'What does Rhythm in Writing Mean?' expands on the top tip in Writer's Connect newsletter Issue 59.
So what does rhythm have to do with writing, you ask? Much more than you think! Rhythm is what separates good writing from great writing. It is the heartbeat and the engine of every story that has ever had you on the edge of your seat.
What wizardry is at work to make your heart pound so? All of this and more is revealed below!
Writing Has Rhythm, Whether You Realise It Or Not
The sense for rhythm in writing is innate. It's what makes you read faster in moments of tension; what conveys the tone and intent of a character's words, even without actions or attributions.
Short, sharp sentences demand attention. They waste no time. Like it or not, you'll rush right through them.
Longer sentences that move swiftly through an action and then transition into a second—maybe even a third—can have the same effect. You don't know where they're taking you, but wherever it is, you want to find out, and fast.
Few things speak louder than a single-sentence paragraph.
Rhythm is a big part of what determines whether a reader continues reading. Unless you're an absolute natural, if you're not thinking about the rhythm of your writing, you might be hitting all the wrong notes without even realising it!
How To Feel The Rhythm In Writing
The secret to accessing the rhythm in your writing lies in your inner voice. Even when you aren't reading aloud, your 'voice' is hard at work in your head. Everything you read gets filtered through it. Because of this, it's extremely important that you understand how your writing sounds when it's read aloud.
You don't have to be the world's greatest orator to know whether a sentence sounds natural or not. Unfortunately, how a sentence looks when written is not always the best indicator of how it sounds when spoken. You might be surprised to find that even your punchiest one-liners sound terribly awkward when repeated out loud.
Because rhythm in writing is such an intuition-based practice, it's a difficult concept to communicate, let alone teach. In this case, the best teacher is awareness. Think about where your writing pauses, stutters, or accelerates, and what effects those things have on the narrative.
Most importantly of all: read like a writer! Whenever you find yourself feeling swept away by another author's work, analyse the structure of their sentences and paragraphs, and see if you can't emulate it in your own practice.
Help! I Think I Might Be Tone-Deaf!
If, no matter how closely you listen to your writing, you just can't seem to feel the beat ... visit our book coaching and writing programs to see how we can help!
Word of the Day
If you are aghast, you are shocked or amazed—and not at all in a pleasant way! Aghast is a word you might use to describe someone who has just witnessed something terrible, or received some particularly bad news.
She was aghast when she learned the dark truth of her family's history.
"Everything has rhythm. Everything dances."
~ Maya Angelou
A selection of current writing competitions YOU can enter!
A NOTE ON WRITING COMPETITIONS
Before you go all-in on an entry for any of the above competitions, it's highly recommended that you look over the fine print to make sure that your submission qualifies and you're happy with the terms of engagement.
To help yourself make an informed decision, the Australian Society of Authors has a highly informative post on their website called 'What to look for in a writing competition's T&Cs' .