I love using music to get into the headspace to write. Some authors listen while writing, but I do it as prep. This came up over the weekend on Twitter when Delilah S. Dawson was talking about developing story ideas in one of her insightful #TenThings series. She and I both craft a playlist when we start to noodle on a new story idea, and then use it to get and stay in the right mindset for the book.

I do this with every project. As I’m writing, I often add more songs to the playlist. This will happen when I’m driving to work and start thinking of lines for the novel. I’ll swipe on Spotify to add the song to the appropriate book’s playlist. Quickly a playlist will form that hits the emotional and tonal notes for the book.

How do I use a writing playlist?

Since I don’t actively listen to music while I’m writing, I use mine to prepare to write. While I’m driving home from my day job, I’ll turn on the writing playlist. By the time I pull up to my house, my brain will be buzzing with where the story needs to go and dialog bits. This routine saves me from sitting at the keyboard trying to find my place, and allows me to pick up where I last left the book with greater ease. Does this work for everyone? Of course not, but finding a trick or tip that helps you flip on your writer brain is valuable.

That One Song…

What’s interesting to me is that over time I’ve learned there becomes a theme song (or sometimes album/artist) for every book. While the whole playlist is good at setting the mood, there will be one song that clicks. For Lost Souls that song was “MANTRA” by Bring Me The Horizon. When I got into the last third of the book, and I had to pause to determine where I needed to take the story, I’d pop on my headphones and blast “MANTRA.” Boom. Words would start to flow.

Every book is different in terms of what songs click for me. The first Soul Charmer book’s playlist was lots of great punk—like Minor Threat’s “Minor Threat” and Fear’s “I Love Livin’ in the City.” Whereas Lost Souls pushes us into metalcore bands and touches of boozy alt stuff like K.Flay.

I haven’t shared playlists before, but is that something you’d like to see on the site? They change and grow during the book, but the final versions could maybe find a home here. If y’all want to jam to them.

In the meantime, here’s the unofficial Lost Souls theme song: