Posts Tagged ‘rewrite’

Rewrites – tedium or joy?

March 6, 2009

I was talking with a couple professional writers (books, articles) and the subject of editing (or rewrites) came up. One opinion I heard is that even though they love the process of originating the story idea and writing the first draft, these writers also find joy in the rewriting, whereas I’ve often heard from songwriters that rewriting is a drag.

The gem I learned from these writers is that their goal is to ‘get it right’ and rewrites are simply a part of that.

Perhaps because they work with longer forms (books, stories and articles), they know right up front that it’s going to take some time, patience, work and even tedium to get it right and they’re willing to live with that.

I think sometimes songwriters believe that writing a song should be fast and easy. I know it can be, at least the first draft, but even that is fairly rare. Let’s make it our goal to ‘get it right.’


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Try this at home – summarize your lyrics

November 26, 2008

I just discovered an eye-opening way to get clarity about my own lyrics and improve my writing. I learned that when I try to summarize a song of mine in a sentence or two, I am able to nail the meaning much more clearly, which then gives me the option to repair or refine the lyrics. Of course, it would be even more helpful had I done this at the beginning of the lyric writing process.

Here’s how it happened. I signed up for an account with one of the online music communities, where I posted mp3s of my songs. For every song I posted, I was prompted to answer questions about the song. I suppose they do this so their search engine can categorize it and make it easier to find.

Here are some of the questions they ask. For each song you post, they want to know the genre, the tempo, the mood, the subject matter and names of two similar artists. Then they ask for a short description of the song, a long description and finally they give you the opportunity to tell the “story behind the song.”

I posted seven songs and each time, the exercise of writing a one sentence description and then a longer description had me looking at my lyrics from a whole new perspective. I somehow found a succinct nugget that not only summarized the meaning I intended, but sometimes said it better than my lyrics.

It also became clear that in some songs, the meaning I originally intended was not the same as the meaning the final lyrics portray. I also noticed for the first time that several of my songs say basically the same thing using different words (nothing wrong with that).

Try this with some of your songs and let us know how it works out.

Ruthless Rewriting

August 18, 2008

I attended a songwriting workshop taught by Kathy Hussey, called Ruthless Rewriting. I was prepared for the worst, but it wasn’t at all what I expected. Instead of taking a heartless intellectual approach, she looks at editing/rewriting as fun and positive, kind of like cleaning clutter from your house, getting rid of unneeded items. After all, the end result will be a better song, so what’s not to like?

She taught us to joyfully remove extraneous words and replace weak phrases and cliches. I learned not to resist criticism, but to look at it objectively and decide for myself which ideas to persue and which to discard, asking myself ‘does it help make my song better, does it make sense?’ and ‘Am I blindly defending the status quo or am I really open to examining the weaker points of my song?’

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Collaboration – a powerful tool

June 30, 2008

Collaborating or co-writing is another trick you can add to your songwriting arsenal. Writing alone may be the only method you’re familiar with up to this point, but in some cases two heads are better than one.

We are often so wrapped up in our own songs, that a second set of ears is helpful, whether they belong to your co-writer, manager, producer, bandmate, song circle member, spouse or friend.

That second/third set of ears can often pick up weaknesses in our songs, weaknesses that we’ve completely overlooked. It’s always better to find and fix these glitches early in the songwriting process, than to be dealing with them later, in the recording studio, for example.

When you’re having a case of writer’s block or just a bad day, your co-writer can take the reins and get the ball rolling and vice versa.