Rhythm sans Blues

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I’ve been thinking a lot about rhythm lately. I guess that’s a by-product of spending most of my summer in rewrites and revisions for the last two books I wrote—what the cool writers call my last two WIPs.

Works in progress, or writing in progress, depending on who you ask.

I combed through them, one at a time, mercilessly tightening and cutting and adding and rearranging. Talking to myself as different characters—I used to do different voices, but the dogs would howl. And my muse … she actually called the police and tried to get them to do a 72-hour psych hold.

Needless to say, I use only my own voice now.

Shakespeare was wrong, by the way, digression, not brevity, is the soul of wit.

Anywho. After I got done beating up my WIPs, I got feedback from my peer readers. They took over the beating where I left off and came back with the usual suggestions, condemnations, questions, additional condemnations, and the Oxford comma.

So far, same old, same old.

YA Author Tom Hoover on the Rhythm in WritingThen comes the rhythm part—see, I actually made it back to my opening thought—because each reader comes with his or her own set of opinions and beliefs and preferences that they filter your words through. Which is good. Your book needs to get used to questions and criticisms. Because that’s what it’s gonna face if it ever makes it onto the shelves at Books-a-Million or Barnes & Noble.

Speaking of rhythm, I just realized that both those booksellers’ names have the same rhyme scheme. I wonder if that’s what happened to Borders … not enough syllables, not enough rhythm.

Sorry. Digressing again.

The point is, when you’re comparing and contrasting everybody’s opinions and suggestions, you’re gonna run into a lot of conflicting ideas and directions. And if you’re ever going to finish revisions, you have to choose which one to go with.

Note that in the last two sentences, I used gonna and going to interchangeably. Which should I go with? That depends. “Gonna” is way informal—it’s also the way most people talk. “Going to” is grammatically correct and the more formal of the two. They both mean the same thing. They both have their share of fans and detractors.

How do I choose? Do I even need to choose? Once again, the answer is: It depends. Some people want the consistency of a single choice. Other people will tell you consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

So again, I ask you: Which one should I go with? What criteria should I judge them by? Am I annoyingly obvious enough yet?

My muse just said yes and threw a book at me. I better wrap this up before she really starts to rock and roll.

Rhythm in writing is the thing that should guide your choices when it comes to writing and revisions. Not rules, not other people’s opinions, not even necessarily grammar. It’s the music the words make when you read them. It’s the unspoken language of your characters and your muse—who I hope is nicer than mine.

Otherwise, you’re just one of those annoying people who sing off-key and don’t get the lyrics right.

It’s the difference between vintage Dr. Seuss and a hallmark card that’s trying way too hard to be clever.

Hum along if you know the words.

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