1. waitingforzion

    waitingforzion Banned

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    Even when trying to write clearly, not aiming for cadence, I have problems with flow.

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by waitingforzion, Jan 9, 2018.

    I was revising something I wrote, but even though I was not aiming for any special rhythmic effects, I could not get the words to flow. One part of a sentence read, after one revision, "Whenever I try to write something....", (that might even have been in the original draft), which I think does not flow. It would be better, perhaps, if I could replace "something" with a different word to make it sound stronger.

    Unfortunately, I seem to be having trouble maintaining a consistent style throughout my revision, one that flows. It does not have to have any special rhythmic effects, but it still needs to flow. I seem to be struggling to phrase things in a strong way whose sound fits in with the rest of my work.

    Moreover, the very phrase "Whenever I try to write something", seems to be simple minded. It seems to something that a person struggling to use language might write.

    I don't think this post is violating any rules about putting posts for critique only in the critique forums because this post pertains to one simple phrase and is more about flow in general than any particular words.

    What do you think I should do in order to make my words flow? I cannot always keep the wording in my rough draft, though it might flow, because sometimes it is messy and verbose, even though they might sound more natural. They are not suitable for a final draft.

    I have abandoned aiming for special rhythmic effects for now and started focusing on clarity, but I am not able to feel satisfied with words that don't flow, even if they are clear. I have been reading a book, "Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace", which I started reading after my most recent failure with getting words to flow, and I have realizing there are many things I forgot and never applied since the last time I read it.

    What I don't get is why some prose seems to flow so well when a simple attempt to write clearly often produces prose that doesn't. Do you think the phrase, "Whenever I try to write something" flows, or the phrase "Whenever I try to write something with cadence"? I think the second is even worse. But I don't know if by commenting on that you would be a violating the forum rules, so in your response please be mindful of that.

    For some reason I don't find those phrases as awful sounding as I did yesterday or the day before. But in some places in my revision, there are sentences that just don't seem to flow.

    Also, I seem to be struggling to avoid aiming for a special rhythmic effect.

    I guess I just want my writing to be sonorous, even when not trying to emulate a particular style.

    So what is your opinion of this?
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2018
  2. Earp

    Earp Contributor Contributor

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    My opinion is: the fact that you are still here is a testament to the patience and forbearance of the members and moderators. I'm a member of several Internet forums, and I've seen my share of trolls, but you, sir, are in a class by yourself. You've been a member here for over seven years and persist in asking essentially the same question in post after post. The members here, including me, have been indulgent in trying to address your question(s) with cogent advice, all of which you ignore. If there were a troll Hall of Fame, I'd be eager to vote for you.. Bravo, sir! Bravissimo!
     
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  3. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor Contest Winner 2022

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    "Something" is poisonous. (I use it all the time, I think it's, like, eighties-speak, or whatever?) You are literally saying "some thing" as in "a noun." So it's a mere placeholder. Now, that has its uses, but you're right to be nervous by it. Good writing is direct. You want it weaving and punching hard, not throwing half-hearted jabs.

    (I always search for "thing" at the end of a piece to see what can be swept off the page. Not all of them go, but there's usually some.)

    It's okay depending on what comes next. If you really want to tear it apart, look at these issues:
    • Whenever --> a vague time
    • try to --> not actually doing, just an attempt
    • something --> a noun
    So, IMO, that phrase is soft, squishy in what it's attempting. Soft phrases have their place, but if it's the anchor of your sentence, it won't have impact. It's like getting hit with a marshmallow. Now look at this little adjustment.

    When I write, there's no cadence.
    Two clauses, equally weighted (not always good, but nothing's absolute). The first is very simple and immediate. The second is using an interesting word. Just looking at lexiles, the sentence goes from dead simple to moderately complex. It moves from single syllable to multi-syllable. It's linked with cause and effect (In the order the actions happen too, which is always nice. It's better than "There's no cadence when I write." Depending on the surrounding text, of course. One line doesn't have a comma, so it has a different strength.)

    This starts to feel like an auctioneer. Right? That's not necessarily worth fixing, but as an example, it's one long clause without pause built with three multi-syllable words. Look how the ideas connect:

    Whenever | I try | to write something | with cadence . . .​

    So all the pieces stretch out an idea. One easy fix/example is:

    When I try | to write words | with cadence |, they slip | from the page.
    But I have to warn you, this isn't a first draft goal. If you invest too much in a first-draft sentence, you won't be able to let go of it. It's worse than a darling; it's a spoiled child. And when you edit anything around it, it causes a problem too. Like ripples across the pond. You'll never finish.

    Variation should be your highest goal. There are hidden meters in the writing, but you're talking mechanics below the structure. I know some authors, Peter Straub, I believe (?), mix in iambic pentameter and such. Which is too fancy for me. But he was a poet before he was a writer. I try to do the same too (measuring a very deliberate cadence), but very rarely. I have a flash piece posted here that ends with it, somewhere . . .

    Which reminds me. Check out this article. I wish it were longer . . . (Excerpt):

    Rhythm may be obvious in a poem and not so obvious when it comes to fiction. How do you hear the rhythm when writing fiction? The same way one does when writing poetry. Read the piece out loud. Get into the habit of doing this. Look for the ebb and flow. If you do, it will help to carry the reader away on your words. By the way, it will help you with your public performances.

    Rhythm is just one component that goes into a poem or a piece of fiction. As a fiction writer you already know what the other elements are that must be in your fiction – plot, setting, character, crisis, resolution, etc. But, the question which comes at some point is, whether you write fiction or poetry, “Is this any good?”

    First of all, I would like to suggest that the use of the terms good and bad, works or doesn’t work, get dropped from the vocabulary. These are value judgements which sidetrack the discussion into the realm of personal taste. You can spend a lot of time in that realm and get no useful information about the writing.​

    I mentioned ebb and flow to you earlier . . .

    I don't think anyone has suggested this to you yet, but go find the poets who switched to prose. They write with rhythm and they definitely have flow.

    Here's some. http://lithub.com/seven-great-novels-written-by-poets/
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2018
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  4. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    My below is (I think) not snark. I realize that pointing to snarkiness feels snarky, but since I have often been snarky in response to your posts, I wanted to give a sort of anti-warning.

    I think that some of your problem is a distrust of simplicity. "Whenever I try to write something..." is a perfectly clean, clear, simple phrase.

    You could make it even simpler, trimming it down to "When I try to write..." Does that feel any more comfortable?

    Flow is not a matter of single sentences, but of, at a minimum, paragraphs. Words in one sentence are remembered, and may echo or repeat or contrast with words in another sentence. Similarly, phrase and sentence structures may echo or contrast. I think that it's a mistake to spend time on flow until you're working with at least two or three paragraphs.

    Maybe that could be your compromise between an entire unedited first draft, and struggling with each sentence as you draft it? Since paragraphs are of varying length, you could require yourself to write at least, say, one hundred words before you allow yourself to then edit for flow.

    They don't sound awful. They sound fine. And that's one argument for letting your first draft sit for a while before you edit it. By 'first draft' I don't necessarily mean thousands of words--your first draft might be, again, a hundred words.

    One possible exercise: Write one hundred words on Day 1, and don't edit them. On Day 2, write another hundred words, then edit the words from Day 1. Repeat, each day editing the previous day's words and writing new words to edit tomorrow.

    And while I don't understand the thing where you type some published author's words into your computer, it might be an exercise worth trying, because you will experience typing clean, clear sentences that you know were regarded as good enough to be published.
     
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  5. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin A tombstone hand and a graveyard mind Staff Supporter Contributor

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    You'd think that people would stop engaging by now, but, hey, it takes two (or twelve) to tango, right?
     
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  6. Earp

    Earp Contributor Contributor

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    Yeah, the only thing I can think of is that we must have a lot of educators here, and teachers gonna teach, even if the student isn't paying attention.
     
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  7. waitingforzion

    waitingforzion Banned

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    Both you and Seven Crowns have given me some good advice.

    It's not that I distrust simplicity, (this is not meant to be in an argumentative tone), but that I want to use more sonorous phrasing. The problem is, I forget to keep my phrasing simple when I try to revise it to give it a certain sound. But I managed to write simple, poetically rhythmic prose about five years ago, which had things like metaphors, similes, and parallelism. Since I don't feel like duplicating what I did, (and I lost most of it unfortunately), I often don't even bother with those things.

    But I know that I should focus on writing a rough draft, whether 100 words or longer, and then revise it. And I could probably attempt style in the rough draft as long as I don't get stuck on it. I would simply have to move on from sentences that are imperfect, and perfect them in subsequent drafts. I think one of my problems is that I have felt like if I couldn't do something using only one method, I could not get started on it. I felt like like I could not write an imperfect rough draft and attempt style at the same time. So I thought writing a rough draft was like free writing, and was supposed to produce the biggest mess possible. And for this reason I thought I could not take time to write down my thoughts with any kind of structure or progression. But I suppose now that a rough draft is simply an imperfect version of a good attempt at writing a structured piece, which the author does not get stuck on perfecting.

    As for what the others said, I am not trolling. I have a hard time following the advice that those on this forum give me, because I am so used to doing things a certain way, and I have doubts about whether I can do something the way that people here advice me to, and I often forget what the advice was.
     
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  8. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Dude you've been asking the same question for 9 years pretty much - if you've forgotten you could go back to any of the other the threads to check.

    This is your first ever thread on the forum from 2009 https://www.writingforums.org/threads/questions-about-writing.27465/ which asks and answers essentially the same question you are asking here.

    On point shifting your focus from cadence to "sonorous phrasing" misses the point -first you need to learn to write with clarity before you start complicating the job by focusing on style.

    In regard of revising as you write there's no problem with this so long as it doesn't become procrastination - I revise as i write but I don't revise one paragraph over and over without writing anything else, there comes a point at which you have to accept that its not perfect and move on content in the knowledge that i'll be coming back to revise again, that it will go to beta readers and to an editor before it hits the public

    On the question of how you improve Wrey answered that all those years ago, and it still germane today

     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2018
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  9. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I think, in essence, you've articulated the key to this issue, really. You will eventually get stuck into attempting to perfect your work BUT only after the first draft is finished! Get your ideas and flow of events into physical form. Get them written and completed.

    In order to improve something, you need raw materials to start with. And the raw material for writers is not what they have in their heads—we've all got ideas, haven't we?—but what a writer actually gets down on paper (or the electronic equivalent.)

    Trying to polish something without writing it first is like trying to sculpt a statue of an elephant in your head. It might be an idea, but it's not a sculpture till you have a block of wood (or lump of clay) in the real world. Then, as the saying goes, you start chipping off bits that aren't elephant, or adding bits that are. Don't get fixated on perfecting the 'trunk' when the eyes, ears, body, feet and tail are still stuck in the block of wood or haven't been created in clay yet. Get the whole elephant roughed out, and you may surprise yourself at how much fun the polishing stage can be.

    You might also surprise yourself by finding hidden meanings and themes in what you've written as well. Things you didn't start out thinking about. Presumably your work will have content as well as form.

    If writing sonorous prose is what you want to do, by all means do it. But you shouldn't be skipping the initial stage, which is to get the rough, imperfect stuff DONE, so you've got a framework that is more than just an idea. Then start shaping it to suit you! You're tackling something that's an unusual challenge, and it will not be easy. But it's a worthy goal, so keep at it. Don't worry if other people don't necessarily share your goal. It's your art, and nobody else's. Good luck! :)

    And keep in mind that very few of us are ever totally satisfied with our writing outcomes. There is always room for improvement, something that can be changed, something that can be added or taken away. You can spend your life chasing perfection and never get there. Nothing is ever absolutely perfect. Hang that homily on your wall! And then move towards perfection. It will be a direction you travel, not an outcome you will actually achieve. Just try to enjoy the journey, and make it enjoyable for your readers as well.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2018
  10. Kenosha Kid

    Kenosha Kid Active Member

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    Bloody good post! I agree 100%. I think maybe the OP could ask themselves when "perfecting" a sentence the criteria of the perfection they are striving for.

    If the thing isn't yet written, it is harder to say "This is the perfect sentence to convey X", since X is subject to further definition.

    And if you're just trying to write a perfect sentence in a vacuum you're wasting your time showing off and it's likely to come across that way.

    The sculpture analogy is extremely well-described and apt. I need to bookmark this somewhere to inspire sanity checks when I'm down the rabbit hole.
     

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