Name: Benjamin McElwee
UG Name: benjmc
So you're convinced you want to write? Let's get to it then. But first, some definitions of words I'll use.
Metaphor - Stating one thing for another, (e. g., "The thunder of passion strikes us / In the dead of night / When the ship of grief comes to rest"?obviously 'thunder of passion', and 'ship of grief')
Simile - A comparison between two things using the words 'like' or 'as', (e. g., "His skull shattered / Like the glass far above", or, "He came to us / As a phantom in the night."
Now, let's just find out some things which are closely related with writing lyrics. What I am trying to do is give you basic guidelines to follow when writing. But the reason you get better at writing is mainly because you write on a regular basis. So please, consider what I have to say, and then practice writing (bearing in mind these 'tips').
The lyrics you have written should flow, and an easy way to make them flow is to contain some sort of rhyme pattern and some internal rhymes. Of course, I think the rhyme patterns should be original and should deviate from the norm as much as possible. If you have the standard AABB, rhyming couplet style your very serious lyrics may come off sounding as if they were a nursery rhyme or something. So like I say, be original. Experiment with rhyme schemes.
Now, sometimes little or no editing to the initial draft may be needed, (which is often the case for advanced writers), but a lot of the time various changes are required, because - as you may see in the forum - people post lyrics, which mean a lot to them, but just don't touch the hearts of anybody reading them. I'm sure they poured gallons of emotion into them, but it isn't raw and it doesn't sound like it's from the soul; instead it feels like it's from the mind. When writing you could make this your mantra: "heart leads head". On occasion, you may write about something tragic that happened in your life, but none of the grief or devastation will connect with the reader/listener. This is probably due to the fact that you got too sentimental in your words, and forgot that others may not be able to feel the emotion, due to the simple fact that your words are words and nothing more. Remember, words are a vehicle designed to transport the reader/listener. To paint fully defined pictures, you need a lot of different colours. The same is true for a writer. He needs lots of different techniques at his disposal. For a writer to paint pictures with words he will need to make connections, and to do this he will need to use either similes or metaphors. The picture will then be interpreted differently by each reader/listener and most will find a different emotion in it. This is why metaphors and similes, when used correctly, can create truly wonderful lyrics.
Styles - Which One Is For You?
Let me make it clear that I'm not talking about genres, but merely categories that lyrics can fit into. There are thoughtful and emotional lyrics, in the same way that there are literal and metaphorical lyrics. Find a style for you. Obviously thoughtful lyrics tend to be provocative and their main aim is to make the reader/listener think. Then there are emotional lyrics, which try to make the listener feel. For further explanation on both of these types of lyrics go here. Then there are the two different styles of lyrics, which of course are literal and metaphorical. Perhaps, the term 'literal' doesn't do justice to the style of writing however as it implies they are simple or cliched. But if you want proof that this is not the case and that you can make brilliant but fairly literal lyrics, then go check out Agincourts article, which can be found here. As for metaphorical lyrics, well I think I covered most of that above when I discussed editing. Though there is one thing to be wary of: do not write lyrics that contain an abundance of metaphors, because in truth, they'll come out in an unintentionally confused manner, and most of the ideas will become redundant.
This shouldn't really affect too many people, but I might as well discuss it anyway. Try to keep your lyrics as to the point as possible, (I. e. try not to ramble or wander). If you plan on singing your lyrics as part of songs, then it is a good idea to keep the amount of words to a minimum so that you can sing them to the best of your ability without having to worry about fitting 350 words into a 5 minutes song, (believe me?I've tried it and it's not enjoyable). The shortness of your lyrics doesn't matter really. I mean, as long as you have a verse (minimum of roughly 4 lines) then you can make a song whereby you just repeat that 1 verse. Though I wouldn't recommend this, as it puts pressure on you to write 1 amazing verse. I'm trying to think of a rough length that would be - in my experience - good for you, but of course it depends on what type of music you plan on doing. Though I think maybe 150 words is a good guide. Don't be afraid to go over or under that though. I'm just saying, that if you want to allow yourself some freedom in how you sing the song, (what you repeat, the amount of held notes, the length of time between each line etc. ), then I think that 150-200 words is a good length for the lyrics to be. But don't hold me to that, because that's not taking into account the average amount of syllables per word. I guess I'm rambling now?and for that I apologise.
Shaping The Invisible.
Someone famous (can't quite remember who) said that is what song writing is. And the thought is entirely correct. You start with nothing but your mind and your heart, and maybe a pen and page, or a PC, and you end up with a fully formed set of lyrics. It's a strange, but wonderful feeling whenever you finish writing a set of lyrics. You just sit there and think, now I have something that I didn't have before. For some of us, that is our only drive anymore. But heck, it's an incredible drive. Who doesn't want to gain constantly? As Springsteen said, "Poor man wants to be rich / Rich man wants to be king / And the King ain't satisfied / Until he has everything". It's human nature. I beg you; conform. If you start writing, you'll reaprewards. You'll have lyrics to add to music, so that your band (or you individually) can create songs. And songs?well that's why you're at this website.
Still want to write? I mean it this time? let's get to it. Below are things to do, and some things to think about whenever you're in the process of writing your lyrics.
The Initial Draft.
Let yourself relax so that you're in a frame of mind where the words are flowing and coming out naturally. People can tell when you forced yourself to write, (in your early days of writing anyway). Also, don't think that rhyming is an absolute necessity. If you write something, which sounds okay to you, then don't ruin the lyrics by putting in unnecessary rhymes. Whilst writing the initial draft of the lyrics, try to let everything spill out onto the page. Don't get technical, don't worry about flow, and don't try to rhyme. You can do all these things when editing. The most important thing is that you express yourself, and hold nothing back. This is your time, imagine no one else can hear you, speak your mind, and be completely open.
Maybe you've thought of a metaphor, which will communicate a certain emotion contained within the lyrics? Well, try and find a place for it in the lyrics, (but don't force it), where it will be most powerful. Maybe at the bridge, because sometimes this can be a good point in the lyrics where the writer reflects on how he feels as opposed to telling you. The editing process if possibly the most important part of lyric writing, because it is when you organise your emotions in the most striking way you can find. By that I mean that you try to craft your lyrics into something that a lot of other people will be able to understand. And it should touch them on a thoughtful, emotional or spiritual level.
Now that you have finished writing this particular set of lyrics, I think you should get some comments on the. If you show your lyrics to people, or post them, and get lots of negative criticism, please understand that you will progress as a writer. Everyone can develop the skill of writing, but sometimes it takes longer than usual depending on the individual. If you want to speed up the development of your talent, then you can go onto the forum and critique some lyrics. You may think I'm just trying to get you onto the lyrics forum, and helping people but?well yes I am actually. But what I mean is, if you analyse other people's lyrics, you will find our how a good set of lyrics is created. That's the whole point of the articles that go up in the lyrics forum bi-weekly. People take the time out to analyse how a specific artist writes lyrics, and then gives their article gets posted so that everyone can benefit. But it will be the authors of the articles who benefit the most, because they are the ones who put in the effort.
I hope this article was helpful, and maybe it inspired you to start writing, or maybe it will help you improve your writing. But if you do take up this trade of the ages, pass it on to others. Pick up a pen; be creative and be original. Get writing? I wish you good luck with your lyrics. If you have any comments, complaints, queries, suggestions for lessons or even tips of your own, then just e-mail me or PM them to benjmc. Feedback is always encouraged and appreciated.