My first ever novel attempt was in middle school. I started a few more in high school (the longest, I believe, is 18 pages) but I would always get bored and wander off in the middle, or frustrated by something, or what have you. I took a few years off for my senior year and the beginning of college, and then began what I like to call my Adult Writing Career in 2003.
That being said, I didn’t really become a writer, someone who more or less was working on writing projects year round, until the beginning of 2006. At that point I was in slogging through the middle of the first draft of a middle book on a trilogy and was in desperate need of inspiration, so I started joining writing communities on the internet. And I came across the idea of listening to specific music when writing – of having a writing soundtrack. I picked up songs from different places and tried them out (Paperback Writer by the Beatles continues to be a favorite) but nothing was really working, so I assumed I needed silence to write and moved on.
Flash forward to the beginning of 2007 when I discovered a new genre of music – symphonic metal. I fell in love and started listening to it exclusively, and I discovered that, if I was listening to it while I was writing fantasy, it was a huge source of inspiration. As time has gone on, I’ve discovered different genres work better for different projects. Hard rock works better than symphonic metal if I’m writing grittier stories. Eurodance is fantastic for editing.
But then, when I was working on a project late in 2008, I discovered that not just the genre, but songs themselves occasionally jump out and match a story. I found a few songs for that novel (most notably Velvet’s Mi Amore) that seemed to fit things perfectly, and sometimes playing them when I was stuck would help.
Now I’m working on a trilogy (and have been for awhile – on and off since 1998 – which was high school for those keeping track – and more seriously since 2004) and somehow I’ve ended up with an entire soundtrack. Not just a few songs here or there, but ones specific to characters, ones specific to relationships, some specific to certain books. I can’t really explain it – I don’t know if I listen closer to songs now when I hear them, or if it’s just an intuition thing – because often times a song I’ve heard a dozen times will suddenly click into place. Whatever the reason though, it is fantastic. By taking the songs in the soundtrack and playing them together or in different combinations, I actually get flashes of scenes. I get dialogue and action and even the odd plot point.
I don’t know if it’s just this story because I’ve been working on it so long, or if it’s a skill I’ve been developing, but it’s definitely been a huge help. Plotting out one book is hard enough – a trilogy with multiple arcs needs all the help it can get.
(For the curious – here’s a handful of songs from the soundtrack:
Within Temptation – What Have You Done Now
Dreamtale – Between Love and Hate
Skillet – Awake and Alive
Cascada – Can’t Stop the Rain
Linkin Park – What I’ve Done)