Don’t Edit to Music

When I write, I enjoy listening to music. It is a great aid to transitioning from the toils and distractions of modern day life to the mystical land of Isfalinis with its swords and its sorcery, its t’Okaedrin legions and its valiant Scion rebels, and its cataclysmic volcanoes and earthquakes. Music can add energy and impetuous, just like a nice dose of caffeine (Mountain Dew, being my beverage of choice).

My personal preference is ‘epic trailer music.’ If you haven’t heard of this genre, I’m not talking about fifth wheels or trailer parks, but rather music composed for movie trailers and advertisements. It is an energetic blending of classical music with more modern rock styles. And unlike traditional classical music or soundtracks, each song is short like most modern music and composed generally of the ‘highs’ and not the ‘lows.’ My favorites include groups and individuals such as ‘Two Steps from Hell’, ‘Audiomachine’, ‘Dwayne Ford’, and ‘Future World Music.’

All that being said, I have learned a rather important lesson: Don’t edit to music.

As mentioned above, music can provide energy and verve during the creative process and this is helpful. Editing, however, is less creative and is more geared toward evaluation and assessment. It isn’t just checking spelling and grammar. When I edit, I pay attention to the tempo of the work and try to gauge if I’m telling the story I think I’m telling in the way I want to tell it.

If I listen to highly energetic music while I edit, that blaring tempo in my ears may give me a ‘false positive.’ I may think that I’ve written something exciting when in truth it is mediocre and dull, buoyed only by the emotional state I’ve created in my own mind because of the music.

I can’t be certain my readers will be listening to ‘Two Steps from Hell’s “No Honor in Blood” in the midst of a sword duel between Ninanna and some nefarious enemy where the thrust and parry of the battle matches the beating of the drums and the crescendo of horns. What if they’re sitting on a sunny beach listening to something soft and peaceful? Maybe they’re riding on a subway, hearing the clack-clack-clack of the wheels on the tracks. Or perhaps they’re surrounded by the near-silence of a library.

Regardless, only when it is silent around me can I be sure that the action scenes provide the necessary noise and energy I intend. Or, likewise, the somber and contemplative scenes carry the desired calm and quiet introspection. In other words, only then can I be confident that I’ve written the book that I think I have.