How To Use Music To Fuel Your Writing

I’ve previously written about the different ways that writers can use music to enhance their creative process, but today I’m teaching through showing as I share how music inspired the writing of mystery novel, Every Time He Dies

To be fully transparent, I rarely listen to music when I am actually writing, but I definitely use music as a way to generate ideas and to brainstorm scenes.

If I do want to listen to music while I am writing, I often listen to classical music, nature sounds or any of the ‘white noise’ loop tracks found on the wonderful website, (a personal fav is Sherlock’s Apartment). 

I can listen to music with lyrics when I’m editing, but I need to be careful as this too can drag or split my attention.

As a couple aside, I often find it difficult to hold conversations with someone or to concentrate on mentally demanding tasks if music is playing.

I would not describe myself as a natural musician (ton-deaf!), but I did grow up playing instruments (organ, piano, saxophone and guitar) and I desperately wanted to be a music journo when I was in my early-twenties (fortunately, I decided to go the much more lucrative route of becoming a writer, haha). So, when music is playing, my attention naturally drifts towards it. 

An affinity with music can be a hindrance or a source of inspiration depending on how you use it. 

For instance, there were several times during the drafting of Every Time He Dies where I got stuck on a scene or I realised that the direction of the book had to pivot and I wasn’t sure how to do it. When this happened, I popped on my headset, picked a favourite band or playlist and went out for a walk. 

In the same way that you can replay a music video in your mind, I would intentionally create a scene in my mind using the music and lyrics as inspiration. I imagined my characters in a particular scenario or having a certain exchanged and I allowed this creative ideation to continue through the full length of the song/s. 

If I needed to ‘unstick’ my brain, I would turn on some upbeat music and free write a scene featuring my characters or practice some writing exercise that featured my characters. Note: These scenes and exercises didn’t go into the book, it was just a way to loosen up by writing and to stop taking things so seriously. 

Sometimes I would listen to a song on repeat several times as it would shift me into the right mood or headspace that I needed to be in to write a particular scene. 

If you’re the kind of person that can write while listening to music, then good for you! But, if you are like me and you find that lyrics and intense instrument music is too distracting, then perhaps these other methods will work for you. 

There is more than one way to become inspired, and music has a way of shifting our mood and mindset quicker — I would argue — than any other art form. For this reason alone, music can be a powerful tool that all writers should have at their disposal. 

For those interested, here are some of my favourite bands that I listened to while working on ETHD:

Alice in Chains
Lana Del Rey
Queens Of The Stone Age
Tracy Chapman
Johnny Cash
Alex Lahey
Vira Blue
CS Stone King

Do you listen to music while you write or do you use music to inspire or influence your story? Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear about it!



‘Who knew that a book about murder, grief and disintegrated families could be so funny?’ – Paul WilliamsEverytimeHeDies_3D

‘A unique modern mystery that is one part psychic practices and one part police procedural. The fast pace, dynamic characters and intricate plot will keep readers hooked until the end.’ – Gregory James

‘It’s rare to find an Australian-set book of this scope and genre that could stand among its international peers and hold its own, but I won’t be surprised to see this book find its success in all corners of the crime genre reading world.’ – Shayla Morgansen

‘Can someone please make this into a TV series? This is a fabulous read and I want to see Liam and Daff on the small screen.’ – Carol Seeley


Amazon Australia

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Everyone who preorders a copy of Every Time He Dies (paperback or ebook) will go into the draw to win one of THREE MAJOR GRAND PRIZES.

To celebrate the release of Every Time He Dies, I’m running an EPIC book giveaway. The three grand prize packs include signed copies of:

🎉Dying in the First Person by Nike Sulway
🎉Bordertown by Gregory James
🎉Haunted by Shayla Morgansen
🎉The Spark Ignites by Kathleen Kelly
🎉Every Time He Dies by Tara Louise East


If you preorder a copy, simply take a snapshot of your proof of purchase and fill out the entry form here. 


Everyone who preorders a copy will ALSO receive the first five chapters straight to their inbox. Not only will this tide you over until the book arrives, but it’s also my way of saying thanks!

Writing and Music

Like good literature, music can invoke powerful emotions, imagery and even inspire spontaneous insights. A bad day can be turned around, even if only temporarily, by listening to an upbeat song or by reading an inspired piece of writing; whether that be poetry, prose or non-fiction.

Whenever a group of writers get together, there’s a series of questions and topics that inevitably come up. One such question is ‘Do you listen to music when you write?’

Authors such as Ted Hughes, Jack Kerouac, Haruki Murakami and William Faulkner have all commented on the influence music has had on their writing. Kerouac told the Paris Review that jazz influenced his poetry to such an extent that he used the size of his notebooks to govern the length of each line of poetry the way musical bars determine the structure of jazz composition. Murakami also cites music as a powerful influence, stating that the chords, melodies and rhythm of blues music help him during the writing process.

Early in his career, Stephen King stated that he always had pop music playing in the background while he wrote and that the rhythm of the music influenced the pace of the plot. In more recent interviews, he is quoted as only playing music during the re-reading and editing stage and not during the initial draft.

Jenna Moreci, a self-published author with over 100, 000 followers on YouTube, has made several videos that document the influence music has had on her most recent publication. When Moreci listened to music, she sees her characters acting out a scene as though she were watching a music video. The unfolding of certain scenes is so closely inspired by particular songs that Moreci can describe the exact moment a dramatic action or gesture links up with a line of dialogue, time signature change or crescendo.

YA authors such as Veronica Roth and Cassandra Clare make public playlists on their websites. These playlists include songs that inspired the writing of particular scenes, that have a similar mood to the book or are personal favourites of the authors. This trend is limited to YA novels and has quickly become a clever marketing strategy as it assists in the building of the authors’ online community.

When I was completing my undergraduate degree ten years ago, I used to listen to music (metal?!) while writing assignments and studying for exams. These days, I prefer the less invasive melodies of classical music or white noise ( – you’re welcome!).

In researching for this blog, I found that most literary writers prefer to work in silence. Dani Shapiro, Zadie Smith, Ann Patchett and Elizabeth Stout work at libraries (Smith) or in their home offices – preferably when no-one is home. When it comes to genre writing, especially horror, fantasy and science fiction, it was hard to find a writer that didn’t listen to music! Jay Kristoff, Deborah Harkness, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King and Terry Pratchett are all quoted as writing while listening to music.

Perhaps this trend is not all that surprising. To speak generally, literary work is concerned with exploring internal space while genre novels are concerned with story-telling. Genre narratives tend to have a more visual focus, so it is little wonder that the emotions and imagery invoked by music compliment this form of literature better. To add a small disclaimer, I read literary fiction and genre fiction and I see this division as a marketing strategy and not as a means for determining quality.

Whether or not music forms a part of an authors’ writing process is beside the point. The only thing that matter is that each author discovers for themselves a routine and process that works for them and their project. Now, over to you. Does music influence your writing process? Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what kind of music?