From writing and working with other authors over the years in the editing field, I’ve learned a couple of tips that have helped my own writing. Without a doubt, one of the most surprising (and cool!) ideas I’ve ever heard of is making a book playlist.

Listening to music is something many of us do when we write, and maybe you love it, too! It can spark inspiration and creativity and help with focus as well. However, today I want to talk about something a little bit different than simply listening to music while writing.

A book playlist is when an author carefully selects music to listen to that connects to certain scenes, characters, or the plot as a whole while writing. I’ve actually worked with a couple of people who have used these, and I’ve heard nothing but good things about them. It can help you go the extra mile in creating a story that’s cohesive and emotional, one that truly connects with your readers and sucks them into your world.

Photo by Dayne Topkin on Unsplash

Before we jump into the ways you can implement this tool in your writing, I want to briefly discuss the impact music has on the brain so we can truly understand what happens when an author (or anyone!) listens to music.

From studies done on music and the brain, we’ve learned that music captures memories in a truly unique way, enhances emotions, and helps us, in some way, comprehend complex ideas or feelings. It’s an expression of art that I believe can encourage other forms of art!

An article from the University of Central Florida’s magazine highlighted a class by two of their professors, and in this article, they included a neat chart where you can see how music affects each part of the brain. There are a couple of places in the brain affected by music in ways I think are important and impactful for authors during their writing processes:

  • Hippocampus: Relates memory to music. Listening to music can help you remember different moments when you felt a certain emotion.
  • Frontal Lobe: Music affects the brain’s thinking, decision-making, and planning—crucial when organizing and writing a book!
  • Wernicke’s Area: Helps us further comprehend written and spoken language.
  • Nucleus Accumbens: Your brain releases dopamine when listening to music, which causes pleasure as you write.
  • Amygdala: This part of the brain processes and triggers emotions. Memories associated with music are emotional memories, which means that music and emotion go hand-in-hand.

All of these pieces work together to make music a powerful tool for us as writers as we craft our stories.

But what can a book playlist specifically do for you?

Authors use these to help them create their stories by leaning on the emotional and mood-enhancing qualities of music.

A book playlist can:

  • Help you connect to your characters and plot. You can choose songs that relate to certain characters and scenes. The more you listen to these songs, the more in tune you’ll become with your characters and their tale.
  • Help with pacing. Try to mimic the flow of the songs you choose for different scenes. Feel their build, the story the songs are telling, and implement that build in these scenes.
  • Help with your book’s emotional direction. Like we’ve discussed, music and emotion work together, and some songs may help you further understand the feelings you’re wanting to convey through your book and when.
  • Immediately put you in your writing zone. Some authors have different songs they use depending on the character they’re writing about. The more familiar you become with the “feel” of these songs, the better you’ll be at mimicking the tone you’re seeking when you write about those characters. This applies to every element of your book that you choose to apply these songs!

There are many authors who have used book playlists for their own novels. Here’s a list of a couple of YA authors you may be familiar with who put this tool into action:

  • Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass series, A Court of Thorns and Roses series, Crescent City series)
  • Stephanie Meyer (The Twilight Saga, The Host, The Chemist)
  • Jenny Han (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, The Summer I Turned Pretty)
  • Marissa Meyer (The Lunar Chronicles, Renegades)
  • Marie Lu (Legend series, The Young Elites, Warcross)

And if you’d like more help creating one yourself, here’s an article I found through Random House Publishing by New York Times Bestselling Author A. Meredith Walters. In it, she details why she used a book playlist and even included a list of her songs and the different characters/relationships they applied to. I’ve never read her work, but her thoughts on this tool were very interesting!

So there you have it! Many of us love using music while we write, and this may be a new way for you to incorporate it into your writing process. Try it out and let me know your results! I’d love to hear what a book playlist has done for you, and I know I’m going to be using them more in my own writing.

Write on, creative people!

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