Writing to Music

I think the writing process fascinates writers and non-writers alike. There seem to more questions asked of writers about it than anything else. “Where do you get your ideas? Do you have a writing schedule? Do you have a special workspace?”

When writers congregate over the communal coffeepot, we talk about these things too.

One of the questions I like to ask is, “Do you listen to music when you write?”

I asked file3551243435174this on Facebook and Twitter the other day and here are some of the responses I got. I was curious to see what the answers would be, and if they were similar for writers within the same genre.


Mystery/Thriller –

Gale Albright – I don’t listen to anything if I can help it. I prefer quiet when I’m writing. I am writing EVA in a definite time period, the Great Depression in East Texas in the early thirties. I have thought that maybe I should get some music (probably from the library) of popular songs played on the radio during the Depression, plus old-time church music, etc. I could listen to set the mood. I don’t know if I could write with it on. I haven’t done it, so I could try it as an experiment.

Steve Freeman – Not usually. If I do, though, it has to be instrumental or it’s too disruptive. I usually listen to Hans Zimmer.



Brianna Soloski – I have a play list of songs I never get tired of hearing. As for type…Billy Joel, Carly Rae, Jepsen, Train, and more.



Michelle Hughes: If it wasn’t summer I would. Right now I get to listen to screaming. LOL



Jeff Kerr – No


Historical Fiction –

Jeri Westerson – Yup. I like to listen to medieval music or soundtracks to medieval-themed movies while I write… Some of the worst movies have produced some great soundtracks.

Kim Bullock – I have to have silence. This is not always easy to come by.


Fantasy/Sci-fi –

Tonia Marie Harris – I listen to certain music when I’m writing or revising. For my current book, I’ve found myself listening to … post-industrial like Tool or Portishead, but I like classical pieces like Lakme’s The Flower Duet….Living in a tiny house with three kids, three animals, and babysitting full-time, playing music on low helps me focus, rather than detract from my work.

Vaughn Roycroft – Three words. Dead Can Dance.

JC Cassels – I listen when percolating. I use music to set the mood… I bought some royalty free soundtrack music that I listen to while plotting. It helps with pacing the action scenes.

Marta Pelrine-Bacon – Often, but not always. I listen to music appropriate for what I’m writing as if the scene is a movie.


Freelance/Essays/Other –

Katherine Wolbrink- Never. I find it way too distracting. But I have the attention span of a toddler, so…

Patrick Thunstrom – …I listen to trance, techno, metal, or some form of rock, with the occasional foray into classical. I have a “get pumped” list that is fun.

Joel B. Matuszczak – I write about things that happened to me, so I often listen to the music that I listened to during whatever phase of my life that I’m writing about. My taste in music, like the rest of my life, has changed a lot over the years…

Roberta Schirado – Instrumental jazz. The beat seems to focus my attention.

Kit Frazier – Yes, and sometimes I have a movie playing in the background…


I used to listen to movie soundtracks while writing. I found I couldn’t listen to anything with lyrics, especially if I was writing dialogue. I even created a personalized station on Pandora I named, Music for Writing. It’s composed of movie/video game soundtracks. Most are by Hans Zimmer (I love HZ!). It’s great for setting the mood when I’m thinking and plotting tension and action. When I’m thinking about my Texas historical fiction, I listen to the soundtrack to Lonesome Dove. It works for me every time.  But once I sit down to write, I have to turn it all off. I’ve found I need to focus on the words and I already have too many other things swirling around my head.

So there you have it, a totally unscientific survey of a few writers and their music/writing habits. My conclusions?  I guess it depends more on the individual’s personality and not the genre. That and, I feel old because I don’t know who some of these groups are or even the type of music!

Thank you to my writing friends who answered my questions and let me use their answers.

VP Chandler

4 thoughts on “Writing to Music

  1. I hear people say music is distracting, but for me that’s sort of the point. I not only use music to set the mood for a scene, but to distract me from the rest of the world of every day life. And Dead Can Dance not only suits the mood of my genre, their music’s archaic sound distracts me from the sort of thing I normally listen to. Fun stuff, Valerie!


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