Finding Success As A Writer: Part 4

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***If you haven’t read my previous post to this topic, Click Here.

TIP #4:

HUMBLE YOURSELF

Learning how to accept or even hear feedback is not always easy, especially when negative. However, I believe it is essential in order to develop fearlessness.

Humbling yourself doesn’t always mean not being boastful or arrogant over your work, although that is another thing to be mindful of. It is being able to accept criticism or negative responses of your work without being defensive or giving up. Some criticism is good because it can bring to light aspects of your writing that may not be connecting with others. Especially with my lyrical poetry I really appreciated the feedback I received early on because it helped me recognize areas in my writing or habits in my writing that made it difficult to understand or read (i.e. wordiness). Looking back, I see these problems and I am thankful I was able to get such feedback. I believe that when one humbles one’s self, they are able to clear—open their mind to see things that may not have been obvious to them. Of course all this is useful when you receive constructive criticism and not vague criticism, such as “I don’t like this.”

Another point, and one that I have come to realize, is that negative feedback is inevitable, especially as your audience grows. And some may provide constructive criticism that you may not agree with. At the end of the day, and especially if they are not pointing out typos or errors, it is best to take them with a grain of salt and move on. Some feedback may be valuable, but a lot is opinion. You as a writer know your work best. Decide what to do with the feedback you receive—take it or leave it. But anticipate these things, don’t take them personal, and use feedback to build fearlessness and grow as a writer.

IN CONCLUSION:

The best thing to do in ensuring successful publishing and long-term success in your writing is to have Passion, Patience, Humbleness, and Fearlessness. Building an audience, getting your work to be read and heard by others, takes time, it does not happen overnight. For me, I learned to never forget, never lose the reason I began writing in the first place—because I enjoyed it. To me, writing was my outlet to set my mind free, to express how I felt about others, things, and myself. It was my chance to create a world—a life in which I didn’t necessary live in but envisioned where I saw myself. It was a chance for me to face challenges that even as I write, I didn’t know how they would play out. Your writing should be genuine—you should have fun. If you don’t have that, then nothing else will surface. Don’t see your audience as a number, a goal to obtain. See them as an important community to interact with, get to know, and learn from. To me, any important audience is one that is responding to what you do, whether big or small.

But quite possibly the biggest most important thing I have come to realize is this: creative writing is more of an art than a structured, technical, construction which must meet criteria and follow guidelines in order to be relevant or successful. When one focuses more on the business side of writing, writing can lose its “art” and start to be tedious work as it was starting to become for me. There is no wrong or right way to write a story or poem—or any literary work, as long as it is readable and free of errors, such as grammar and spelling. It is worth being shared and read by others. There is no unintentional silly or nonsense story, poem, or literary work because you never know what readers will like. Who knows, your off-trend and unique writing could start a new trend as others have done before.

Finding Success As A Writer: Part 3

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***If you haven’t read my previous post to this topic, Click Here.

“A Writer Must Take Risks And Humble Themselves. They Must Not Fear What Lies Ahead Or The Unknown.”

 TIP #3:

TAKE RISKS

This was a major problem area for me and still is in a way, although I have improved in the past year. As a writer, don’t be afraid to share—put what you feel is your best work, out there. Don’t be afraid to make sacrifices, of money especially, to create something that is professional and stands out. And don’t be afraid to make big steps, such as traveling to events, conferences, and other opportunities that arise and are within your reach to achieve your writing goals. Of course when I say do not be afraid to take risks, what I really mean is well thought out and purposeful risks. If you feel in your mind that you must do something in order to move toward reaching your writing goals, that is the type of risks I mean. Not risks that don’t ensure a high likelihood of success or one that risks losing or hindering something of more importance.

Going back to exposing your writing, there may be hesitance for a number of reasons. I had this problem and in some cases still do. One of my reasons was thinking that others would see my writing as silly. However, I learned that my writing is not going to appeal to everyone but at least someone and that is what matters. When it comes to taking risks, evaluate and weigh out your reasons, get feedback from others, and most importantly, don’t be afraid to take them. That is the only way your work will reach others and you will achieve your goals.

Finding Success As A Writer: Part 2

misty swamp

***If you haven’t read my previous introduction post to this topic, Click Here.

TIP #2:

PATIENCE

This is very important. More than many may realize. Without patience, decisions will be poorly thought out that can lead to failure and spiral to where one may give up entirely in writing or publishing one’s work. When I think of patience, self-publishing comes to mind. From what I have heard from others, many do not take the time to put together a well-written story or book. A self-published book can contain grammar and spelling errors and the cover can look elementary. I’ve seen some and though a book with errors and a bad cover does not mean the contents—the story itself, is bad—it could be a diamond in the rough, it masks its true quality and can deter others from wanting to read it.

I can relate to this when I first self published my 2 poetry books. Although I thought my cover and contents were error free and okay, I thought it could have been better developed. I don’t know how others who came across the books perceived them. One thing I didn’t do was take the time to have it reviewed by others or even sought services to design the cover to what I believe represented the collection of poems (the cover was an old photo but not one created or taken specifically for the book). But I had little money and was anxious to put them out there. Since it could be done on Amazon CreateSpace—I thought it didn’t matter. If I had patience, I would have done more research and waited until I had the financial resources to create a professional book.

But besides the product is the marketing piece which definitely relies on patience. I honestly believe the greatest determiner of selling your writing, whether through self-publishing or a publishing company is if you have an established audience. If you don’t have an audience by the time you publish your work, it will be challenging to reach success in selling, though it is not impossible. If you have strong connections that can promote your work though such means as word of mouth, or if the book (title, cover, blurb) stands out, success can be found without an established audience. But again, it takes time to establish an audience and strong connections, or even develop and put together a stand out book. It takes time to establish things, even build funds to create something great. It takes time to write a solid story or collection of poetry—whatever you write. It takes time to learn about publishing and marketing. It just takes time. But with time and patience, one can build a solid foundation for future years and literary works to come.

Finding Success As A Writer: Part 1

misty swamp

There are many tips and advice out there on how to find success as a writer. What I mean when I say success is, becoming a published (whether self published or traditionally published) writer who is able to make a living writing and selling their work. With all the information out there, it can be overwhelming and different people are going to have different ways of finding success. However, I do not think that any of the information out there is false or ineffective to finding success, for if it worked for one writer, why not share what worked with other writers who are trying to find success. Anyways, to get straight to the point, through my “research” and hearing from successful writers, I have boiled down my advice for success to 4 tips. I believe if you have these tips and hold on to them, eventually you will find success as a published writer.

“A Writer Must Have A Solid Foundation. They Must Possess Passion and Patience.”

TIP #1:

PASSION

I believe that those who enjoy writing—to where they believe it is their calling and their life’s work, will never give up in the process. It is simply what they do.

There was a time, especially when I was writing songs, that I aspired to be a songwriter. I joined local music associations/clubs/groups to network and build connections. I thought about enrolling in music schools. I even thought about traveling across the country for internships and jobs in the music industry. I entered many songwriting contests and competitions. Though I got some recognition for my efforts, many things fell through and I became unwilling to take any chances as I realized the odds of becoming a successful songwriter was small. So I turned my focus to other more attainable careers if not meaningful to me. But nevertheless, I still wrote lyrical poetry and even music for fun. It was something I enjoyed and at the time I wasn’t sure if I would ever share them with others.

So with this story in mind, one must have passion. One must naturally find interest in writing and want to write whether they become published or not, receive recognition or not, make income from it or not. Passion is what is going to banish discouragement when specific goals are not met or dreams do not work out. Passion is going to be the driving force that picks one up, make one re-establish thoughts and goals, and pushes one to try again.

How To Write A Mystery

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Writing a mystery can sometimes be challenging but rewarding in the end. For instance, you want the mystery to play out like a mystery. You want to reader to be intrigued—interested from beginning to end. The whole goal of a mystery is to play a game with the reader—make them think one thing and surprise them in the end. I’ve wondered if my stories were mysteries. Looking back on my stories, I see where a mystery–or mysteries, developed. But in my attempts to purposefully write a mystery, I looked for advice on how to write a successful mystery and came up with 3 important points.

First, plot development.

You want to answer the big question—what is the problem and what is the cause? It may seem simple, but when I was developing mysteries for my current set of short stories, this was a challenging part. Not only do you have to define the problem yourself, but you also have to define and answer and the question or questions that will surround the problem.

  • Could there be more than one question?

In other words, could more than one thing be responsible for the problem?

An example:

A child says he dropped off a bag of money earned from a fundraiser to the school administrators’ office. A few days later, the money is missing and one of the administrators blames the child for it. Who really took the money?

This is a very simple example. A typical mystery may be more complex, but the point is, there is a problem and no one knows who is responsible for the problem or the cause of the problem. The reader may assume one or the other, or none at all.

A good mystery will have many questions to one major problem. Some questions may be secondary questions, such as in the case of the above example—what would be the child’s motive for taking the money? Did the child have reason to need money? Was there a particular thing the child wanted to spend the money on? What signs did the child show? Did the child exhibit any behavior that matches the possibility of theft? The list can be endless.

Second, continuous action.

A good mystery is never slow. There is always something strange going on or showing up every moment. Of course there will be an introduction or plot build up in the beginning of the story, but it helps to start the story with the problem—introduce the reader quickly to the problem and initial questions. In mysteries, there is little time for small talk, lavish descriptions, or historical background. The only time it would be appropriate for this is when these things are uncovering something crucial or related to the problem. In other words, revealing clues to the resolution of the problem.

  • Leave out the long extended details and descriptions.

Generally in a mystery, something is always showing up or going on. Natural descriptions will speak for themselves or be added when necessary. The reader will be more drawn to the case than how a living room looks like, unless, there is something descriptive about the living room that will reveal clues.

An example:

The story begins with the child in the principal’s office being interrogated and suspended until money is paid back. Child says he is innocent and there is little to no evidence that the child has used the money. Friend says, he will do an investigation and see where the money went. Story continues with friend questioning others, which leads to researching more places and people.

Momentum will never slow down. There is always something going on, more things—clues showing up. A good mystery will always trump what the reader is suspecting. As the story goes along, new things will appear that will challenge the reader’s thoughts of the cause of the problem. The goal is to lead the reader astray as best as possible.

Third, resolvability.

Like all stories, there has to be an end. The mystery has to have a resolution and all the questions have to be answered. It is best to map out a story before you begin writing it down. Decide who the main characters will be, the problem, and the questions that will come up. It even helps to have the resolution set—know how the problem will be solved and how that will play out. Of course as you write, things can change, alterations can be made, but at least you will be guaranteed that the mystery can and will be solved.

  • Make sure all questions to the problem can be answered or explained.

If there was a suspicious character but in the end they were not the culprit, make sure whatever suspicions that were placed on the character are defended. Maybe the suspicious character was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is also important to note that if the mystery involves a culprit being the source of the problem, introduce them early in the story. Don’t make it obvious that it’s them, but reveal their existence to the reader.

An example:

When money was dropped off to the administrators’ office, the busy administrator forgot to remove the money from the counter and lock it in a safe place. The friend walked in the office to pick up something and saw the money. The friend thought it was odd that money would be left unintended on the counter and took it, assuming it was left behind anyways. After extensive research and still no suspects, the friend realizes that the money he initially took was possibly the money the child was being suspected of keeping.

In summary, a successful and good mystery will have a developed plot with problems and questions established, continuous action without extended summaries and details that do not reveal important clues, and be solvable with the culprit being introduced in the beginning.

Though my example was not the greatest, I hope it illustrated the important components of a mystery. Although writing a mystery from scratch can seem challenging, I find that in the writing process, it can become rewarding and entertaining to see the mystery unfold as things are added that you may not have considered when initially developing the mystery.

How To Write Song Lyrics: Examples

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Part Four: Examples

There is no real technique or formula for writing song lyrics. When I say this I mean, writing a hit song—a song that will become a classic to the mass audience.  Sure, when writing song lyrics, there is the verses, chorus, and possibly bridge and pre chorus, but following those guidelines is not going to ensure that what you write will become a hit or will reach success. It is the content—the words, that is the ultimate deciding factor.

When I first starting writing, I began with song lyrics. I wrote randomly, but most of my songs followed the verse, chorus, bridge pattern. I didn’t know (and still don’t know) which songs would be a hit, because many of them were never showcased. But of the few songs I shared, I received positive feedback. When I write song lyrics, they come from “the heart”. They are based on what I feel about a particular situation or what current state of mind I’m. I don’t think about formulas or compare them to hit songs already out there. I stay true to how the song forms in my mind.

There are many ways song lyrics can be written and it will depend on content, how you want the message delivered, and how you want the movement of the song to be.

Songs from an emotional standpoint:

These are song lyrics that are not illustrative in nature, but convey a feeling about a situation, object, or person.

One example is Reach by Gloria Estefan.

Some dreams live on in time forever
Those dreams, you want with all your heart
And I’ll do whatever it takes
Follow through with the promise I made
Put it all on the line
What I hoped for at last would be mine

In songs like this, the verse is just as important as the chorus. You want the verse to sink into the listener’s mind and leave a lasting impression on them. You want the listener to find personal meaning in these lyrics. It is like you are speaking to them or can relate to them.

The chorus should summarize the overall message of the song. The chorus should get to the point and let the listener know the purpose of the song.

If I could reach, higher
Just for one moment touch the sky
From that one moment in my life
I’m gonna be stronger
Know that I’ve tried my very best
I’d put my spirit to the test
If I could reach

Songs from an illustrative standpoint:

These are story like song lyrics. They describe or talk about an environment, place, or situation. Their purpose can be purely for entertainment, but they can convey a meaningful message just like an emotional base song.

Two examples are Colors of the Wind by Vanessa Williams (Disney) and Gotham City by R Kelly.

Colors of the Wind:

You think you own whatever land you land on
The earth is just a dead thing you can claim
But I know every rock and tree and creature
Has a life, has a spirit, has a name

You think the only people who are people
Are the people who look and think like you
But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger
You’ll learn things you never knew you never knew

Gotham City:

I’m lookin over the skyline of the city
How loud, quiet nights in the mist of crime
How next door to happiness lives sorrow
And signals of solution in the sky

In songs like these, the verse will primary include the descriptive story words. This is the area where the story will be told, where the listener will know what the song is about and will give the chorus meaning and make sense. In songs like these, the verse is generally what will determine whether the song is a hit. If the verse is strong, chances are the song will be successful.

The chorus should, just like an emotional based song, illustrate the point of the song or the plot of the song. In an illustrative song, the chorus will most likely be as descriptive as the lyrics, but sometimes it can contain emotional based lyrics.

Colors of the Wind:

Have you ever heard the wolf cry to the blue corn moon
Or asked the grinning bobcat why he grinned?
Can you sing with all the voices of the mountain?
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?

Gotham City:

A city of justice, a city of love
A city of peace, for everyone of us
We all need it, can’t live without it
A Gotham City, oh, yeah

In writing song lyrics, a bridge is not necessary, although a lot of songs contain them. In Reach, there is no bridge, and in Colors of the Wind and Gotham City, there is a bridge of a few lines. To me, adding a bridge may be necessary if you have more than one message to get across or if you want to get your message across in a different way. Maybe the chorus does not get to the point—the bridge would be a place to get that point across.

Colors of the Wind:

How high does the sycamore grow?
If you cut it down, then you’ll never know

Gotham City:

Yet in the middle of stormy weather
We won’t stumble and we won’t fall
I know a place that all of us shelter

Overall, in writing song lyrics, most will have a verse, chorus, and bridge. As you write more songs, you may find yourself not always needing a bridge, and maybe even wanting to stylized some songs with repeat verses, and choruses—even pre choruses, which are usually added when you want to reel in the listener to the chorus—when the chorus might be in contrast with the verse or when you want to introduce the chorus if the verse has not indicated what the chorus will be about.

It is impossible to truly determine how to write perfect song lyrics. Simply listening to popular songs out there can give insight, but just like any creative product, it is for the audience to decide. When I was serious about becoming a songwriter, I sought advice from people and books on how to write songs or even how to write authentic songs. In the end, I realized if you pay attention to how songs that are already out there are written, from the words, placement, and patterns, you will become familiar with the many ways songs are written. If you are writing songs as a beginner, it helps to look at popular songs out there and review the elements that make the songs likeable to you—what is it about the song’s structure that draw you to the song.

Songs taken from www.lyricsfreak.com.

How To Write Song Lyrics: Lyric Styles and Rhyme Patterns

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Part Three: Lyric Styles and Rhyme Patterns

Like poetry, song lyrics don’t always have to rhyme or rhyme perfectly to flow and sound well to the listener. There are many styles song lyrics can take, and there are even song lyrics out there that are styled completely at random.

Lyric Styles:

  • Rhyme—re occurrence of similar sounds
  • Alliteration—repeating same sound at beginning or within 2 + words immediately succeeding each other
  • Imagery—illustrative description
  • Personification—adding human characteristics to objects
  • Simile—comparing opposite things, often using the following words, like and as
  • Metaphor—figure of speech
  • Assonance—partial rhyme where vowel sound is stressed to sound alike but not consonant sound
  • Consonance—pleasing combo of sounds produced together
  • Anaphora—word or words that are repeated at the beginning of successive lines

Again, not all song lyrics have to rhyme, but if that is your goal, here are some things that are good to know:

There are many forms and types of rhyme patterns. There can be perfect rhyme, where a syllable of words has the same sound and beats, and there can be near rhyme, where the words have similar sounds and beats but are essential different.

No matter what rhyme pattern you use, it is ultimately important that they make sense and add to the topic of your lyrics. Never force rhymes for the sake of completing your song lyrics.

Rhyme Patterns:

*I will use single letters to denote same rhyme sound and beat*

  • ABAB
  • AABB
  • AABA
  • ABCB

This is not an exhaustive list, but an example. This also shows the endless possibilities of rhyme patterns. There can be more lines, such as ABCBCBA, or fewer lines, such as ABA, and rhyme patterns that go across different verses, such as the first block of verses rhyming with the second block of verses, but not necessarily within their own blocks.

Overall, well written song lyrics will flow well to the listener and convey a meaningful message in its topic. Whether written in perfect rhyme, near rhyme, or completely no rhyme, it will have a style that draws the listener’s ear to it and tells a complete story or expresses a solid emotion.

I hope my 3 part miniseries provided valuable information and tips in helping to write song lyrics. Continue to follow the next two weeks for specific examples of well written song lyrics and my list of 10 well written song lyrics.

 

How To Write Song Lyrics: Song Arrangements and Structures

Sketch CDs

To read part one, click here.

Part Two: Song Arrangements and Structures

Song lyrics can be written in any way that captures the song’s meaning, story, and nature. There are song lyrics out there that are written and arranged in uncommon ways. Although not all song lyrics are written in a defined or common format, many are structured in ways that are predictable for listeners to catch on to. However as a beginning song writer, it helps to know basic structures that can guide you as you write.

Common Structures

Intro

  • Placed at the very beginning of song. Usually instrumentals or sometimes the chorus

Verse

  • Contains the story of the song

Pre Chorus

  • Not always necessary, but introduces the chorus

Chorus

  • The message of the song and most memorable to listeners

Bridge

  • Not always necessary, but is placed towards the end of a song and can wrap up the story line or extend the message of a song

Coda

  • Not always necessary, but if the chorus does not end the song, the coda will be an outro verse or instrumental, summarizing the song if the chorus did not do so

Common Song Arrangements

Verse

  •  Song lyrics are written only with verses
  • Best used when stories are being told
  • When music is accompanied, instrumentals might serve as the bridge, though no bridge structure truly exists

Verse, Bridge

  • Song lyrics are written with verses, then a bridge, and ends with a verse.

Verse, Chorus

  • Song lyrics are written with verses and choruses, alternating usually.

Verse, Chorus, Pre Chorus

  • Song lyrics are written with a verse, pre chorus, and chorus format, usually repeating twice.

Verse, Chorus, Bridge

  • Popular song lyric arrangement
  • Song lyrics are written with verse and chorus arrangement usually repeated twice , then a bridge, and ends with a chorus

Verse, Chorus, Pre Chorus, Bridge

  • Song lyrics are written with verse, pre chorus, and chorus arrangement usually repeated twice, then a bridge, and ends with a chorus

There are many ways song lyrics can be arranged, even adding different and new structures from the ones listed. As you write song lyrics, play around and experiment with the ways you write and arrange your words.

How To Write Song Lyrics: Ideas and Topics

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I believe writing song lyrics (aka, lyrical poetry) is not as difficult as one would think, primarily because when you write lyrics, it is coming from your heart—what is pressing on your mind. A lot of times, when I write song lyrics, I will free write, writing continuously with no end, it seems. Sometimes the result will be pretty good—I will find little to no revisions or structural changes needed. However, most times I will go back to arrange and rewrite things in the song lyrics.

In this 5 part How To series, I want to give helpful tips and basics on how to write song lyrics. Part one will be on determining the purpose behind writing the song lyrics, coming up with a topic and discovering what to focus on concerning the topic. I will also include additional information on song titles and music (melody).

Part One: Ideas and Topics

The first thing you should ask yourself when embarking on writing song lyrics is:

What is the goal—the overall message that I want to communicate in the song?

In other words, how do I want the listener to react or feel when hearing the song?

Some examples are:

  • Informed
  • Inspired
  • Empowered
  • Joyful

    No matter what, you want to the listener to connect to the song and find meaning for themselves with the message in the song. You want the listener to relate to the song in some way.

During the writing process, focus on the topic or subject of the song. If the topic is about a long lost best friend or a family car accident, make sure the words communicate the message and the message relates to that topic.

How To Find A Topic

The best songs come from the heart and often are not forced to follow a guideline. When writing song lyrics, be true to yourself, write about things that are on your mind and in your heart. The listener will sense the authenticity and I believe that will connect them more to the song.

As just stated, creating song lyrics start from the heart and mind—they are based on topics that matter to you most or at the moment.

Some places to start when finding topics/subjects:

  • Recent experiences
  • Current events that interest you
  • Experiences of others close to you
  • Feelings of the moment
  • Ideas and concepts stirring in your mind
  • Titles, stories, and phrases
  • Objects of intrigue and interest

Once you find your topic, think about all the feelings and pictures that it creates for you.

In other words, How does that topic make you feel, what do you think about that topic?

Additional Things To Keep In Mind

  • Titles

The title of your song lyrics is more important than you may think. Just like books and movies, titles can often catch the listener’s interest and lead them to want to know what the song is about.  To me, a song title does not necessarily have to be part of the song lyrics, although most of my song lyrics contain the title within them. But whatever the case, the title should pull in the listener—draw them to the song or let them want to know more about it. The title should sum up the song in one line.

  • Music (Melody)

When writing song lyrics, I don’t always have a permanent melody (music) that accompanies them. At the time of writing the lyrics, I will have some simple generic melody. However, about half of the song lyrics I’ve written don’t have a unique permanent melody accompanied with them. A well written song lyric will stand on its own without a melody accompanied with it, so I do not believe music has to be an essential part when writing lyrics in order for the song to be complete or stand on its own.