History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

13 April 2009

Music to Write By

This will not be a long post because you are the source of information for this research project.

I’ve been writing a long time and have always worked in silence. In silence, if you do not count the phone ringing, the lawn being mowed, trucks delivering stuff which means the doorbell sounding. But I digress.

For years I have written in silence but that seems to be changing. As of three days ago I am writing with music in the background. I started with the soundtrack from the movie LAST OF THE MOHEGAN and then moved on to Respighi and even some Enya which, though I enjoy her music, did not inspire me in any way. Actually Enya’s music made me seriously consider a nap.

So here are the questions for the day. Do you write in silence or with music? Do you use the music to inspire emotion in your writing or to motivate you to keep writing? If you use music, would you be willing to share your favorites?

And while I am on the subject of change. Has anyone checked out Twitter? I am having great fun collecting information from my favorite sources all in one place – New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Alan Sepinwall’s reviews of TV shows, CNBC and Vogue. I follow a couple of friends and acquaintances but do not twit myself.

So take your pick: music to write by and Twitter. Your thoughts?


Blogger Lauren Willig said...

Hi, Mary! Great topic. I do write to music-- and I can always tell that the writing is going well when I no longer notice that the music is there. I have had "theme" music for each of my books, which has varied wildly. My fourth book, "Crimson Rose" demanded Bach, while "Black Tulip", my most playful book, was written largely to the backdrop of the Shrek II soundtrack. When I can't figure out what to listen to, I fall back on either Handel's Water Music or happy bouncy 80's mixes.

As for Twitter... oh, boy. Talk about more time sinks! I think it may take me a few more years to get on board the twitter wagon. I waste enough time away from my writing as it is!

8:23 AM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Fun topic, Mary! I too write with music. Usually classical or movie scores. In fact I pick a composer for each book--it's a great way for me to figure out the mood/tone of that particular book (Lauren, I can totally see Bach for "Crimson Rose"). "Secrets of a Lady" was Beethoven and Wagner, while "Beneath a Silent Moon" was Mozart. I also listen to movie scores a lot when I write.

As to Twitter, I confess I still don't entirely understand it (which probably has a lot to do with the fact that I'm afraid to get drawn into another addictive, time-sucking internet activity :-).

9:17 AM  
Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

Love the topic, Mary! And in fact, I, too, often listen to the soundtrack of "Last of the Mohicans" when I work. I find the score incredibly inspirational. I don't listen to music every time I write, but I often do so.

When I write historical fiction or historical nonfiction I tend to listen to music from the period I'm writing about. I also have collections of albums with names like "Jane Austen's favorite piano pieces." For my contemporary novels, it depends on the mood of the chapter, or what sort of music a character might listen to, to better get myself inside their heads.

I have never Twittered (Twitted??) and doubt I will. Frankly, I could give a good %^$*&$* what other people are doing in 50 characters or less (or whatever it is) and can't imagine that anyone out there cares what I'm doing. "Leslie ... brushed her teeth this morning." "Leslie ... thinks Twitter is an example of how self-centered the Me generation has become."

9:41 AM  
Blogger Mary Blayney said...

Thanks -- I guess I am going to have to work a little and figure out what music is right for the current book -- for me that could well be another time sink.

I do not actually use Twitter to find out what people are doing -- I follow some of the websites I would normally go to occasionally and find it convenient that they are all in one place. It actually saves time -- so far.

Like you, Amanda/Leslie I am not that interested in what people are doing - especially in detail.

9:55 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Great post Mary. I too love to write to the soundtrack of the Last of the Mohicans. It's also one of my favorite movies. I also find Chopin easy to write too. As for my fiction, I tend to write to either period music or any music that I think my characters would listen too. My first WIP, I listened to a lot of country music and The Patridge Family believe or not.

As for Twitter, I'm on it primarily because my agent suggsted that I join. I tend to follow people in the industry like Ron Hogan, and Smart Bitches, as well Stephen Fry and Eddie Izzard. I tend to twitter about my writing, for instance I will post on Twitter when I have a new blog post on Scandalous Women.

10:22 AM  
Anonymous carolynwoolston said...

First, Yes, I do write to music. Do you all know about the Pandora website, offering music of all kinds (I'm into "early") that plays during
your computer time?

Second, I am also wryly amused by the absorption we as a culture seem to have with ourselves...
though I once incurred extreme displeasure by announcing, in a writing class, that I thought the particular piece under consideration was "narcissistic in the extreme."
The class was full of young narcissists (college age) and a few oldsters like me.

10:27 AM  
Blogger Victoria Janssen said...

I often use music to make a barrier between me and the outside world; somehow it's less distracting.

11:51 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hi, Mary! I'm one who writes in silence. I think it would be fun to write to music--maybe it would even get me down to writing more quickly. (Like Pavlov's dog--hear music; write?) But it hasn't happened yet.

I've just recently gotten on Facebook--and then ran away from it to finish the book that was due. Twitter is too modern for me--maybe I'll figure it out someday. Hey, you can explain it to me Friday, when we're signing at Turn the Page! Sound like a plan?

See you then!

6:22 PM  
Blogger Sally MacKenzie said...

Okay, I think I've now, maybe, logged my son off and me in. Grr. So, "David" is actually me, Sally MacKenzie. I have to persuade that boy to go buy his own computer.

See why I don't Twitter?

6:29 PM  
Anonymous kathrynn dennis said...

Me too, Mary. I used to write in silence but now I have intrumental classical music going...it seems to calm me down and help me keep focused. Weird, huh?

6:56 PM  
Blogger Mary Blayney said...

Kathrynn, it's not weird at all -- seems to do the same for me. Then sometimes the music reminds me to ramp up the emotional content.

Hey Sally -- see you Friday! The thingI like about Twitter is that I can completely ignore it when I am too busy to take the time to see what's happening.

Victoria -- it could well be that's why I've turned to music. Now that writing is full time for me and sometimes six days a week, I can't afford the distractions.

Still looking for music with great emotional content - a friend recommended the soundtrack from BRAVEHEART and THE PIANO.

7:07 PM  
Blogger Cynthia Owens said...

Hi Mary,

I love to write with music in the background, and since most of my writing involves an Irish setting, hero, heroine, and sometimes all three, the music in my office is usually Irish. Instrumental, though, since I find lyrics can be distracting.

No Twitter for me. Too uch of a time drain.

3:32 AM  
Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

I used to write in silence but now I have intrumental classical music going...it seems to calm me down and help me keep focused. Makes perfect sense to me! Not only do I use classical music for the same reason as I write (and it also stirs my emotions, which I hope will reverberate through my fingers into the characters), but I often listen to classical music when I bake, especially when I'm working with a tricky dough that requires rolling, because the music calms me down.

5:41 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I write in silence, but I like to edit to music (I also like to put it one when I'm *stuck* and plotting; that or take a shower, LOL!). Specifically I'm addicted to Baroque Garden for Concentration. I also really like Dead Can Dance and Lisa Gerrard’s solo work.

I tried The String Quartet Tributes (they do all kinds of bands, everything from The Smiths to Led Zeppelin to Coldplay to The Killers to Nine Inch Nails and The Beetles), but I get distracted by the fact that I can still “hear” the lyrics in my head.

8:22 AM  
Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

I write to music - usually instrumental, but sometimes choral - and have just discovered that I tend to assign composers to each book.

The Raven's Heart in particular has gravitated more and more to Mozart's Requiem. Appropriate for a Gothic Regency paranormal - yes?

The Deceit of Desire has been Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings and a few of his other orchestral pieces so far.

I do listen to a lot of movie soundtracks. Sounds like I need to get a copy of the Last of the Mohicans soundtrack.

6:28 AM  
Anonymous Dans said...

Thanks for sharing, I think they have a very good comment

8:05 AM  
Blogger CZEdwards said...

Twitter -- have account, don't use it.

Music -- yes, but... I've got one piece in pipeline that is contemporary, and the playlist (all my books and some characters have iTunes playlists) for that one is just stuff I like. Everything else is either period or alternate world, and I just can't force myself to restrict myself to contemporary instrumentation. Some scenes have their own songs. iTunes has been diabolical at times, coughing up the right song at the right time. It's always high energy, usually electronica -- future pop, EBM and some synth-pop -- or film score. Current in heavy rotation: Bond, VNV Nation, Hybrid, Lost Signal, Assemblage 23, Emilie Autumn.... even when working on the Regency book. Go figure.

8:56 PM  

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