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Learn The Art of Concise Writing from Songwriters

Listen closely

Songwriters work within the boundaries of metrics. To fit with the rhythm of the song, the verses they craft can’t be longer than a certain number of syllables.

Songwriters are forced to say a lot with less.

Every word they choose is loaded with meaning. Every word is there because it needs to be there. Take one away and the whole castle might collapse.

Here’s an example. It’s “Fear of the Dark,” a classic by Iron Maiden I’ll never get tired of.

Notice how each verse says nothing more than what it needs to say.

And nothing else.

I am a man who walks alone
And when I’m walking a dark road
At night, or strolling through the park
When the light begins to change
I sometimes feel a little strange
A little anxious when it’s dark

Fear of the dark, fear of the dark
I have a constant fear that something’s always near
Fear of the dark, fear of the dark
I have a phobia that someone’s always there

Have you run your fingers down the wall
And have you felt your neck skin crawl
When you’re searching for the light?
Sometimes when you’re scared to take a look
At the corner of the room
You’ve sensed that something’s watching you

Fear of the dark…

Have you ever been alone at night
Thought you heard footsteps behind
And turned around and no one’s there?
And as you quicken up your pace
You find it hard to look again
Because you’re sure there’s someone there

Fear of the dark…

Watching horror films the night before
Debating witches and folklore
The unknown troubles on your mind
Maybe your mind is playing tricks
You sense and suddenly eyes fix
On dancing shadows from behind

Fear of the dark…

When I’m walking a dark road
I am a man who walks alone

Bruce Dickinson
Bruce Dickinson on stage —

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