 by Kathy Edwards. All Rights Reserved.

  • Posted by Admin
  • August 24, 2012 3:14 PM PDT
  • 1 comment


1 comment
  • Varina Suellen Plonski
    Varina Suellen Plonski So true! For what I'm writing now (SciFi + action thriller) I'm using the HALO soundtracks. Perfect! (And awesome music, by the way!)
    December 18, 2012 - Report


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