So… ready for the beta readers? Not quite. Someone on G+ linked to a post by Hugh Howey, in which he talks about the three things required for engaging prose. Two of them (vocabulary and a plot that people will care about) seemed self-evident to me, but “an ear for the rhythm of words” stuck out as something new. Or maybe not so much new as “aha!” You see, my partner in co-op +Angela Kulig has it. It comes natural to her, and it sets her work apart. She claims to be a lousy writer, and denies my opinion that she’s a very good storyteller, but her books read like poetry. There’s that rhythm of words, that I instinctively try to not mess up when I edit her books.
Howey has a lot to say about rhythm, but I wanted to quote this part:
Rhythm requires mixing up long sentences and short. It requires repetition, so that key concepts are stressed a second time, that they may lodge in the brain. It often means breaking rules and dropping commas where they don’t belong, signaling to the reader to take a breath, to pause, to relax, to prepare for more to come.I often abuse punctuation when I’m writing dialog. When my characters are talking, I’ll sprinkle commas, ellipses, and em dashes as I see fit—I use them to set the pace of the dialog, to try to plant the rhythm of the character’s speech in the reader’s head. Editors go nuts when we do that kind of thing, though.
So what-all does this have to do with my self-edit? Easy: I’m going to go through the printed MSS one more time, looking for that rhythm of words. Then… it’s beta time!