Monday, 28 June 2010


This is a post I've been saving up for a little while, just because it's hard for me to really express how important music is to me when I'm writing. I have literally spent months - miserable, blocked, unproductive months - desperately trawling through my CDs, checking out artists on YouTube and iTunes, hoping against hope that I would find The Song.

The Song is the one that captures the mood of the story, it's emotional heart, perfectly. Once I have that, I can build a playlist for the book around it. I mean, I have my generic playlists called things like 'Love', 'Sadness' and 'Fight', but when I sit down in the morning, first thing, and I'm cranky and reluctant and I can't think of a single word to put on the page, I need The Song to fix it.

I can and have written without The Song. I think I wrote most of The Swan Kingdom without the song that belonged to it (which was 'Cumulus', by Imogen Heap, if you're wondering). On the other hand, if I have The Song from the start, it speeds things up immeasurably, like with Daughter of the Flames ('Now We Are Free' from The Gladiator). I wrote the first ten chapters of Shadows on the Moon before I found 'Seraphim' by Dead Can Dance, and later had to throw nine of those ten chapters away.

So, for FrostFire, I was working with a place-holder soundtrack made up of songs from the soundtracks of Curse of the Golden Flower and Avatar. And then I happened to be checking out another author's blog (Courtney Allison Moulton - can't *wait* for Angelfire, even if the title is way too similar to FrostFire) and she had posted a YouTube video of the song 'Alibi' by 30 Seconds to Mars.

Now. I'm familiar with this band. They're okay. I can't say I was really a big fan. But this song - the lyrics, the mood, the voice, the slow build up - were all perfect for FrostFire. It basically expressed the character arc of my heroine and her relationship with the love interest. Everything snapped into place, and I've now built up my proper playlist. Sure, there are days when I turn the music off and write in silence, or days when I click on 'Fight' or 'Love' and listen to them instead.

But I always know that if the white page is starting to throb in front of me, and I can see swirling, mocking faces forming in the blankness...I can turn on The Song. And suddenly everything is so much easier.

Below is part of the playlist for FrostFire. Only part because many of the songs I'm using aren't available on As you can see, if you're reading this blog in the UK (like me) you can't actually play the songs on this little insert, but you can always look them up on iTunes or Amazon and have a listen. If you're in the US you've got it easy.

What are your go-to songs for writing, and why?

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Saya said...

I have to say I don't really relate to writing-music. If I'm listening to something, I'm exclusively focused on *it*. I just don't have enough mental RAM to listen and write at the same time, sigh.

The more silence I have, the better!

Zoë Marriott said...

It's more like a trigger to mood. I have to admit that once I really get engrossed in writing, I'm not normally paying attention to the music - in fact, sometimes the playlist ends and I don't notice. But I definitely need it to kick-start me most of the time.

What kind of baffles me is the writers who say they watch sports or movies as they write. Eh? I'd end up typing film dialogue or football slogans instead of what I wanted to write!

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