Make your words work

This is a title of a book by Gary Provost. No, I don't know who he is, however, I did find a passage - which I found interesting - attributed to that book. I have requested a copy from the library. It deals with varying sentence lentgh to create rhythm in writing:

This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It's like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety.

Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length.

And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals -- sounds that say listen to this, it is important.


You can also find some interesting cached writing materials here. From what I understand, they are now collected in a book called Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer - they are no longer available directly from his website, but the originals are still available from the wayback machine archives (use the first link provided to access the materials, though some articles are not in the archive).

Comments

It's funny how I used to teach all this stuff to Gr. 6/7 as well as younger grades, but sometimes forget to use it in my own writing! Thanks for the reminder!
It does make such a difference to the musicality of language.
Coffee fairy said…
I find this very interesting. Thanks for sharing.
Barbara said…
I find this so very interesting. I try not to use the same word repeatedly and to obey the rules of spelling of grammar as much as possible and not to use passive voice when I can use active voice, but other than that I don't have many guidelines. I like the idea of writing being musical.
b said…
This is great. I really want to get a copy of this, as I certainly want to dive back into creative writing once I finish grad school. An interesting exercise would be to go back through my blog and other writing and examine how much/how little I vary my sentence length!
I liked it.
I liked it a lot.
I liked this post so much that I read it twice, maybe three times, before posting this comment!

Music.
John said…
You even had five comments.. oh... I just ruined that didn't I! Enjoyed the music.
freckled-one said…
The amount of words in a sentence never really occurred to me. It's so true. The right orchestra of words can create music.
vina said…
there's music.
and there's life.

such as in life, there has to be music to keep us going.

have a great weekend tito richard!
Richard said…
MOI: It is something I came across that I had never heard before. There are lots of writing "tools", rules, and guides.

coffee fairy: glad you found it interesting. It always makes me happy when I share something someone finds interesting, rather than dull and boring.

Barbara: there are lots of "rules" about good writing. I try not to think about them, otherwise I wouldn't be able to - I would be too busy second guessing myself. However, it is always nice to get different perspectives and ideas. I suppose we only consider things like poems to be musical.

breal: go for it - I certainly did. I think overly technical analysis of what we write is pointless, however, critical analysis is not. Anything which improves our writing is good.

run around paris: I think you have a future writing Dr. Seuss type stories.

john: five comments, six comments, seven comments, more. Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

freckled-one: it hadn't occurred to me either. Normally we are taught to write short sentences with simple words (not that I follow this advice).

vina: I will try to have a great weekend. Life needs variety and so does writing.
Steve said…
1. I'm copying that right now!
2. Run Around Paris knows how to make me laugh.

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