Writing for your book: a lesson I learned from writing music
Music is the universal language. No matter where you’re from, once you listen to a piece of music you instantly feel whatever emotion is lurking beneath the sound of the instruments. You feel what the composer wanted you to feel when he or she wrote the notes. Composers like Mozart created amazing compositions that simply grab your soul and shake it and send you off to other worlds. Music has evolved a lot ever since the days of Mozart, but it still has the same effect on people. It slips through your ears and makes you want to dance, cry, headbang or all those at the same time.
In my experience as a guitarist, writing music is one of the funnest things I’ve ever done, but when I first began to write my own stuff, I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. Once a certain melody popped into my head, I immediately put it down on paper, played it, recorded it, and it was awesome. But then, when I added the other instruments and more melodies to create a whole song, I realized that I always fell in the same error. Something terrible happened each time I tried to finish a song: The energy of the music stopped abruptly. The fire stopped burning and the whole thing became lame to listen to. I was extinguishing my own fires.
So naturally, I wanted to become better. I kept on experimenting with different sounds and styles, and after many, many months, I finally figured out a way to write music that actually made sense. The problem that I had, I realized, was that I was writing for other people. I wanted to make the best music in the world so everybody would listen to it and go: “Holy crap, that’s awesome! You did it on your own?!”
When I realized this, I took a step back and thought hard on what I had to do. I was remembering of those times I had come up with great melodies and I suddenly knew the answer to my problem.
Every time I begin to write a song, it always starts off with a melody for the intro. A series of notes that seems unique to me and that I think has the potential to become a part of a good song. Once I have that melody, I go from there and write the rest of the notes for the different parts of the song. All of this got me thinking: How do I come up with these melodies? Where do they come from?
And the answer was right there in front of me: My guitar. Every time I pick it up, I practice songs that I already know, but most of the times, I simply improvise and create random stuff that just comes to my mind. This is how the melodies come to life. By playing the guitar and not thinking at all. Letting my fingers do all the work. That was the answer to my problem.
So in the past, after coming up with a random melody, I used to follow up by writing notes that didn’t actually fit to the melody. They were simply to different from the rest of the song. I was trying too hard on writing for other people’s ears, when all this time, I was doing it all wrong. The answer was to write for the music.
Once I figured that out, it was incredible, the feeling of writing music with brand new ears. Writing for the music itself not only gives you freedom of writing, but it also keeps the tone and fire of the melodies throughtout the whole song. No more strong-intros-then-weak-choruses songs for me.
This whole process left me a very valuable lesson, not just for writing music, but for writing any type of book, whether fiction or non-fiction. Sometimes, when writing your novel or short story or whatever, you feel like there is something missing in your lines. Something that’s hiding in the back of your mind and just doesn’t want to get onto the paper. That ‘something’ is probably the key to making your book the best book in the universe. So, how do you find that key? How does one discover it?
You just need to take a step back from your book and try out something different. Take a few minutes, hours, or days, to ponder on your writing, and I’m pretty sure that something will change inside your mind. The thing that is frustrating you will soon be gone as soon as your key pops into your head.
“Write for yourself”, many people say. “Write not for others, but write what you would want to read.”
This might work for many writers out there, but what if you take the third path and write not for yourself, nor for your readers, but for your book? Pretend that once your book is finished, that you’ll stash it away and never let the light of day touch it ever again. Write and don’t give a single eff about anything. Write in such a free way, that even you will start to question its weirdness. But don’t forget that weirdness is good. It’s good because it’s your weirdness. Yours, and yours only. It’s the type of weirdness that makes you unique. Walk along this third path, this incredible third path where you right freely for your book, and you’ll probably see strong changes in your writing. Who knows? Perhaps you’ll even discover a part of your voice that you’ve never even heard before.
“Create your own style…let it be unique for yourself and yet identifiable for others.” – Anna Wintour
– Ralph Serr