How To Write Amazing Second Verses – Escape From Second Verse Hell – Pt. 2

Writing songs can leave you with a trapped feeling.  Often you’re alone with no one to ask for assistance.  It’s like being an elderly person who has fallen and whose Life Alert has just run out of batteries.  This claustrophobic feeling is like being in a box.

Wait a minute.  We’re going to talk about boxes today!  Damn, I’m getting good at writing these intros.

Hey everyone.  Welcome back to Escape From Second Verse Hell.  You can check out Part 1 – Second Verse First  if you haven’t.  Today we’re discussing a technique used for song development called “boxes”.

This method is espoused by Pat Pattison in his free Coursera course called Songwriting: Writing the Lyrics.  It’s not in his book Writing Better Lyrics although the two are very complimentary to one another.

How it works is this: when you have a problem developing your story you draw three boxes, one bigger than the other.  In your bottom box (the biggest one) you put your why; why is the main character saying these things?  Remember that it’s your character’s why – not yours as a songwriter.  This why should be the foundational resonance of your song.  In your second box you put how the song ends.  This one is typically easiest for most people since the first thing they write tends to tell the whole story.  The top box is how you’ll start the song off.

Now there’s no hard and fast rule that your first box has to be any less dramatic or interesting than your second box.  You still need somewhere to go though.  So if you start your song out gunning then you might want to later tell the audience that your character is on a vengeance mission because his dad was murdered.  Check out this graphic:

Boxes rock.

You might think, “Why do we have a why in the bottom box instead of a beginning-middle-end format?”  Good question.  Your middle can go between box one and two.  It’s important to state your deepest message into the song though so, by resolving that into your why, you’re guaranteed to make use of the third box that way.

I hope this is clear guys.  This has been the most helpful songwriting technique I’ve come across.  I used to struggle with verse development.  I really had no idea what verses did nor how they affected the chorus; at least not in any conscious way.  There are a ton of popular songs which have little-to-no verse development.  Despite that, once you realize how effective proper pacing can be there’s no going back.

If you guys want to improve your writing then I recommend picking up Pat’s book, Writing Better Lyrics.  Spending a little time reading that before you start scribbling out couplets can really make the time you put into the craft more rewarding.

Thanks for reading.  I’ve got some new songs I’ll be posting soon.  Let me know if this was helpful and what you’d like to see from me in the future.

I’ll see you guys next week.


How To Write Amazing Second Verses – Escape From Second Verse Hell – Pt. 1

Second verse – a curse worse than a burnt MRSA in your bursa?

In his book, Writing Better Lyrics, Pat Pattison says that one of the biggest challenges songwriters face is the second verse curse.  This could apply to any creative person whose art uses time: filmmakers, authors, instrumentalists and others.  I want to explore some of his ideas in one place so we can fix this disease once and for all.

Most writers make the most intense idea the first thing they jot down.  That’s fine but to kick off this series on Writing Amazing Second Verses I want to utilize our natural foibles and turn them into assets.  This week we’ll use the technique of Writing The Second Verse First.

It’s a common strategy, really:  “Begin with the end in mind.” The Secret, visualization and perhaps other techniques use this.  Or maybe you’re familiar with the mixing trick of starting with the loudest, or most important, part of the song and then working backwards.  Similar to sewing a pillow, you don’t initially work on the part everyone sees first.

What I’m saying is that, since we pour our hearts out without a second thought – and that can be scary to some people (I should know), you need to first extend your hand before anyone can see your heart on your sleeve.

Whatever you write first will actually go later in the song.  Let’s look at an example:

In my video I use the impromptu lines:

Melting into your eyes

Halo white at the altar

That just popped off the top of my head.  It’s not necessarily a good way to start a song.  Where would I go from there – the divorce?  Maybe we should talk about the first time our character saw their love interest:

Trembling under my book

Hunting woman is stalking

So now we’re at the library.  The guy is reading, a hot chick walks in and he’s got a choice to make.  Since we’ve started with the second verse we know he’s going to talk to her.  All you’ve got to do is connect the dots from here – the path is clear!

So go forth, young poet, and poureth out thine soul.  Just be sure to add a preamble and you’ll be good to go.

I really recommend Pat’s book Writing Better Lyrics.  It’s helped me immensely.  He also has a free course on Coursera which is a great supplement to the book’s content.

Thanks for reading guys.  Please pick up that book as it helps me and it will certainly help you.  Besides, if you follow along with my articles it’ll help to have that as a reference – like a textbook.  Check out my video on this topic on YouTube, subscribe there if you haven’t and have a wonderful fuckin’ day 🙂