In a music-theatre context, there are a number of questions that must be answered before any song can be completed. Often when lyricists and composers collaborate on songs for a new show, these questions may be answered unconsciously or internally by each collaborator or not at all. If one person were writing a show all by herself, that might be just fine. But in a collaboration with one or two other artists, it’s critical that everyone on the team articulate these questions together, discuss them and come to agreement on each answer. If this is done before starting work on a given song, it can save everyone a lot of extra work, frustration and other unpleasant feelings. Take the time to be just a little bit pedantic when it comes to songs you’re co-writing for a new musical and you’ll be much happier with the results.
A note about these questions. Some concern lyrics. Others concern music. And others concern both. Some composers may read a few of these and bristle at the thought of opening such questions up for discussion with a lyricist. I’d argue that while musical decisions should be the final domain of the composer, talking about such things together will likely help the collaboration work in a more strongly aligned way with the overall story being told on stage. It may not be comfortable to talk about all these things right away. But give it a try. I think you’ll find surprising results await you if you come at it with an open mind and patience borne out of knowing you’re trying something new.
These questions are questions I’ve thought to ask in my own collaborations but it is probably not exhaustive. I encourage you to add a few of your own at the bottom to make this document an even more powerful tool for your own creative process.