Inspiration. This is the main ingredient in the recipe to a good song. It's the reason people write. Without this, you can still write, but there is no drive and determination to get your point across to the person reading/hearing the words. This aside, inspiration is not the only fuel to song writing. Talent and practice are the other must haves as well. If you wish to start writing but completely suck or just want to get better, I just might have some tips for you.
First of all, you can't just decide to write one day and expect to be spitting out words and rhymes just like that. It takes time and lots of practice... and even more patience. Even now for me, I can sit down and stare at the computer screen and after an hour I have typed out 2 lines and backspaced about 20 times. Other days, I can write 12 lines out in about 2 minutes and I fly through it. There are some days when you can't think of anything, and don't get discouraged. I mean, if you sit down for the first time and say "hey, I think I'll write a song about something" then you can't think of anything, don't give up! Who knows after all, it could be one of those off days for you. Just take a break and try again the next day.
Now we'll get started--I don't want to call it a lesson, but I'll share with you how I go about coming up with song ideas, writing it, and rhyming it. I've got a list of song ideas for you to get you going, then right beside them I have songs by artists who have written good or clever songs about that certain subject. (Now you might not like that artist, but just try forget what type of music it is, think about the lyrics)
Breakup (So Sick by Ne-Yo, Thunder by Boys Like Girls)
New boyfriend/girlfriend (Stolen by Dashboard Confessional... GREAT song)
Death of a family member or friend (View From Heaven by Yellowcard, Valentine's Day by Linkin Park)
Someone going off to war (Letters From Home by John M. Montgomery)
A favorite place to be (Home by Daughtry)
Summertime (the best time of the year btw!! ) (Sunshine and Summertime by Faith Hill)
Memories you have with a certain person or all your friends (Photograph by Nickelback)
Going through a hard time and having someone that was there for you (Those Nights by Skillet)
Missing a special someone (Broken by Seether, Hey There Delilah by Plain White T's)
How great life is (Beautiful Day by U2)
These are just a few examples of stuff to write about, but it's really up to you. There are plenty of other things to write about as well.
This is sometimes very frustrating to people (including me) because you want to rhyme but you don't wanna say the same thing over again. I will tell you, the older you get, the easier it is to rhyme because:
After you've practiced alot, the simple rhymes (and the more clever rhymes) will come to you more quickly
As you get older, you learn more words.
People have different things that will trigger their brain for a rhyme, but my way is pretty simple. Take out a sheet of paper and write down all the letters of the alphabet side by side. Now, when you're working on a song and you think "Hmm... what all words rhyme with 'way?? ' " (I'll try to word this right) Look at all the letters beginning with A and go all the way through Z placing the corresponding letter at the beginning of the word you are trying to rhyme with... take the "w" out of "way" and place a "B" in there. Now you have "Bay." Hey, that rhymes! And, saying something about a bay could make sense. Depending on what you're writing about. If "Bay" wont work then continue down through the line of letters 'till you find a word that you like. I don't know if that made sense, so I'll try something else just in case.
Here's a little sample of two rhyming lines:
You broke my heart, but I'll find a way
As I look for answers across the bay
You could also say:
You broke my heart but I'll find a way
If walls could talk, they'd simply say
Just take the first letter out of the word you're trying to rhyme and place another one in it to see if it's a good rhyme. Now, this method doesn't always work, and usually it works for the more simple rhymes. You can't go through life rhyming way, bay and say in every song... So you're eventually gonna have to come up with more complex rhymes to keep it interesting. An example would be:
Won't you be my inspiration
All the stars and constellations
Complex and more clever rhymes are where the talent factor comes in. Let's face it, you have to be very creative to be a good song writer, and some people just aren't in the least bit creative with their words. If you're not creative, you're only going to be able to go so far in your ideas (just because you may not have that many) unless you are super determined. Some people have what I call the "IT" factor, and when you have "IT" you have a special gift. It's something that just can't be taught or coached into somebody. But even if you don't have a knack for songwriting, with sheer will and desire you can develop this talent. If the desire is there--you will still have to work harder than someone who has "IT." If you've ever seen the football movie "Rudy" you know what I mean. Rudy was a guy that wanted to play football so bad, but he just plain old sucked. He would try out everyday for the team but the coach never let him on the team. Eventually his hard work and determination landed him a spot on the team and ONE play in a game, and he made the most of it. This is just like sports... in a way. Some people are great song writers, some people arent. It might not be your thing--at least at first. Practice, practice, practice and you'll start climbing the mountain. It's almost a state of mind, and you have to be constantly on the lookout for new ideas and inspiration. After you've been writing for a long time, it's a lot easier and if you've got the "IT" factor, it comes more naturally. Most of my ideas for song themes come at completely random moments. I'll be watching something on TV or hanging out with friends, and all of the sudden I think "that's IT! I'm so writing a song about that!" a lot of times I'll whip out my cell and write out as much as I can in a text message, then save it for later use.
So, have you sat down day after day and still can't think of anything? Songs are a like a creative way to look at life, so when you write, think of a creative approach to talking about a certain subject... lets say--a girl/guy. You're don't need to take just their face or their body and say something like:
You are so fine
Wish I could call you mine
Be more creative than that, otherwise your song will be boring. Try comparing the guy/girl you're writing about to something good or pretty, like nature. Stuff like "You're the apple of my eye" instead of "You are so fine" is much better because it's more creative. If you're writing about say, someone who went through a rough time but got through it standing tall you could say "Against the winds of adversity he stood rooted like a tree" (while that's a little too wordy for my taste, it's making that creative comparison) Try to create word pictures in your lyrics, those always make for good songs.
When I am in the process of writing a song, I'll take my idea and make it the central theme of the song. Where is the central theme supposed to go?? In the chorus. Think about it, when you hear a song for the first time and you LOVE it and you only remember a certain part, which part is it? In most cases, it's the chorus. Think of the chorus as a climax to the building action (the verses) and write it out first. (this is usually how I do it) I have found it easier to come up with verses this way because you have a guideline to go by. You want the verses to connect with the chorus or the song will end up confusing people. And like I said before, don't try to rush through it because all of your songs will be crappy. In most cases, the more time spent on the song the better it can be. Find a place where you can relax that's quite. Isolate yourself.
Another thing, if you're looking to put music to it and you're pretty good at laying out some sweet riffs or piano chords don't rely on the music alone to make your song interesting. Yeah, that's usually what people notice first, but the song can be so much more if you take the time to work on it. Instead of someone singing your song in their head all the time, they could be singing it in their heart as well if you want them too. It just depends on how serious of a writer you wanna be. You'll know if it's good or not when people like it when you let them read just the lyrics and they haven't heard the music along with it. If they like/love the lyrics to your new song then you play it for them... they'll love it that much more--music touches us in ways that words can't.
Now you can use the bridge as a third verse or a second chorus, it depends on what you want. Songs have many different formats, and something unique is completely welcome in the world of music. Songs can be laid out in so many different ways... here's a few on the top of my head.
Verse 2 (This is the traditional layout)
Verse 2 (Something like this would require 2 long verses or the song could end up being very short)
You can basically mix it up any way you want. If you can think it up, you can do it--because it's YOUR song. No one else's. I think that's why people love writing, because they created it and it's part of human nature to want something to call your own. That's what is so great about music, it's an expression, and like I said before it touches us in ways that normal words can't. You just decide how much work you want to put into it. In the world of music--the door to a wide world is open to you, YOU just have decide if you're gonna walk through it.