Do you hear the music in your writing? I’ve finished another round of red-pencil editing on my manuscript and next week I’ll start a read through. This time I’ll be reading aloud and recording it. Yes, I know, novels and short stories aren’t usually read aloud, but the voice in our heads is not really silent as we read. It picks up the rhythm, the music in the writing.
The sentence beats are what I listen for when I read my work aloud. Sometimes, I sense that a line is not working, but don’t know why until I hear it read. Often, the problem is that the sentence has one or two syllables too many or too few—one word—throwing off the rhythm.
Sometimes, it’s not the number of syllables that makes the sentence awkward, but the syntax. In those cases, often just a reordering of words or clauses frees the rhythm.
Another thing to consider is punctuation. Pauses are beats too. Sometimes a comma added here, or removed there provides the sound you’re after. A semi-colon might provide the continuation of flow that pleases your ear. Or possibly the removal of one gives the staccato effect needed in this part of your story.
So, listen for beats as you write because when a sentence trips up the tongue it also dances clumsily on the page.
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