• Jesse Stowe

My 2020 NaNoWriMo Music Post

It’s NaNoWriMo time again. If you haven’t seen that acronym, it means National Novel Writing Month.

Although I write posts for Alt Revue and Getting Through Life Without a Straightjacket, Nano is an important month for me. It jumpstarts my writing season; spending an entire month dedicated to writing a novel will do that to you.


A Little About Nano and Its Flexibility

For those interested in Nano for the first time, the rules are simple: write a 50,000-word novel in November. However, people bend and mold Nano to what they need, and that’s the beauty of it. If you want to write your first memoir, do it. If you would like to build a collection of short stories, this is your chance. And if you do not meet the 50,000-word goal but it gets you started, great.

Getting Ready

When I can smell Nano around the corner, I begin my planning process. I gather my outline, start looking for my characters[1], and talk to anyone who will talk about it. I even aided writers in their planning stage (plot, character, and world building plus offering other pointers and advice), as it is a specialty of mine. However, this post is about the music, because it is an intricate part of my process.

The Music

When I work, I ALWAYS have music playing in the background. ALWAYS. In fact, my first published book was based on a music album, and the first novel first draft I ever wrote was based on the Phish song, “Rift.” Song lyics provide a great outline and if you learn to allow yourself the freedom to break from your original concept, they can lead to great stories. Yet, when I am writing, I rarely think about the lyrics. The music sets the mood and pushes momentum forward.

A Must

Get headphones, earbuds, or something that puts the music straight into your brain. Ok. Do it however you want, but the idea is to allow the music to influence you. Use it to help set the mood, and no, I am not talking about atmospheric, massage parlor sounds unless the scene calls for it. I’m suggesting that if you have a highly intense traffic scene, go for something that is not soothing to you. That does not mean listening to country music because you don’t like it; it may be distracting and get in your way. I’m saying, go with music that is upbeat, chaotic, and gets your heart going. Maybe some Misfits, Black Flag, early Beastie Boys or Black Sabbath’s Black Sabbath, Paranoid, and Master of Reality, if you need something more mainstream. If you are daring and patient, try John Coltrane’s Om or Ascension. Jazz without lyrics does it for me.

A chaotic scene is only one example. Maybe you need some music to help get through an emotional love scene. I prefer someone like Julia Michaels because I love the humor and bite in her love songs. But you can choose Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Dionne Warwick, Olivia Newton-John, and Patsy Cline. It’s your choice; just think about the mood you are trying to set. Is it sad, mocking, or uplifting?

Typically, I make my choices as I am sitting down to write. Is it New Music Friday? Is there a song I love that I can pick radio based on? (I do this all the time with LCD Soundsystem’s “Throw.”) Do I want to listen to an entire Phish show and work for three hours? Or maybe I want Spotify to lead me. (I love Brain Food. And if you are an Apple Music fan, listen to Sunday Chill. It used to be my favorite.) When I struggle to find momentum and need music designed to push the story, I might choose a movie score. (Try Black Swan by Clint Mansell.)

I am not going to tell you what music you need for your novel. It is all about you and choosing what keeps you going. However, if you do need some options, here are some artists, albums, and playlists to think about.

Music for you to try

· Phish: Volume 18 The Bomb Factory – always a favorite for the second set

· Amsterdam 1997 – A little European love from prime years

· Lane 8: Brightest Lights

· Poliça: When We Stay Alive – This is the album that turned me on to the band. It is one of my top ten of the year.

· Sault: Untitled (Rise) – A band that recently caught my attention

· Spotify Playlists: Brain Food

· Chill Playlist

· A Favorites

· Song Radio: “Throw” – Try it. I love it and listen to it more than any other song radio.

· Any Carl Craig project but here are a couple:

· More Songs About Food and Revolutionary Art

· Sessions

· Miles Davis: The Cellar Door Sessions 1970

· The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions

· Khruangbin: Mordechai

· Tame Impala: Posthumous Forgiveness

This should be enough to get you going. If you want to offer suggestions or if you have any questions, reach out to me. Many hands make light work, and we can all find our success.


[1] This year, my main character is based on my aunt Barbara. Although the character development will develop a unique protagonist, it is a great place to start, to help me see my heroine, and to guide me and my decisions. My antagonist will be based on Donald Trump. (I will have fun with that during a first draft.)

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