Writing inspiration: music as a muse

Writing ideas first require a seed to grow

Formulating ideas for a full length novel isn’t easy. A lot of people think it is. How many well meaning friends or relatives have started a conversation with: “How about this for a novel idea?”

The problem with ideas are that they are just that – ideas. It’s once you start putting them down on paper the hard work begins. What at first seemed like a brilliant stroke of genius, can look decidedly sketchy on paper (or screen).

So how do you get past the idea stage to the writing stage? Plotters may nod knowingly here, with only just a hint of arrogance; Pantsers will shrug, relaxed and unworried. Whichever one you are, you still require the seed of something that has the potential to grow into a compelling manuscript provided you give it dedication.

Music as a muse

There’s lots of different methods to get your creative juices flowing: reading, watching movies, walking etc, but in this post I’m going to concentrate on music.

I’m a music lover/addict/musician from way back. If it weren’t for creative writing and music, I may not be the fully functioning human being I am today. And even then I have lapses…

How about you? When a song comes on the radio from a different time and place does it still have the power to evoke in you the same emotions you were experiencing at that time and bring the memories flooding back?

It can work the other way too. Music can give you the power, the license and the encouragement to create your character’s stories in your head. When I’m formulating ideas for scenes in my head, I regularly rely on music. I search it out doggedly. Often I need something fresh, something I haven’t heard before, to build my stories in my mind.

Music can fuel your writing – even when editing

I discovered the same thing during the editing and rewriting phase recently. I was stuck on a series of events not quite flowing the way I needed. So after a day of frustration I sat back and revisited a song I’d used when I was initially plotting that specific section of my novel. Did it work? After about ten minutes I’d recaptured the frame of mind of my characters and I jumped up and spent the rest of the night writing.

Music gives your mind space and the permission to create. It urges us on. It helps capture emotion. It releases us to experience that emotion. It can relax us. It can fire us up.

Create a musical soundtrack for your novel

I find with each novel there’s a new set of songs that speaks to me. For instance, here’s a quick glance at the artists I was hooked on during the writing of Radiant (it should be noted my taste is eclectic!): Imogen Heap, Icehouse, The Script, Kaskade, Glass Pear, Hybrid and Kate Havnevik.

And right now I’m hooked on The Temper Trap.

Tip: if you’re searching for new music to inspire you, ask friends, ask family. Also check out great websites like, Last.fm, or even YouTube can be an invaluable resource (and distract you for hours!) Oh well, it’s all in the name of research 🙂

Music is my muse. What’s yours?

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