Creating a Novel Soundtrack | NaNoWriMo Planning

Nia Simone McLeod
Oct 26, 2020 · 4 min read

Creating a novel soundtrack helped me craft the story I was born to write.

photo from Anna Shvets on Pexels

Creating a soundtrack is an essential part of my novel planning process. The process helps me unmask characters, reveal themes, and produce new scenes. I’ve recently put together a new novel soundtrack to prepare for a gigantic writing adventure: NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is a yearly writing challenge. Thousands of writers around the world come together to write 50,000 words in a month. After creating a soundtrack, I’m confident that I’ll win my first November NaNoWriMo in almost ten years. *crosses fingers for good luck*

Not convinced about the magic of a hand-picked playlist? Below are a few songs from my beloved NaNo novel’s soundtrack and how they’ve helped me further develop my soon-to-be novel.

1. Jay Rock — WIN

Jay Rock’s succeed-at-all-costs track “WIN” is a “before” snapshot of my main character and her world. She equates her value to her productivity. As a result, she’s developed unhealthy tactics to maintain her positive track record.

She has always believed her life was on a certain trajectory. When that trajectory doesn’t come to reality, she implodes.

The concept of “WIN” began a brainstorming session about the dark sides of success:

Listening to “WIN” helped me dig into my main character’s psyche and determine a fulfilling character arc.

2. JAY-Z feat. Beyoncé — Family Feud

An integral line in JAY-Z’s “Family Feud” is:

“Nobody wins when the family feuds.”

That sentiment is one of the main conflicts that run through my story. My main character’s internal strife stems from the distrust she has experienced throughout her life from the people she loved the most.

She has been on the run for a long time. (Another JAY-Z & Beyoncé reference!) All she knows is discomfort. It is not until she faces her past demons that she’s able to grow and evolve.

When I listen to “Family Feud”, I’m not just thinking about my main character’s relationships with her family. I’m thinking about her entire inner circle. The song encourages me to add detail to my main character’s complex relationships:

Details such as these make characters more three-dimensional.

3. 6LACK feat. J Cole — Pretty Little Fears

My main character’s previous experiences with love are adequate at best. She’s cold, indifferent, and pessimistic from being hurt so many times in the past.

When my main character meets her love interest, she’s attracted to him because he invites her to be vulnerable.

That’s the topic in 6LACK’s “Pretty Little Fears”: vulnerability. This is clear in the song’s chorus:

“…Now I just wanna know

Don’t just sugar coat.

Or say it all if you want

Now could you tell me like it is?

Pretty little fears

Music to my ears…”

My main character has never involved herself with someone who goes out of their way to make her feel comfortable. As a result, she’s fearful it may all be a façade.

Questions to answer:

“Pretty Little Fears” helped me add layers to the relationship between my main character and her love interest.

Writer Louis L’ Amour once said:

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”

Creating a soundtrack helped me turn on that faucet. The process helps me add realism and complexity to my work. If you would like to listen to my NaNo story’s super lit soundtrack, check it out on Spotify.

I challenge you to create a 10-song soundtrack for your current WIP. Pick songs that connect with your unique story, whether it’s certain characters, plot points, or settings. You may discover parts of your story that you would have never known existed otherwise.

What songs inspire your current WIP? Do you already have a playlist/soundtrack? I’d love to know more about what you’re working on!

— — — — — —

Subscribe to my newsletter for a new, curated list of creative inspiration from people of color every week.

Nia Simone McLeod is a writer, content creator, and pop culture enthusiast from Richmond, Virginia. Follow her on Twitter, Tumblr, or Instagram for more dope digital content.

oh, write

A Black woman’s writing journey.

oh, write

A publication documenting the highs and lows of a Black woman’s writing journey.

Nia Simone McLeod

Written by

Freelance writer covering pop culture, creativity, race + other fun stuff | she/her | Subscribe to my newsletter: https://ohwrite.substack.com/welcome

oh, write

A publication documenting the highs and lows of a Black woman’s writing journey.