Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Learning the Rhythm of Writing

The Musical Sounds of Writing
Every writer has their own rhythm that flows through a story like the beat in a song. It is hard to define rhythm is as it is more than good grammar or sentence construction. Here are a few tips on how to listen for rhythm and improve it.

Read a Paragraph out Loud
Take a piece of your writing and read it out loud. Listen to where the emphasis falls and how the sentences fit together. Does it flow easily or does it have a beat? Does it sound like a love song or a politician’s speech? There is room for many different rhythms in writing and it helps to be able to identify them.

Vary Sentence Length
New writers often make the mistake of writing extra long sentences. These can often be improved by trimming words or making them into two sentences. A story that is comprised of similar length sentences will often sound boring as the rhythm is limited. Use short and longer sentences and don’t be afraid of sentence fragments. The grammar checker may object to them but fragments can be an effective writing tool.

Consider the Genre of the Writing
Different genres often work well with certain types of rhythm. Romance lends itself to a light tone that flows easily. Suspense and drama work better with a shorter sharper construction that creates expectancy. Read other writers’ work out loud to see what kind of rhythm they have created and try and imitate it.

Use Punctuation Wisely
Punctuation can add to or detract from rhythm. A carefully placed comma, dash or exclamation mark can add to the cadence of a piece of writing.

Just as a song is appealing because of its rhythm, a style of writing can be popular because of the way it flows and moves the story along. Improved rhythm comes with practice so work on it and note how other writers use it. This can be a daily process when reading a devotion, a newspaper article or a magazine. Find out what rhythm you use naturally and then work on improving it.

Debbie Roome works as a freelance writer from her home in New Zealand. Visit her at Debbie Roome or read some of her work at Suite 101 , Take Root and Write and Faithwriters.