When you’re first starting off as a lyricist it can be tricky getting into a routine when creativity strikes.
If you’re like me you get so excited when you think of a great idea of you delve head first into writing without thinking it through. This usually results in many rewrites, and confusion over the actual story of your lyrics.
Now what I needed was a lyric writing process, a mini preparation stage where I could plan my story before writing out my full lyrics, and it has helped me so much and saved me so much time.
I’ll be going through this lyric writing process with you today, and hopefully this will work for you.
An easy to follow lyric writing process
Step 1 – Find your story’s topic
The best place to start is by having a general topic in mind on what you want to write about.
Then answer these questions:
- Who is involved in the story?
- What are they doing in the story?
- Where does the story take place?
- When does the story take place?
- Why do certain events happen during the story?
- How does the story progress?
By answering these questions you’re outlining the main elements of your story. Now at the moment they are disjointed, but all these answers will connect once you plan the storyline.
Have a key emotion
Your lyrics need to tug on your listeners heart strings. Pick your main emotion that you want your song to focus on. This will help you pick the right associated words when developing the storyline.
Consider these questions:
- Will this be a positive or a negative emotion?
- Will the emotion develop or change throughout the song?
The next task will be to find 50 words related to the topic & emotion you’ve chosen.
Plan your story
Now with some preparation done we can finally plan an outline for your story.
You’re story will be split into 4 parts; your main point which you’ll keep on referring to, 2 points of details and a revelation/climatic point. These will then be chorus, your 2 verses and a bridge.
Here’s an example:
- Main – The feeling of being alone and unloved
- Point 1 – Once experiencing the excitement of love
- Point 2 – Having love taken away from you and it being unfair
- Revelation/Climax – Accepting that you’ll find love one day
You can make this as simple or complex as you like, but this will act as guidance when you’re drafting your lyrics and you’ll refer to this to make sure you’re staying on point and are focused.
Step 2 – Plan your song structure
Before we get to crafting our lyrics we need to decide on song structure. I naturally write 2 verses, a chorus and a bridge immediately, then in the review stage I may consider a pre-chorus or a 2nd chorus if I feel the song needs it.
I suggest you do the same.
If you wish you can plan exactly how you want your song structured in detail but sometimes when the creativity is flowing you may not want a certain part you’ve already structured out because it doesn’t flow or sit right in the song.
Here’s the standard format I work from to begin with: verse 1 – chorus – verse 2 – chorus – bridge – chorus.
Outline a rough rhyme and line length structure
When creating your lyrics you need to consider how each section is going to rhyme, and how you want each line to interact with each other.
Plan out the following:
- If you want a mixture of short/long line lengths, how will this look for your chorus, and how will your verses & bridge differ?
- How will your sentences flow? Will it be a phrase per line, or will the phrase continue to the next line?
- What rhyming schemes will you use? The most common are rhyming couplets & alternates, however, internal line rhymes are also common.
You may not know any of this yet, or may not even mind as such. Therefore, pick a section to start your writing and write what comes into your head and see how your structure looks. If the phrases flow and the rhymes sound good how you’ve positioned them, then replicate this structure.
Work on your chorus
Your chorus is the main focal point of your song and this should be obvious in your lyrics. They define the whole purpose of the song.
You can have a short or long chorus but usually a chorus is between 2-8 lines long and uses the opposite rhyming scheme to the verses.
I usually create 4 phrases that relate to the main point then craft a joining rhyme pair or sometimes I’ll immediately create rhyming couplet/alternates one by one because I’m inspired to just write away and go with the flow.
Work on your verses
Your verses expand on the main focal point, and each verse will focus on a different point relating to the focal point. This can be in terms of time frame before and after for example.
I usually create 8 phrases that relate to each one then craft a joining rhyme pair or sometimes I’ll create rhyming couplets/alternates one by one but I’ll use the opposite rhyming technique to the chorus.
Refer to your story to make sure you stay on point because what you don’t want is your two verses to overlap in meaning, as this could bore the listener.
A verse is usually 4-8 lines in length.
Work on your bridge
Your bridge is your revelation or the climactic point of your song, I usually make it distinguishably different.
I do this by using a different line length or a completely different rhyming scheme.
A bridge is usually 4 lines in length.
Step 3 – Review your work so far
Once you’ve written your first draft of your 2 verses, chorus and bridge the next important step is to review your lyrics. Take your time to read through it and consider these questions:
- Does each line convey the message of the story I outlined?
- Does any part veer off topic?
- Does any line feel unnecessary?
- Does it portray the emotion I was going for?
- Do the lyrics as a whole paint a vivid image of the scenario taking place?
- Is there any overlap in verses with the message?
- Do the lines flow together?
- Does the story make sense if read in the format of the song?
- Do your rhymes sound natural?
- Can you improve the wording of any lines?
- Can I improve any rhymes?
Once you’ve reviewed your lyrics, this is the point where you’ll be able to access if you need to create any extra parts.
If you find your lyrics work incredibly well but between verses and choruses they feel disconnected, then you’d consider a pre-chorus.
Perhaps your revelation is the opposite to the main emotion throughout the song, so your original sad chorus now needs to be a happy chorus, therefore you may have new lyrics in your final chorus.
It’s your turn
Okay, so let’s quickly summarize our little lyric writing process.
- Find your story’s topic
- Have a key emotion – will it focus on sadness, frustration, excitement etc.?
- Plan your story
- Main point (chorus)
- First point of detail (verse 1)
- Second point of detail (verse 2)
- Your revelation/climatic point (bridge)
- Plan your structure or use a standard one
- Roughly plan out your line length and rhyming schemes then start writing
- Verse, Chorus & Bridge – Freestyle phrases and add rhyming lines or rhyme in pairs
- Review your work
- Do the lyrics convey your story?
- Do the lyrics flow?
- Do you need any extra lyrics adding?
Once you’re super happy with what you have, then it is time to take this to the next level.
Create a melody to your lyrics and add chords, and watch as your song fully takes shape.
Good luck, and get creating! Bye!