Is writing a novel like writing a song?

You probably won’t have heard of Dan Wilson, but he is the singer songwriter behind a lot of very familiar pop hits. Most famous, is Adele’s Someone Like You. Is writing a song so different from writing a story or a novel?

Dan Wilson

[photo: danwilsonmusic.com]

Here are his 10 Tips on How to Pen a Pop Classic [source: The Times April 24, 2014]:-

Write a lot of songs: without concern for whether they are good or bad. “Finish them and move on.”

Get in front of an audience: in other words, get other people to read your stories. “It takes the audience – and the terror – to tell you what works.”

Forget about getting the number of that famous pop star: Cultivate your friends instead. “Don’t try to find some big dude to help you. Work with the people around you.” In other words, get on and make it happen yourself.

Put in the hours, but get out too: “Songwriters spend hours staring at a blank page, despairing, but once you have a way in, all your history and experience comes into use.” Sound familiar? Work hard, but go for a walk in the fresh air too, have a coffee with friends, go to a film.

Feed your mind: Essential for all artists. “Culture is set up as a gigantic gift that you can then feed back into, which is why I’ve just been to an organ recital and looked around the National Gallery in London.” I went to the theatre in London to see Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. What have you done this week to broaden your cultural horizons?

Write down your ideas: “I have a stack of note cards by my piano.” This is one of my New Year resolutions, to put my ideas onto cards in an index box to make them easily accessible.

Study the greats, get it wrong, go on your own journey: The writing equivalent of this is Read! “I can never be as good as Duke Ellington, but I’ll get closer to it if I study his best work.” Study, analyse.

Don’t do it for the money: “You have to do it because you love it. It’s the only way.” Don’t envy the authors with a three-book deal who are struggling to write the second.

Nobody said it was easy…: “There’s no great album, novel or film I love that was easy to make, even if they seem like they were – just like a great footballer makes it look easy.” Writing is hard work.

… but it is easy when you’ve got it right: Wilson concludes: “when you are in the moment, at your best, it sails by. It’s a beautiful thing.”

For Dan Wilson’s website, click here.
To read the article in full [if you are a Times Online subscriber], click here.

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