Write books as if they are lyrics to a song

51AMcZQG0vLI recently bought a copy of Bread’s greatest hits. I had forgotten how wonderful some of David Gates’s lyrics actually were, so I thought I would show you the words for the song ‘If’ as an example :

If a picture paints a thousand words, then why can’t I paint you?
The words will never show, the you I’ve come to know.
If a face could launch a thousand ships, then where am I to go?
there’s no one home but you, you’re all that’s left me too.
And when, my love for life is running dry,
you come, and pour yourself on me.
If a man could be two places at one time I’d be with you.
Tomorrow and today, beside you all the way.
If the world should stop revolving spinning slowly down to die,
I’d spend the end with you, and when the world was through,
Then one, by one, the stars would all go out,
and you and I, would simply fly away.

Authors often write long paragraphs of description (and I am no different!) to describe what we see in our minds eye in an attempt to get the reader to see the same place. But, when I looked at Gates’s lyrics, I was surprised by how short they were – no longer than a poem, but they carry so much feeling and emotion.

I often imagine an expectation from potential readers that they want books that provide good value for money, and their worth is often based on the physical word count. But, if we can get our message and story across in less words, the power of them can be so much more effective. In Stephen Kings ‘On writing’ book, he explains how he always looks to reduce his first draft by 10% when he rereads it, pulling in the writing and making it sharper.

Lesson to be learnt : choose words carefully and use high concept words that readers connect with immediately because they stir an emotion the recognize within them.

And don’t waffle.

Or keep writing.

And saying things that aren’t necessary…..


3 thoughts on “Write books as if they are lyrics to a song

  1. Tim that was a great post; positively lyrical. I have to agree with everything you said.

    Maybe it’s because I’ve spent so many years as an editor [although I’ve been a writer even longer], but lately I see many writers do something that mystifies me. They strive to reach a daily word count. Then later they agonize about editing. [Yes, I actually do understand the purpose of their word count – but my inner editor is still mystified.] I shake my head and wonder why they weren’t trying for the best words, rather than the most words.

    Enjoy your new/old music. And thanks for putting a beautiful song in my head.

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