How To Use Music To Improve Your Pacing

How To Use Music To Improve Your Pacing


There are times when I need loud music to write. There are times when I need absolute silence. There are times when I sing aloud and bop in my chair – it doesn’t make for great typing, but it does make for great pace. Happy story, happy music.

And then, there are times when I whisper the lyrics to an old, weepy love song and type through my tears while the love interest dies a sad and unnecessary death. Then I smirk, my evil sadistic smile as AC/DC’s TNT comes on and I yank the cord of the chainsaw I am going to use to chop him up, because my protagonist is a bat-shit crazy serial killer.

Did you notice the difference?

Did you notice how I engaged different emotions and how I changed pace with each of these examples? I made you bop, I made you wilt, I made you freak out just a little bit.

Music is a great way to change pace. Watch movies and series. Take note of the music. The music in a horror movie tells you what is coming long before the scary monster confronts you. In a romance movie, the music tells you when the kiss is coming. The music builds as the anticipation does.

Put on your director’s hat

When you are struggling with a scene, put on your moviemaker hat and think about the song you would use in the scene if it were a movie. As a rule chase scenes have fast music, the music in a love scene usually slows things down and then it swells accordingly, if you’ll pardon the pun. Unless it’s a sordid quickie in the storeroom, then you might need something with a bit of a thump, but you get my drift.

Here is a suggestion: 

  1. Write a list of your scenes.
  2. Label each scene ‘fast’ or ‘slow’.
  3. Identify the emotions. Is the scene happy, scary or depressing?
  4. Pick a song for each scene.
  5. Listen to the song as you write or rewrite the scene. Notice how it influences your pacing.

Sometimes songs with lyrics annoy me, because I end up listening to the words and it distracts me, then I turn to the classics or to foreign language songs. They can’t irritate me if I don’t understand them.

If you have an awesome song to share, leave a comment below and tell me how you use it to change pace.

Watch out for next Wednesday’s post, Music In Writing: Part Two – Memories

Top Tip: If you want to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg or sign up for our online course.

 by Mia Botha

If you enjoyed this post, you will love:
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  2. Four Ways To Help You Make Your Reader Stop And Stare
  3. What To Do When All Your Characters Sound The Same

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This article has 10 comments

  1. Sandra Alexander

    I’m a keen follower of the Writers Write site since I discovered it (maybe a year or two ago) and I really enjoy and find useful most of the advice you give and all the writing humor. But this particular article really made me smile because ever since I started writing on a regular basis, I always do it on music. I’m a huge music lover at heart and it reflects heavily on my writing (although I’m still a complete newbie with only one short story ever published) – be it in coming up with the general story idea or describing a particular scene, or developing a character.
    Anyway, on the current matter – I guess that this may be an unpleasant song for many readers but for me it’s the perfect soundtrack for a heavy showdown between a protagonist and antagonist in a more action-oriented story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9J8ccza1OI.
    And also, here’s one of my favorite tunes appropriate for a love scene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MwRNvpGydzw.
    Thank you for this and every other article, Mia! Cheers from Bulgaria! 🙂

  2. Mia Botha

    Thank you, Sandra. I am glad you enjoy the articles. Keep writing.

  3. Paul

    “Magnetic Girl” ~ ATB

    There was a scene I had been writing for some time. I tried immersing myself as much as possible, but I couldn’t for some reason. It was a hard scene to write as it dealt with the first display of affection between two of them as another lay unconscious. It fit absolutely perfectly! I had it on repeat for the entire chapter. This worked out for me so well that I created my own soundtrack which is played every time I write that story.

  4. Yana

    Hi Mia, im truly love this article that you write. to be honest, i thought i was the only one who did this kind of routine where ever i write my original story while listening to music. This helps me to immerse myself in emotion and feels of the certain scene in my story.

    Besides, its also helps me to become much more focus for the story without any intrudes from outside. I even have a specific folder full of original soundtrack from various movies, games, drama, indie composers where you can search them in youtube and there lots of them and also anime ost (since im watching them) which genre that suitable with my story’s world setting that specially dedicated for me to listening to them when im working.

    Im a huge fan of listening to original soundtrack, and my fave composers are Sawano Hiroyuki and Yuki Kajiura. Mostly my ost folders come from all the dramas, movies, and anime that i have watched and fall in love with their ost.

    Again..thank you for writing this article. It helps me realize that im not the only one who did this thing when i write the story bcoz most of my friends said im weird for doing this kind of routine. And i want to apologize if there is a grammatical mistakes in my sentence because English are not my 1st language 🙂

    Cheers from Malaysia.

  5. Michelle Wallace

    I almost missed this one.
    Great post!

  6. Tendayi Olga Chirawu

    So true of how I write and sometimes how I get through scenes that I don’t quite know where to go with. A fair number of my romance scenes start with Crush by David Archuleta

  7. Alma

    I have become an avid follower of writerswrite in the last few months and I love all the advice you share with us. This one reminded me of my past creative ‘life’ where I used to turn on music loudly while I dessigned and drew. I never thought of using it for writing, but I am definitely going to give it a bash, using the type of music according to the mood I would like to create. Thanks for all the great tips which helps me in my new found venture.

  8. Mia

    You guys are just awesome! Thank you and turn up the volume.

  9. Angel

    Greetings from Greece.

    I cannot say I remember how or when I found you on Twitter, but I sure am glad I did.
    Music helps me too, it keeps me focused. When I first stared to write there was one song playing on repeat, Man In The Mirror by Michael Jackson. It inspired me to make a change and so I just began writing.
    The music I choose it’s usually based on the mood I am and not on the mood my character is. I’m weird like that. But there are always exceptions, such as writing the death of the main character with Frank Sinatra’s My Way playing on the background.
    It can be Greek music, it can be English or it can be Classical music. It can be POP, Rock, RnB or Metal. As long as I like it, it gets on the playlist.

    Thank you for all the useful tips and keep them coming.

  10. Mia Botha

    Thanks Angel, keep those fingers moving. Happy writing!

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