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Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Writing Wibbles

With the weekend came February, and with February came time to re-open that first draft of Into the Icebound that had been waiting patiently for my gentle editing touch (and all the things I thought about and had written down in the last month). I found a few problems, mainly with timelines, and a few minor things. I then printed the sucker out, and read it through over lunch and into the evening on Tuesday. And, of course, I found a few more things.

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!


  1. Well done you to get to the editing again. I do think dialogue has to have a natural rhythm, you have to say to yourself, would they really say that in real life, make it real and it feels right. ^_^ I'm lucky dialogue has never been my 'Achilles heel' - however general grammar is ^_^

  2. You should have headlined this post 'The Rhythm Method.' Imagine your site visits then...

  3. The rhythm of language is essential to me. It's a chore to read anything longer than a couple paragraphs that doesn't do this kind of work, which is the fundamental work of making prose percolate in the mind.

    Still haven't read Howey, though...

  4. I admit, I skimmed that post, but I got the gist and it was thoughtful and made me think (Ow my head XD)


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