For the longest time, I thought I couldn’t write with music on. It inevitably distracted me or pulled me out of the scene that I was trying to write. But then—in what may have been the biggest duh moment of my writing life—I realised that I was doing it all wrong. I was listening to random music when I should have been listening to a curated writing playlist.

After I realised what I was doing wrong, I guess you could say I…changed my tune.

(nyuk nyuk nyuk)

But seriously, guys, I’ve gone from writing in dead silence to writing while surrounded by #mood. Having a playlist full of songs that I’ve chosen specifically for Lady of Daemons has been insanely useful. I thought it would just be a fun thing to make, but it’s had some real, tangible benefits, like:

  1. It motivates me. Sometimes, you just don’t feel like writing. But the writing music is playing, so…time to write. Or at the very least think about writing. If I’ve got a plot tangle that needs sorting out, I put on my writing playlist and go for a walk. Nine times out of ten, I return home with a solution.
  2. It sets the mood. Lady of Daemons is a moody, atmospheric book. But I’m not really a moody, atmospheric person. I like sprinkles and cotton candy and pudgy kitty cats. Listening to a bunch of songs about darkness and monsters helps me get into the “everything is dark and mysterious” mindset.
  3. It keeps me invested! I originally made a playlist for Lady of Daemons because I was procrastinating on writing it (cough, cough) but I wound up having a lot of fun putting it together and finding new songs to put into it. It helps keep me interested in my work even when work is getting a little tedious.

Okay, so a writing playlist is useful af. But how do you make a good one? How do you sift through the millions of songs out there to select the thirty or forty ones that scream “MY NOVEL”? Where do you even start?

In a word: Steal. The best way to start constructing the writing playlist of your dreams is to steal.

Okay wait no don’t call the police—

I’ve always found that starting a writing playlist from scratch is really hard. There are so many songs out there, and to be honest, the songs you listen to for fun and the songs that perfectly encapsulate your WIP’s vibe aren’t always in that little overlapping bit in the Venn diagram.

So, in the beginning, I let someone else do the heavy lifting for me by taking a look at the songs that shows and movies with a similar vibe as my WIP have put on their soundtracks. I pull my favourites from those soundtracks and make them the foundation of my playlist.

For example:

Lady of Daemons has a strong The Infernal Devices vibe. Tragically, there isn’t an Infernal Devices movie or TV show, but adaptations have been made of The Mortal Instruments. So I started there.

The movie soundtrack is…not suited to my needs (it’s too vibrant and too major-key):

But the TV show’s one is! Look at all that moody, minor-key goodness. That is exactly the vibe I’m going for in Lady of Daemons.

My original playlist was literally just a ton of Ruelle songs, because, well, they were my favourites from the Shadowhunters soundtrack. After that, I just let Spotify take over. I explored the artists similar to Ruelle, tossed in a few of the “recommended for this playlist” songs, and pretty soon, I had a playlist that didn’t really look or sound like the Shadowhunters one anymore.

And now I have a great playlist that I can jam to while I edit. Which is good, because I’ve been doing so many edits. But more on that later this month.

Do you like to curate writing playlists? Do you make separate ones for each WIP, or do you just have a playlist full of music that’s good to write by? For your writing music, do you prefer music with words, or without?