Literary Intentions 
Since I’ve become a mother, I don’t have the time  I once had for reading. I love to abandon my day in a wonderful adventure. And, if I want to succeed as a writer, it is crucial I study others. But it seems like each time I grab a book and snuggle into the sofa pillows, one of my little rugrats starts screaming, needs his boogers wiped, or must tell me the coolest thing ever right that very minute. Who can say no to ‘the coolest thing ever’? Not this girl. So, I inevitably toss the book aside and take care of my kids or my husband, who thankfully wipes his own boogers.

I started listening to audio books several years ago to help me sleep, because just like all the above daytime distractions, nighttime is not immune to drama. Both my children talk in their sleep, and my oldest and most sensitive child seems to have more bad dreams than she should.

After jumping full time into writing and critiquing, I’ve noticed a lack of attention to the sound of a novel—the rhythms and beats our words create. I don’t have a lot of time, plus I’m an impatient reader. If the novel sounds bumpy, I struggle. If it feels like a play by play, my mind wanders. But if the novel flows, has a rhythm to it, even if there are plot problems I will stick to it, hoping the writer comes through for me.

We’re told as writers to avoid using dialogue tags as much as possible except for “said.” The theory is that the eye simply passes it by; readers are immune to it. I have a problem with that theory because if you listen to audio books, you definitely hear it—like a thud. Passive voice also carries a heavy sound as well as the overuse of adverbs. (Some adverbs can enhance the sound with the right placement, but I’m on the side of deleting as many as you can.)

When I start revising my work in progress, I spend a great deal of time making sure I avoid the thud. Do I have too many coordinating conjunctions? Do I vary my sentence length? Have I placed my speech tags appropriately or avoided them all together?

A reader’s eye may pass by an annoying speech tag, passive voice, or see the artfulness of a stack of sentence fragments, but will a listener’s ear be as forgiving?

It’s important we not only give our writing a visual run through, but we need to take the time to read it aloud, imagining how it would sound as an audio book. Then, like a good steak, a manuscript needs rest.

After a period of time (I suggest no less than a few weeks), go back to it, but switch the font. I write my first draft in Arial and then switch to Times New Roman; it’s amazing what that does. The time away and different visual look will help our eyes see simple problems we missed before and our mind to turn off its autocorrect button.

One of my critique partners has developed a wonderful rhythm to her work. I liken it to a rolling hill. She gently pulls me along and just when I think I’m at the bottom, she guides me up for more. Granted, a rolling hill doesn’t necessarily make a sound, but when paired with narrative and dialogue, it most certainly does. She pays attention to sentence structure and the voices of her characters. Not every scene has a rolling hill feel, but the manuscript is drenched in sound and rhythm.

Does your writing have a cadence? A thunderstorm? A wave? Do you read your work aloud as you’re revising?


02/05/2011 10:10pm

I read my stuff out loud. I have to otherwise I feel like I'm missing a lot of problems. Love the post! Keep up the good work, even if you have a hard time with it between kids and everything else life throws at you!

04/01/2011 1:40am

He has made his weapons his gods.

01/25/2012 11:03pm

will return soon

01/28/2012 7:36pm

nice post

03/23/2012 4:04pm

Appreciate your info

04/19/2012 8:59am

Great info, thanks

05/31/2012 1:11am

you could be right in all that article

09/21/2012 5:54am



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    My name is Diana (a.k.a DS Tracy) I am a wife, mother,  and wannabe writer. One day, I hope to delete the wannabe part--no one likes a poser!  

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