(1) Freewrite at the same time everyday for 10 minutes. Pattison believes it ought to be anchored to an object, but I think this can come with time. Stay engaged in your senses, of course, but just let the total nonsense write itself on the page.
(2) Form and content must be in sync. In other words, prosody. If the song's about someone who is nervous and uncertain, make the structure unstable. If the someone is brashly confident and the story resolved, make it feel this way too. These things ought to be intuitive.
(3) Play around. Here's the best way to do so that accounts for a lot of the info in the back half of the book.
- Draw a 3 x 3 table. Above each column, write "Line," "Rhyme," and "Stresses."
- In each 'Rhyme' cell below, write 'A' 'B' 'C' and 'X'. This will designate what line will rhyme with what other line.
- In each 'Stresses' cell below, write '3' '4' '5' and '6'. This will designate how many stresses are in each line.
- Circle (at random if you wish) one of the letters in all the rhyme cells for all the rows.
- Circle (at random if you wish) one of the numbers of stresses in all the stress cells for all the rows.
- Build a lyric that abides those rules.
- Feel free to add rows, change numbers of stresses, change rhyme schemes, and be mindful of near rhymes. Really, truly play.
- Read back and see if it pulls you forward, feels too long...follow where the play takes you. Switch them around if you have to. Read them backwards. Again, PLAY.
So honestly, that's the super-super-abridged version. It doesn't cover everything and there's plenty to 'dip in' and salvage, but as a read from cover-to-cover it's repetitive. The lyrics chosen as examples are not only terrible, but admitted to be terrible by Pattison himself, even when they are supposed to be considered improvements. With the exception of the always-excellent Leonard Cohen, of course. His lackadaisical style is not for me, and the analysis gets repetitive also. Not to mention seeing the same lyrics over and over is tiresome although necessary.
That being said, the ideas are worth looking into once in a while. Good ideas, dubious execution, better suited for a quick scan to pull the exercises and some reference material. I say this because, as for the advice within, most of it is advice you can get elsewhere in different fields. The "no-free" zone is the equivalent to improv's "yes, and"; the "form and function" thing is there from poetry to jazz to drama; a lot of the things about lyrical motion are almost like intuitive information: known, but tough to express. Somethings you read, you'll think "I knew that; that's what that is!" Which is not as earth-shattering as finding that cure-all to your lyrical woes.
Another problem is that Writing Better Lyrics is more about writing better rhyming poems. When it comes to writing lyrics to music, Pattison asks that you check out another book of his, or perhaps his course on Coursera. I, for one, find it pretty useless to write lyrics without music, so I feel partially like I was cheated out of one of the most crucial components of what writing better lyrics takes: the music itself. For all this talk about prosody, Pattison shoves the writing-lyrics-to-music material into another sphere altogether.
That being said, it'll still help me write better lyrics without music, I'm sure. So all in all I still like it, but you know, not as much as I could have.
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