90 songs to write your novel to

It’s that time of year again. Countless hordes are sitting down in front of their computers, hands sweaty, minds ablaze, ready to unleash their masterpieces on the world . . . or die of caffeine consumption. So in honor of NaNoWriMo, or for anyone doing creative work, here’s a soundtrack for November. (Because good instrumental music is hard to come by, and procrastination oh-so-easy.)

About the list: The genres are only suggestions. I tried to avoid well-known songs and soundtracks.

Period Piece
  1. Dustin O’Halloran – Opus 36
  2. Max Richter – Luminous
  3. Alex Heffes – Opening Title from Dear Frankie
  4. Gabriel Yared – Ada Plays
  5. Paul Cantelon – The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
  6. Dustin O’Halloran – Opus 17Plato, on music
  7. Bruno Coulais – Pepinot
  8. Thomas Newman – So Was Red
  9. Aaron Zigman – Steve’s Theme
  10. Kevin Kern – Scene in a Dream
Love Story
  1. Ludovico Einaudi – I Giorni
  2. Yiruma – River Flows in You
  3. Sylvain Chomet – Illusionist Finale
  4. Stephan Moccio – Seven
  5. Jennie Muskett – Hampshire
  6. Steve Gibbs – Contention
  7. Adrian Johnston – Always Summer
  8. Yann Tiersen – 8mm
  9. Classical New Age Piano Music – Butterfly Waltz
  10. Classical New Age Piano Music – Morning’s Glory


  1. Josh Kramer – All That Remains
  2. Issac Shephard – Gentile
  3. Max Richter – Dinner and the Ship of Dreams
  4. Brambles – In The Androgynous Dark
  5. Marc Teichert – One Day in August <<
  6. Yann Tiersen – La Plage
  7. Karen Olson – Capturing Rainbows
  8. Max Richter – On The Nature of Daylight
  9. Chad Lawson – Nocturne In A Minor
  10. David Nevue – The Night Season
  1. Lee Byung Woo – Epilogue
  2. William Zeitler – The Dragonfly’s First Dawn
  3. Ryo Yoshimata – The Whole Nine Yards
  4. Norihiro Tsuru – Last Carnival
  5. Eleni Karaindrou – By The Sea
  6. Adrian Johnston – The Runaways
  7. Classical New Age Piano Music – Fly Away
  8. Abel Korzeniowski – Swimming
  9. Ludivico Einaudi – Love is a Mystery
  10. Ennio Morricone – Nostalgia/Looking for You
  1. Harry Gregson-Williams – Shrine Of The Times
  2. Paul Schwartz – Nocturne
  3. Bruno Sanfilippo – Aquerelle sur bois
  4. InuYashi – Longing
  5. Takashi Kako – Blue Horizon
  6. Zbigniew Preisner – The Beautiful Country
  7. Alexandre Desplat – Dreamcatcher
  8. Matthew Fisher – Ballroom for Ghosts
  9. Brian Crain – Wind
  10. Javier Navarrete – Town of Austere
Epic Fantasy
  1. Darol Anger – Aran Boat Song
  2. Gary Chapman, Hymns from the Ryman – Amazing Grace
  3. James Horner – The Legend Spreads
  4. Immediate Music – Sonata
  5. Joe Hisaishi – The Legend of Ashitaka
  6. Mychael Danna – The Blood of Cu Chulain
  7. Julie Murphy & Annie Ebrel – Farfarwell Fo I Langyfelach
  8. The Taliesen Orchestra – Lothlorien
  9. Noella – Lacroix Island in Fog
  10. e.s. Posthumus – Ulaid
  1. Luigi Rubino – Glace of Dust
  2. Kathleen Ryan – Bells, the Veil, and Victory
  3. Michael Nyman – The Sacrifice
  4. Christopher Young – Humility and Love
  5. Niall Byrne – Juliette is Happy
  6. Brian Crain – At the Ivy Gate
  7. Bruno Coulais – In Memoriam
  8. Ludovico Einaudi – Fly
  9. Jorane – Film III
  10. James Newton Howard – The Gravel Road
  1. Mike Foyle – Pandora
  2. Mike Foyle – Firefly
  3. Brian Tyler – Hymn
  4. Mychael Danna – In My Line of Business
  5. Jamin Winans – John’s Walk
  6. Music Junkies – Fatal Fantasy
  7. e.s. Posthumus – Nara
  8. Clint Mansell – Death is the Road to Awe
  9. Zoe Keating – Flying and Fighting
  10. Dune – In the End
Off-Beat Dramedy
  1. Alex Wurman – Arrival At The Sea
  2. Dirk Reichardt – A Rainy Day In Vancouver
  3. Sigur Ros – Hoppipolla (Piano Version)
  4. Nick Urata – She’s Real
  5. Lowercase Noises – A Highway Shall Be There
  6. Brian Crain – Imagining
  7. Yann Tiersen – IV
  8. Yann Tiersen – Derniere
  9. Emancipator – With Rainy Eyes
  10. Nancy Wilson – River Road

Did I miss anything? The best song? Your genre? Drop me a line below, or tweet @steviesmiff. And maybe I’ll make another list!


petition to save the undead

In case you haven’t talked to me in the last four months, I’m writing a story about zombies. It’s aptly titled, “A Zombie Story”* and it’s about zombies. At least, they significantly factor in.

More than a month of the time I’ve been writing this I’ve also been traveling, and I haven’t quite yet managed that beautiful, symmetric balance between holding on to routine like a sumo wrestler practices his headlock but rescheduling life with the delicacy of a ballerina in a swan costume . . . I don’t think I need to explain how that went.

But sumos in swan costumes or no, there comes a place in every story where the gears disengage. It’s not the panic of an unforeseen plot hole, it’s not the toil of a scene that won’t come out straight, it’s usually when everything is working out pretty well. It’s the tipping point. Either the storyline overcomes and see its ending, or gets away in boredom and I move on to something else. Usually, a work pulls through. I hate throwing things away, and anyways, those 1000 words minimum a day have to be 1000 words minimum of something, right?

Amanda Hocking on the End of the World

Why the Zombies May Not Make It to the Apocalypse

Oh ho ho. But then, sometimes, there’s a twist. (There’s needs to be with zombies, you know. Because if something hasn’t been done dead already, that thing ain’t zombies. I mean, how long before you run out of brain jokes, right?)

Enter the antagonist: A really, beautifully, wonderfully fascinating new story idea. In case you’re not a writer: these things don’t come around too often. And in case you are a writer, and they do for you: Hi, I’m Emily. Let’s be friends.

So now the zombies have to duke it out with, well, let’s just say this new story about vampires.** But, more importantly, I have this internal battle between the butt-in-chair, bleeding-over-the-keyboard commitment to seeing a story from inception to finish and the desire to chase after the muse. What makes one a writer is finishing a story, but what makes an author is knowing the difference between the boredom that comes from spending the right amount of too much time with the same characters, and true boredom, which deserves to kill a story (literally) before it kills its readers (figuratively).

The Living Dead Deserve to Live

So how does a writer know the difference between the first kind of boredom and the second? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this (whether you’re a writer or a reader). But my theory is that. like with much of the writing craft, you just have to do it. Writing itself will teach you to write. And when you’ve produced a great body of work, you’ll know which stories were which, and maybe you’ll be able to tell for the ones yet to come. If not, you’ll still have a collection of stories, instead of a file of half-stories.

Thomas Merton on taking your time

So the Zombies will see their end. And I don’t even have to worry about what to do when I finish, because I have another story waiting for me. If it’s a good one, it will still be as fascinating then.

I also need to finish because this is the only thing I’ve ever written that my brothers have shown any interest in.

“Oh? You’re writing a story about zombies? Well, maybe I could read it or something. I kind of know about that stuff . . . ”

*it’s not
**it’s also not

What’s the best advice you’ve heard for surviving the zombie apocalypse? How about for writing? (Because sometimes those things happen simultaneously.)