The Song Rewrite
Is a Critical Step

The song rewrite may be the most critical step of writing a song. Too many songwriters believe that once they've finished the first draft, they're done. For a long time I believed that too.

But the keyword here is "first draft."

Yes, it's a great feeling once you have completed that first draft. You have a brand new song. But this is where the fun begins!

When you rewrite your song you get to peel back the layers. Boil it down to its essence. You try to say the same thing, or more, in a more concise way. Be open to changing the rhyming pattern if you need to.

This is the first draft of my song "Scarlet Tears", about a cheating wife:

Early morning five a.m.
Silently she tip-toes in again
Relieved to see he's sleeping tight
And won't know she's been out all night again

I didn't spend long writing the first draft (as you can probably tell!) I just wanted to get the basic storyline down. But I knew it could be a lot better than that. I knew I needed to perform a song rewrite.

Boiling It Down

So I began to boil it down.

We already know it's early morning (five a.m.), so I didn't need to repeat that information. And five a.m. sounds better than early morning. So I took out 'early morning.'

If you're tip-toeing you're being pretty quiet, so I took out 'silently' too.

And 'relieved to see he's sleeping tight' is just bad writing!

My finished draft ended up like this (after several attempts!):

Five a.m. she just got home
Tip-toes through the darkened room again
She slips in as he sleeps tight
Pretends that she's been there all night again

I'm much happier with the rewrite. It's more to the point, but at the same time includes more information. And I managed to sneak in a nice little alliteration with 'she slips in as he sleeps tight'. Sweet!

I did this with the entire song. I believe it is now a much better song than it would have been, had I settled for the original.

Be Your Own Editor

Every professional novelist has an editor. Every amateur novelist should have an editor. The editor is the person who objectively corrects the novelist's work.

© Robertlamp|
This person is responsible not only for detecting bad grammar and misspellings. They also make sure the book stays on track and makes sense.

If Sarah Jane sprains her right ankle on page 12, she shouldn't be limping on the left one on page 112!

The editor will catch stuff like that.

Now, I'm not going to pretend that a song is anywhere near as comprehensive as a novel. But the same rules apply. There must be consistency. The song must stay on track.

As a songwriter, you must be your own editor. Unless of course, you collaborate with another writer. There's a lot to be said for that.

Don't Carve It in Stone (yet)

Every good songwriter should understand the value of rewriting songs. For the professional songwriter, the song rewrite is just business as usual.

So do yourself a favour. Rewrite your new songs. And for goodness' sake don't think that every inspirational line that comes to you has to be carved in stone.

It doesn't. It's just a starting point.

Just because you wrote it in the shadow of Stonehenge during the autumnal equinox, doesn't make it sacred. It's a song, not Holy Scripture.

Okay, 'nuff said eh?!

Wrapping It Up

Of course, there has to come a time when you're finished. When there's no more rewriting to be done. Eventually you reach the point when you realise you can't make your song any better.

When the time comes to wrap it up, you'll know it. When you come up with that perfect line you can feel it. A little tingle down the spine. That's the feeling I'm after when I write a song. It's the reason I write songs!

I rarely get that feeling when I start out writing a new song. It comes during the rewrite.

"Scarlet Tears" ©2009 Richie Gilbert

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