Creating a Mood

Who else likes to listen to music when they write / study / read / work?

I know I do.

I’ve made the occasional and very random comment on my social media outlets about my musical choices to accompany my writing time, so I thought you might enjoy a wee post about them.

In most activities, I can enjoy pretty much any sort of background music. At work I can read reports and papers to the heaviest of rock, or the lightest of ballads; I’m not fussy. When it comes to my writing, however, I become particular. The music I listen to has to match a mood; sometimes my mood, sometimes the mood of the part of the book I am creating. The background music has to be somehow evocative of what I am trying to convey on paper (OK, not paper – Microsoft word, but you get the idea). If it is contrary, it is distracting. And as my family will tell you, when I’m writing, I cannot be distracted.

I wrote most of my first novel, The Gisburn Witch, to one album: If You Wait by London Grammar. To understand why that particular album worked so perfectly for me, it’s perhaps helpful to understand what was going on at the time I wrote that book. The creation of The Gisburn Witch was a long process which began early in 2014 – I remember sitting nervously in front of my laptop as I typed the first few chapters, feeling every bit the new writer who didn’t have a clue what she was doing. By spring 2014 it was popped neatly back on the shelf – not because I wasn’t enjoying myself, but because in Scotland we had a certain important referendum coming up and I had campaigning to do. Fast forward to Autumn 2014 – the referendum was over, ‘Yes’ hadn’t won and the nights were drawing in with Winter’s approach. It was against this backdrop that I did what felt right – I stuck my London Grammar album on, I picked up my writing again and a couple of months later I had finished. For those who don’t know it, If You Wait is a very peaceful, but also very melancholic album. At the time, it was a suitable soundtrack to my life, as well as fitting the tone of the novel.

As anyone following me on social media will know, my second novel, A Woman Named Sellers is almost complete and about to go into editing. So, what have I listened to second time round? Well, I have to say it’s been a bit more eclectic – I’m not sure what that says about either me or the book, but I have found that I’ve craved more variety in my background listening depending on what stage of the book I was writing at the time. Melancholic music has still played a huge role – I’ve really enjoyed listening to some of Ben Howard’s stuff, particularly The Burgh Island EP. I’ve also rediscovered my love of classical music, especially Mozart and Beethoven – this has worked especially well when I wrote scenes in palaces and grand houses (that’s all I’m saying – no spoilers here, I promise). I’ve also thrown some of my more angst-ridden/thought-provoking music into the mix – I found Alanis Morissette worked especially well here.

Tonight I finished writing chapter 32 which, to all intents and purposes, is the final chapter (of the first draft, anyway). I wrote it whilst listening to Trans Siberian Orchestra’s Requiem the Fifth.

You’ll have to wait until the book comes out to see whether the ending is as dramatic as the music suggests.

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