Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Writing Tip Tuesday

Remember that Gloria Estefan song, The Rhythm is Gonna Get You?

[This video takes a couple of seconds to start...patience....]


She makes me want to be a hot, Cuban chick.

But, um, I guess that's not gonna happen.


Rhythm of writing is important to me.

I know when the rhythm is off.

I know when something is needed to make the rhythm better.

I almost NEVER leave blanks in drafts - you know, typing in [INSERT SOMETHING HERE LATER].

I hate doing that.

But sometimes, I just have to.

I know something is needed and I just can't come up with the perfect thing but I need to get on with the writing.

And often, that something has to do with rhythm.

For instance, in The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester, there is a scene where the main character and his friends are looking for something beside a railroad track.

Here's what I wrote:

They found a bicycle wheel with broken spokes.
They found a bullet-riddled stop sign.

They found the bent-up frame of an aluminum lawn chair.

They found a mildewed, mud-covered sofa cushion.

They found a grocery cart with two missing wheels.

They found cinder blocks and broken bottles and ____.

I knew that the last sentence needed three things to make the rhythm right.

But I just couldn't think of the third thing....

...so I left a blank.

Which is what made me think about rhythm in writing.

(By the way, I did later fill in that blank with rusty cans.)

But now that I look at that, I'm thinking I have too many sentences - I should delete one - or maybe even two...but, dang, I like all those things.

I hate murdering my darlings.


Here's another example.

I spent quite a while on the following paragraph because, once again, I knew I needed three sentences (after the first one), each starting with an -ing verb:

Maybe he should be swimming freely around Graham Pond. Gliding gracefully through the water. Floating among the rotting oak leaves that had settled on the surface. Sunning lazily on the moss-covered logs along the edges.

I also knew that the word logs needed an adjective.

It was just a rhythm thing.

So here's my point: Pay attention to the rhythm of your writing. Some writing voices/styles have more rhythm than others - but no matter what your voice is, there is some sort of rhythm in there.

Maybe it's the balance of short and long sentences.

Maybe it's the length of paragraphs or even chapters.

Maybe it's the word choice.

Maybe it's all of the above.

Write with an ear to your own personal rhythm and learn to recognize when it is "off."

The rhythm is gonna get you.


Sharon Creech said...

Love how you moved from the song to writing - and yes, I feel much the same about rhythm - it has to sound and feel right.

Michelle Cusolito said...

Thanks for this! I hadn't thought about it in this way before, but I do the same thing.

About Karen Williams said...

I preach something similar to my students all the time...note I said preach because it is difficult to teach. When you've got the rhythm you know it. Maybe it flows, maybe it snaps, maybe it pops. When you've got it, you knows it. Kind of like when your happy and you know it... ;-)

karmacoy said...

Oh I love this! i've never thought about rhythm in this way before. Thank you!