Toolbox Tuesday: Putting Songs or Lyrics Into Your Novel

*Adapted from when I blogged for The Sleepless Writers

Ever tried to write a song and put it into a book? Sometimes it can be a little difficult to make it work, mostly because as an author it’s not possible to let readers actually hear a character singing their song. However, there are still some things a writer should keep in mind if they’re inserting lyrics into a book, especially for writers who may not have much musical experience.

  • Try to put a tune to it if possible. Even if it’s not going to appear anywhere, there are readers out there who are musicians, and they can pick up on awkward sounding lines if they’re in a novel.
  • Try several different synonyms for words and see which one fits your song best. Sometimes “kind” will work better than “nice” in certain songs, and vice-versa.
  • Try to get people to help you improve your song. However, there might be some advice that should not be taken. This can typically be judged based on how many people say the same thing about a song.
  • Try to sing the song you’ve written. This is one of the best ways to tell if it makes sense or not musically and lyrically.

  • Don’t have a million and one stanzas. While a song is quite like a poem, too many verses and too many lyrics might do better as a character’s poem instead of a song.
  • Don’t have a million and one lines in one stanza. Musically it feels and reads very unrealistically. Quatrains (four-line stanzas) are often a good way to go. Anywhere from about 4-8 at the very most lines per stanza will do nicely.
  • Don’t focus so much on rhyming that it takes away from the overall meaning of a song. Rhyming is nice, but it is not necessary.
  • Don’t be afraid to try songwriting just because you don’t normally play music! However, also don’t be afraid of asking a friend who knows a lot about music to help you out. Just make sure this friend will be honest with you about your lyrics and their quality.

Please keep in mind all these are suggestions and not necessarily imperative to making a song. Just a few tips from someone who’s been writing songs for a while and occasionally inserting them into novels.

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