Here’s a bit about how I write (or used to write!) music and songs. Back when I had the time to write music full time and when I was depressed enough to have material to write about, I’d write and record maybe a song or 2 a day. Most of the 50 or so songs I’ve written were completed in the space of a few months.
My preferred method would probably have been to simply strum chord patterns on the guitar untill I found a progression I liked. Then I’d hum over it to get the basis of a melody. A tape recorder or dictaphone was invaluable for when you’d stumble on something decent because the chances of remembering it later were slim to none and there is no worse feeling than knowing you had something but it got lost in your head somewhere. These days if I have a melodic idea, I’ll probably record it on the iPhone!
Once I had the basis of a melody and harmony I’d have a look at chord and scale charts I had up on the wall in my music room to see where I could break out into a chorus or middle eight type bit, different from the main structure. Ocassionally I’d do the same on the keyboard or maybe start with a melodic riff on either the guitar or keyboard and try add chords to it.
Lyrics would probably have been my weak point and I remember getting pretty worked up about not being able to either find the right words or get them to fit into my musical structure. Thesaurus books and Rhyming Dictionaries helped big time here. For some reason, starting with lyrics and trying to add music to them never worked out that well unless the lyrics were written specifically for music. If not then they tended to be too untidy to fit into the rhythmical structure. I wrote a lot of poems for example and tried to add music to them but had a hard time with the more non-linear ones!
Of course one of the best songwriting tips anyone could give is to simply listen to as much music as possible to make sure you have a wide, eclectic resource to draw on when it comes to creating your own music. Despite this fact, a lot of my music came out bluesy/folky and dark but I guess you find your own stlye too!
Hope that helps any budding songwriters out there.