Music for Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction

by | Mar 24, 2012 | Blog | 8 comments

The topic of “music while you write” came up the other day, so I thought I’d write about it briefly from my experience and then share what songs I’ve been writing to.

In a perfect writing world for me, absolute silence would prevail. I would count the crash of surf or the wind whispering through pine trees as silence. Kids playing basketball outside, the pound-pound-pound of the ball, the gravel scrape of their shoes as they move about, the clang of the hoop and hollow plastic thud of the backboard, all punctuated with the unending expletives they shout for any reason at all as they quest for adulthood through the only mechanisms they have available to them at that age—which is all fine—does not count as silence to write by. Nor does the rattle of a washing machine, the rip-ripping of cat claws in my really cool (albeit rapidly becoming un-cool) faux Renaissance couch and love seat, or any number of other household auditory realities. So, sometimes—often—I need music as a sound-barrier. Not music to listen to, or groove to, but music to form a sonic wall through which no other sounds can penetrate. And it usually has to be just one.

I can’t listen to lots of songs because every time they switch from one to the next, it breaks my concentration in exactly the same way it does if a neighbor kid misses a shot and all of a sudden goes on a binge of profanity. It’s not so much the next song that comes on; it’s the transition. The breaking of the white-noise of one song and the starting of a new white-noise. The boundary between the two calls attention to itself, and, POP, there went my thread of thought.

I’d call it a train of thought, but some of them are far too tenuous to be counted trains. More like wisps, gossamer strands of the barely visible, and I type after them like someone running through a dark forest trying to take notes before the faerie vision fades. Two F-bombs and a “You’re gay!” exchange from the kids across the street break that up pretty easily. So does a change in song.

That’s why I only listen to one song at a time to write. One song. On repeat. Over and over like a thirteen-year-old girl. It’s the only way it works. (It drives my wife NUTS!)

The Galactic Mage was written and edited to 671 plays of Within Temptation’s “Mother Earth.” In addition to that one, there were also 96 plays of Vivaldi the Four Seasons “Winter” and 77 plays of his Violin Concerto in C Minor, “Il Sospetto”: II. Allegro.

So, first video is “Mother Earth.” I LOVE this song, and there is simply no level of volume loud enough to do it justice.

I drafted a contemporary novel last summer called A Fish Story to 447 plays of Lady Gaga’s “Alejandro” and 197 of “Just Dance” which she did with Colby O’Donis. I’ll be finishing that up sometime this year, but not sure what song I’ll be using for revisions.

Currently, as I work on Rift in the Races, I have logged roughly 325 plays of Coldplay’s “Paradise” and 307 plays of “Written in the Stars” by Tinie Tempah.

So, there you have it. Now you all know I am insane. Or else that I am a thirteen-year-old girl.


  1. jim jaco

    Loved the Mother Earth video and music. I could probably listen to Enya’s “Sail Away” or “The Wreck of the Edmon Fritzgerald” that many times and not get sick of it….lol

  2. John

    I LOVE Enya. I have all her CDs and have been a fan forever. Sail Away is great, it’s actually how I first discovered her. Caribbean Blue is one of her songs that I have listened to that many times lol. Check out Blackmore’s Night sometime too if you haven’t found those guys yet.

    • jim jaco

      Thanks I will 😉

  3. John

    I just wish they’d come to California. (sigh).

  4. Michael Griffiths

    I was pleasantly surprised by how easy Deadmau5 is to listen to. Sort of like white noise, but with more emotional force.

    Have you tried e.g. for white noise? I’m a fan of the “Brown Noise.”

    I’ve also found “binaural beats” to be pretty good white noise. The science is sketchy at best, but noise is solid and varies more than e.g. SimplyNoise; the variation helps without the pauses a more traditional song has.

  5. John

    I haven’t checked out any of those, Michael, but I am off to look. Thanks.

  6. Ghosty

    What are the best ones without lyrics? For me, typing and listening to languages I know how to speak can’t go together. If someone is talking to me as I type, I end up accidentally transcribing what they say in the middle of a fictional narrative as their words hijack my fingers.

    Instrumentals are my homeboys.

    Any recommendations?

    • John

      Well, Ghosty, musical taste is what it is, but that said, here are a few that I’ve listened to a lot:
      Carly Commando, “Everyday” (single version);
      Bach: Cantata #29;
      Vivaldi: The Four Seasons (Summer), The Four Seasons (Winter), and Violin Concerto in C Minor (Candida Thompson);
      I Musici, Minuet from String Quintet in E
      Ensemble Galilei, La Folia Variations (I love that group, so almost any of there stuff);
      …. If you’re not into classical, another way to go is foreign music. There’s some cool Indian music, like Kajra Re by Alisha Chinai and Jai Ho (Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack) as examples. I also have a lot of Russian pop, like Sladko-Harchenko (remix) by Serebro (They have tons of great songs), or Vostochnaya Skazka, by Blestyaschie and there are lots of good ones if you start poking around in iTunes for “also boughts.” Also, if you like techno and classical, there’s great stuff by Maksim and Wendy Carlos, electronic Bach and Beethoven and Mozart etc. that are pretty awesome. Oh, and Mummers Dance by Lorena McKennett as a random last minute add on. lol.