Outright Writing. Part Two

Part two of two. An expansion of the first Writing Tips article. This is a file offering advice for writers and songwriters in general.

Ultimate Guitar
Welcome back to Outright Writing. My little collection of tips about writing. We're jumping to jump straight back in with part two. Point Four: Take Your Time If you write something down and it sounds good, then keep it. Come back a week later and your opinion on it might have changed, so let it change and grow with the time you've given it. Your influences may have changed and the character behind the piece might have grown and developed into something brand new. This will always add something to what you're writing, as well as taking it away from how it originated. The less obvious the original influences become, the more unique the piece is in the end. You will always be your own worst critic. Coming back to something after a little time is a lot like coming to something brand new that somebody else has written. If you were after comedy, you might find that the jokes are not funny anymore. The rhythm in your head may have changed and a new one might come forth for the poem or song that you're writing. A new influence from another genre might have crept in, or your new perspective might present a brand new selection of words to follow. All work evolves, you just have to give it time in which to do that. Don't be afraid of change. If you end up happy with the results then there's never any reason to worry about it. Point Five: Repetition Repetition is always a difficult one to gauge. Choral repetition is generally considered the best way to go, however a catchy line or verse can become much more powerful when repeated. Unfortunately, if the lyrics don't have the power in them anyway or don't really say anything that is of particular importance to the song then it comes out weak and pointless. You have to choose your repeated words carefully. In repeating them, you are empowering them, so you have to ensure that they hold enough power in them to make it sensible. It has to not only fit the piece, but also to fit the perceptions of the person listening to it. Now, obviously, you don't know what your reader is thinking, so you need to make sure that it has the right affect on you. It's handy having somebody else available to read over what you've done, particularly somebody evil, cruel and magnificently brutal. They're the best and most honest critics. Point Six: Keep A Thesaurus And A Rhyming Dictionary Handy Often when writing a song you'll come across a few problem lines. How you handle this will decide if the song survives or not. If you like to make songs which rhyme but can't think of an appropriate rhyming word there are three steps to follow which should help you find one:
  • Confirm what you're trying to say.
  • Use a Thesaurus on the word you're trying to rhyme with and consider changing it.
  • Use a rhyming dictionary to find a rhyming word that fits the song. The expansion of your vocabulary is the easiest way to defeat this potential issue as and when it arises. It will come up a lot when you just want to make sure that things fit nicely, but they refuse to do so. Spend some time considering it and working out what your options are, then choose whatever one seems most suitable to you. If all else fails, it's more than likely that you can just change the line itself. You could come back later and have a completely different line in mind. Point Seven: Inspire Yourself Inspiration can be hard to find, but it's not as elusive as people think. Inspiration is simply something that makes you think, so you can see that theres a lot of it in the world. Even when you have writer's block, or you're too angry to focus, your mind is still constantly active and thinking about whatever random thing that you've been inspired to think about. Obviously inspiration is unique to different people as people are unique themselves, but here follows a list of ways I try to think when I'm writing a song:
  • Think of a choice you made in life, what would happen if you chose the other one.
  • Make a random thought rhyme.
  • What were your feelings when you first discovered... (e.g. sex, drugs, rock n' roll)
  • Read a book. Imagine you are your favourite character.
  • What would an ex have to say for you to let them come back. So there you have it. Just a couple of suggestions which will hopefully help any songwriters out there. I always enjoy reading songs so the more there are the better for me. All of these points are things that I have been doing for years, and they have looked after me in their own unique way throughout my career as a writer. If you're the sort of person who writes, or wants to write, I hope that something here will have proven beneficial for you. Thanks for your time. Tom Colohue
  • 12 comments sorted by best / new / date

      Isn't the bulleted list from point 7 copied word for word from some songwriting book?
      I think the name of the book was 88 Songwriting Wrongs and How to Right Them. No biggie, but it really should be cited.
      Incorrect. I wrote them myself on the spot. If it's similar to any other work then it's purely coincidental.
      I agree with all of them except for point 6, to which I'm just going to offer a quote by Steven King which for me has always rang true, "Any word you have to hunt for in the thesaurus is the wrong word. No exceptions."
      Rengori wrote: I agree with all of them except for point 6, to which I'm just going to offer a quote by Steven King which for me has always rang true, "Any word you have to hunt for in the thesaurus is the wrong word. No exceptions."
      i agree 100%. i had one vocalist who did that all the time, even with lyrics besides his own, and by rewording them, they lost a lot of the original impact.
      I dig it. There are a lot of really good points and suggestions here, as well as in part one. I've been writing creatively for about 13 years now, and songwriting for about seven. All of these options presented are great for implementation into writings, whether it be songs, poems, or as stated, a random rhyming thought.
      I'm with the rest of them. If you have a couple of problem verses, sort them out. Change the wording. Work around the problem. Rhyming dictionaries and the like always seem like a lazy and artificial way out.
      Why wouldn't you use the tools available to you? I mean, you have to be able to recognize when a line or word choice simply won't work, but refusing to use a rhyming dictionary seems a little bit like shooting yourself in the foot, although I do admit that chaining yourself to one is infinitely worse.
      Way Cool JR.
      Great info, one question though is it best to have your lyrics before writing the music or the other way around? When a lot of people write songs they phrase the music to the lyrics and then some people don't. I am trying to write 80's style metal if that helps with any suggestions.
      Rengori wrote: I agree with all of them except for point 6, to which I'm just going to offer a quote by Steven King which for me has always rang true, "Any word you have to hunt for in the thesaurus is the wrong word. No exceptions."
      I also agree with this. I always try to write with what vocabulary I have. If I don't already know a word, I don't use it. In my opinion, using a thesaurus turns a song into an essay, and the words lose meaning when they aren't your own.
      excellent songwriting tips. these are things I've stumbled upon on my own but never got around to writing an article. Cheers mate!