This tutorial will go through some songwriting techniques and tips that I personally use. I can only speak from the way that I work as everyone has their own process that will work best for them. All you can do is practice and develop your own style, but the main thing to remember is to always keep on trying and writing.
There are all different types of songwriters out there as I feel that with writing for different genres, the process can be completely different and take an entirely different route. Since I tend to write mostly pop oriented songs, I have a certain way that I organize the ideas in my head, while someone writing a jazz chart may look at it a completely different way. It is all about whatever influences you might have and who and what type of music you enjoy listening to. While a lot of songwriters talk about the idea of the muse and inspiration, most people have to work at it like a craft. Looking at it as if it is a craft will really help you out as you'll be ready to put the proper amount of time and work into writing.
I usually don't sit down to write a song - it usually just starts to happen while I'm playing. Sometimes I'll get an idea before I even pick up a guitar and then I'll try to figure it out on an instrument. Sometimes the hardest part of writing can be getting down the ideas that you have in your head and out. This is something that can only improve with the passage of time and with experience. The more you know about how you work best, the better off you are going to be and the easier it will be to express your ideas.
A lot of times I often get asked if I write the music or the lyrics first to a song. I find that this is different from person to person, but that most people usually write the music first. I try to look at the whole picture of a song and rather than thinking about it as separate parts, I think about it as a unit that will always go together. I believe that the more you think about the whole song together and as a cohesive unit, the better off you will be. It is important to think of the melody as the main part of the song as this is what will drive everything. The hooks are what will make the song what it is and everything else is accompaniment and ornamentation.
One thing that I always try to do is to record any and every idea that I might have. Even if it is just a small part, you never know when it might come in handy and when you might be able to expand on it. I know that I will forget a lot of ideas that I have if I do not do this and when I listen back to ideas I have I sometimes forget where they came from. The same is true with lyrics; I have a book where I keep lyrics even if they are single lines sometimes as you never know when a piece will fit the puzzle later on. Keeping track of these ideas and having a steady flow of them will really help you to keep the ideas and songs coming.
Something that I find interesting is how songs seem to come in spurts. I know that a lot of other songwriters will understand that sometimes you will write a few quick songs and then not write one for a while. Of course this is not the case with everyone, but for those that it does it is important to not get discouraged as a new song or idea could be right around the corner. As long as you continue to play and develop ideas and work at it, you'll find yourself getting better and better at what you do...
While these are some ideas that I have developed over my songwriting career, like I said earlier everyone is different and different techniques will work for different people. As long as you are committed to your craft and try things out, I'm confidant that you will be proud of the work you've done. If you keep at it and put in the time, I guarantee that you will see results - just don't be afraid to experiment.