Do You Make Playlists for Your WIPs?

Photo credit: William Brawley on Flickr
Once upon a time, (over two years ago, if we’re being specific) I wrote a post about my music-listening habits while writingAt the time, I listened to a lot of Pandora (specifically a K-pop station based off SHINee) and generally upbeat music.

I’m not really sure when that changed, but as of late, I’ve started doing this one band per manuscript thing. Or almost one band, anyway.

For my NA Sci-Fi, I listened to Imagine Dragons' Night Visions album on repeat, while occasionally switching to 30 Seconds to Mars’s Love Lust Faith + Dreams for more intense, dark scenes.

For my YA Fantasy after that, I listened to Fall Out Boy’s Save Rock and Roll album (again, on repeat).

For my NA Paranormal after that, I listened to a ridiculously huge Maroon 5 playlist (thanks to Spotify, I didn’t have to choose an album). Also on repeat.

And lastly, for my most recent YA Sci-Fi, I listened to Muse on repeat (mostly their The Resistance and The 2nd Law albums, with a couple other songs thrown in there).

I also started listening to music while editing, something I used to not be able to do at all, though mostly dancey upbeat music with few lyrics, like Swedish House Mafia. And that’s been a little less consistent.

At any rate, I noticed that by listening to the same band, it helps me get into a singular focus mode and I'm not often jarred out of it by a random song, which sometimes happened on Pandora (though Spotify ads were still a thing). Any song that I noticed distracted me I removed from the playlist and it wasn’t an issue again.

Maybe it’s because the songs all have a similar sound (after all, same band tends to have a similar tone throughout their music, particularly within the same album) or maybe it’s because my brain started associating those particular songs to that particular WIP, but I found it really helpful to have that same playlist going every time I wrote (and weirdly, I didn’t get sick of it—I actually still like all of those albums and bands).

I know, however, that some people even set out specific playlists for specific types of scenes, or create mixed playlists for their WIPs, and I’m curious—do you make playlists for your WIPs? If so, how do you put them together (and if not, why not)? 

Twitter-sized bite: 
Do you make playlists for your WIP? Why or why not? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

23 comments:

Heather said...

I don't, really. What I've found is that I need music going so that I can pretend other people in my house don't exist (which sounds bad, but remains true) and will not distract me with stops and starts. I've really gotten into soundtracks and albums on Youtube, because they don't have words and they can last for a good 2-3 hours. Beyond that, I'm not sure that the music is important to me—I wouldn't set aside time to make a specific playlist for it when I've already got two hours covered.

Robin Red said...

I second this. Until I get my own place, I have to put up with four other people with big personalities and constant emotional demands. I find that headphones lock out sound more than earbuds.

Ava Jae said...

I actually agree with both of you! Half the reason I use my headphones (noise canceling headphones are a gift from god) is to block everything else out, including people when they are around. I also find even if others aren't around, headphones and music helps me focus (and write faster, weirdly enough).


I haven't really set out playlists besides picking and artist/album either, though. So. Yep.

Robin Red said...

For my previous (shelved) YA fantasy, Florence + The Machine's Ceremonials was on repeat. "Seven Devils" was practically my villain's anthem. For my current manuscript, I made a playlist of really mellow, ambient songs from video game OSTs (don't judge me haha).

Ava Jae said...

Actually, video game soundtracks can be really epically atmospheric, so I'm totally not judging. :)


And Florence + The Machine! Nice.

Darth Lolita said...

I do. My music playlists are gigantic, though. Multiple tracks or entire sets of albums/OSTs by Martin O'Donnell, Michael Salvatori, Clint Mansell, Yoko Kanno, Trent Reznor, Hiroyuki Sawano, Dario Marianelli, Gustavo Santaolalla, Jack Wall, or whatever I happen to be listening to that inspires a scene or moment...

So. Much. Music @_@

Jen Donohue said...

Oh yes, I definitely make playlists for my WIP. Sometimes, though, depending on where I am in a story (or where my mood is) I'll listen to a singular song on repeat. Just the way my brain works, i guess.

With my most recently finished MS, the songs were very 90's rock, Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Bush, etc. because of the nature of my main character and his story. A prior MS has a playlist with a lot of Southern Rock (Skynyrd, etc.) because of its setting and road trip nature.

Leaping Lemur said...

I'll make a playlist with specific songs I associate with an event or character--but I don't listen to it while reading. I need a bigger range of music to get into various moods, so it's more "goth rock is a good mood for this kind of scene in this story universe."

For one novella I listened to mostly Florence and the Machine because it was the only thing with the right mood*... and I thought I was gonna go CRAZY. Usually with music I need it to ramp up the mood and when I'm in the groove I tune it out, but I cannot handle the same set of music on repeat for days and days. I switched it up with some Nightwish and "epic" mixes on youtube, but dang. I am impressed by people who can listen to a single album on repeat during an entire WIP.

*And even after a lot of searching I couldn't find another artist with the same mystical, embittered fury. It was like being serenaded by an angry caged god for two months.

Katie G said...

I always make playlists for my novels, though I listen to them more when I'm outlining and planning. I'll find a few songs that fit with what I think the theme will be, and then I listen to them while playing 2048 or something and try to think up more ideas.

I generally end up listening to specific artists or albums when I write. Sometimes it's related to the playlist I've made, but more often than not it's whatever album I found most recently.

Mirjana said...

I always make playlists for my novels on 8tracks. It helps me get in the mood to write, and even gives me insight into characters and tone as I pick songs (I usually do this before I start writing). I also usually have two playlists- one to get into the mood to write (with lots of meaningful words :3) and one to listen to while writing (emotional movie soundtrack music specified for certain scenes). :)

Ava Jae said...

Ha wow! Do you sort them per manuscript or is it the same manuscript every time or does it vary per scene or...?

Ava Jae said...

90s rock! That sounds fun. I like the idea of choosing a particular genre based off it's setting, too. I sort of did that with Maroon 5 and the NA WIP (I don't know, Maroon 5 just seems like the perfect college-age music to me). Very cool, thanks for sharing, Jen!

Ava Jae said...

Oh wow! I can't even imagine listening to music while studying. I wouldn't be able to focus at all! Very interesting.

Ava Jae said...

Haaaa. Okay, that asterisk is pretty funny. Anyway! I can't entirely explain why I didn't get sick of the music—I mean, I'd even expected it for myself, and yet...it didn't happen. I guess it helps that I chose bands I really like? At any rate, I totally understand getting sick of an album or song or band after listening to it on repeat for an extended period of time...

Ava Jae said...

That's so interesting! I hadn't really thought of listening to music while brainstorming. Hmm...


The album thing sounds similar to how I choose. Most of those albums in my list were either newly released or I'd just newly discovered them (which is maybe why I didn't get sick of them? Who knows).

Ava Jae said...

Now that's really interesting! Choosing music to fit character is one I haven't really heard (although I totally get music inspiring character—I've definitely had that happen). Very cool, thanks for sharing, Mirjana!

Leaping Lemur said...

I've known people who can listen to the same song on repeat all day without getting sick of it. We all engage with music in different ways! The closest I ever came was writing a novel's climax to "O Verona" on repeat... for about half an hour.

Braden Russell said...

Muse! Their album Black Holes and Revelations sort of accidentally became the soundtrack for my current novel—it started when I heard Knights of Cydonia and started geeking out over the post-apocalyptic space-westerny sound. That song inspired several of the scenes in my story, and then the other tracks just kind of seemed to fit in as well.
I usually don't go about compiling a playlist on purpose; usually happens more or less involuntarily. The visuals I get from songs can be really inspiring to me—I listened to Violet Hill by Coldplay on a constant loop while I wrote a short story about an assassin on a train.
One thing other people do that I think is cool is having a theme song for each character. But again, I don't think I could really sit down and intentionally pick out songs--I'd have to accidentally stumble across a song that just happened to fit a particular character right down to their navel.

Darth Lolita said...

A lot of the tracks can repeat between manuscripts, but generally each story has its own defined playlist. I can't do it by scene, though, since it'd take me forever to sort everything in order @_@

RoweMatthew said...

I never used to. I would just listen to whatever music I liked without thinking about any connection. However, I've been doing a lot more planning with my current WIP and working through the Snowflake method, and so during that long time I have built up associations. Just naturally listening to music during my day a song makes me think of a certain character or part of the story and so I saved these songs in to a playlist. It got so bad that for two songs I have actually storyboarded, I guess, a music video of sorts starring the characters. I see them as opening and closing titles for a possible movie. If I hd any money I'd love to hire an artist to get them made, but that'll never happen.

On a slightly related note, because it captures the style I'd love to have in any animations I made, did you see this floating about yesterday? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0bnbxP6HHMY

J. L. Franklin said...

Aye, I do do this! Now, for me it all depends on what I'm writing. For example, whenever I'm creating character profiles, I tend to get the greatest flow my listening to uplifting trance (Luke Bond, Christina Novelli, Dan Stone). Whenever I write in general, I like listening to trailer music (Two Steps from Hell, E.S. Posthumus, Epic Score.)

Now, sometimes, I have like "theme music" or "theme playlists" for certain characters. The heroine in my WIP listens to hardstyle trance, so I listen to hardstyle trance whenever I'm writing her story.

Another of my heroes is a really over the top noir detective, so I listen to...um...ah....hmmmmm....I'm not sure how to describe it.

It kinda sounds like this : Aya Kamaki -- W-B-X- W-Boiled Extreme https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEP4VFyzAF4
TERRA - Hyperdramatic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ooJ0_8EAnrw&list=PLUKU7mNdsP8FbXng15bZCdZ71f21yoKEv
Raiga, Tusk of Thunder: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36WmimwGnhk

It kinda has this jazz/big band taste to it.

Whenever I listen to certain music, it puts me in the mindset of my hero/heroine.

Now, whenever I write fight scenes, I listen to metalcore (August Burns Red, Woe is Me, Memphis May Fire). The breakdowns inspire the beatdowns!

Like I said, certain styles of music really gets me in the mood to write certain things, and certain characters! So, for me, it all depends on what I'm writing!

Ava Jae said...

That's an interesting thought about playlists more happening than someone actually setting out and deliberately choosing songs. I've definitely heard songs and thought, oh, that reminds me of this character, but I've yet to actually play that song while writing them. Verrryyy interesting...

Ava Jae said...

That's so interesting! I wouldn't see that as a "bad" thing—if anything it seems like a quick way to get into the writing mode, which is what those albums I mentioned basically did for me.


And I haven't seen that youtube video floating around, but I was never really a Buffy fan, either, so...

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