The Rhythm Method

 

Recently traveling, socializing and visiting with family, I wasn’t able write as frequently as desired. I didn’t think that would be an issue. I’ve developed a source of pride about being able to sit down and write anywhere. I learned, yes, and no. After thinking more, I recognized that I follow the Rhythm Method.

There are a few easy steps to my process.

  1. Deep thinking.
  2. Realization and visualization.
  3. Writing in my head.
  4. Typing and editing.
  5. Editing, revising and expanding.
  6. Repeat

What I learned during these past few weeks is that if I’ve accomplished steps one and two, I can do three, four and five. Those first two steps are most critical to my entire process.

Deep thinking. This is all about connecting the dots by reviewing what I’ve written and what I expect to write, and discovering plot holes, new directions, and character issues. I usually do this while I’m walking or doing mundane chores, like yard-work or washing and waxing the car. It’s personal and private; others’ presence tends to mute it, although it will come alive while reading, or watching movies or television shows. Traveling with my significant other and visiting with family kept this repressed.

Realization and visualization. Deep thinking is significantly abstract. It can revolve around a setting, character’s appearance, plot twist or concept. Becoming a compilation of thoughts, ideas and insights, more concrete understanding emergences. From those come sentences, scenes, paragraphs and descriptions. I leap into the next step.

Writing in my head. Some people call this phantom writing, but writing in my head is my preferred expression. At this point, my understanding of what’s to come is so solid that I begin seeing it in a finished book. It’s a strange and eerie experience. My wife once read to me a quote from someone that said that everything that’s created already exists; we’re just creating it for this life experience. In this phase of the Rhythm Method, I can seriously believe and accept that.

Typing and editing. This is the easy stuff of ‘writing like crazy’. I just let it pour out, trying to faithfully capture what I glimpsed on those pages when I was writing in my head. The essence is most critical. Spelling, grammar, pacing, character traits, and details are all shoved aside to stalk and bring in the essence of the scene. Once I have that, I can return to fix all the rest.

Editing, revising and expanding. This is a deeper follow-up to typing and editing. Often when I finish with the previous phase, I recognize that some decisions I made will affect chapters and scenes previously written. I’ll make notes to vet that belief and fix it. Sometimes more detailed research is required for verisimilitude. That happens in this phase. I’m always on alert in this phase to make the writing active and to eliminate clichés. I’ve also learned that while writing like crazy, I have a habit of telling what I see, and then realizing it and describing it, so I’ll go in to ensure I’m showing and not telling, and eliminate redundacies.

Repeat. Yep, do it all again. My writing process is organic. It often isn’t linear. I’ll usually realize more critical scenes early, scenes that define the essence and tone of the book. Then I’ll need to add bridge scenes. Sometimes I’ll uncover a plot twist. I’ll write it to keep it alive and fresh, but then need to go back in and add the pivot points to help the reader get from there to here. I also tend to write fast, and realize that I like more depth and detail to what I’m reading, so returning to the rhythm Method, I’ll begin with some deep thinking about the characters’ lives and motivations.

My favorite part of all this is that typing and editing phase but the entire process excites me. The first steps are about creativity and problem solving. It is fun. But typing and editing makes it real. Editing, revising and expanding turns it into a draft manuscript. Repeat it enough, and I’ll end up with a novel or short story.

And that’s what is most rewarding.

What of you, writers?

How do you write?

Today’s Theme Music

I moved in with Dad in nineteen seventy-one. I was fifteen. He was in the U.S. Air Force, and had returned from Vietnam by way of Germany (where he had a gorgeous blue Mustang convertible). Now assigned to DESC, Wright-Pat AFB provided administrative support. We lived on Page Manor military base housing.

That lasted about three months. Presented with an opportunity and having his years in, Dad retired from the Air Force. We moved to southern West Virginia. After moving into a place, it burned down. If we didn’t lose our possessions to fire, we lost them to smoke and water damage. He and I spent a month living in a friend’s home but it was small and cramped. Unable to find anything else, Dad bought a seventy-foot long, fourteen foot wide mobile home and rented a space in Doy Mobile Home Park.

In retrospect, Dad lived through an interesting period then. He re-married when I was sixteen, almost seventeen. New offspring soon followed. Graduating high-school, and with a second child on the way to join Dad’s household, I joined the military and left.

Dad had two young sons by the year’s end. One of them was killed in a car accident. The loss destroyed his marriage. He ended up having an affair with a co-worker. Her marriage was disintegrating. Her husband was already suffering emotional issues, and committed suicide. Dad moved in with the widow. That all took place in a six year run.

From that era comes a song that makes me laugh. Ranked as one of the greatest pop songs of all time, it came out in nineteen seventy-two. Carly Simon’s song, You’re So Vain’, stays in conversations about who the song is about. She’s given clues. Others claim she’s confided in them. Men like Warren Beatty insisted the song was about him.

Whatever. Here it is.

Catscort

Catscort (definition): a cat or group of cats accompanying someone as they walk around.

“Catscorted by his three felines and Alexander (a handsome ginger and cream long-haired tom who lived in another house in the cul-de-sac), Michael strolled around the quiet block after the sun had set and the day had cooled.”

The Hair

He’d had enough.

Although he’d been born on this head, the neighborhood was changing. White, silver and gray hairs were moving in. The whole area was becoming less populated. It used to be that he was shoulder to shoulder with other brown hair shafts; no more. Hairs he’d known since roothood, hairs like Curt, Lee, Manny, Seb, and Montel, were gone. All that remained were the pretty girls on the sides, a few of the unruly boys who lived on the back, and the cowlick kids. But, while he knew of them, he rarely came into contact with them. They were hairs, and like him, but they weren’t really friends.

Migrating to somewhere else was naturally his first thought. He considered the ears but it wasn’t nearly as tidy around the ears. He’d heard that the pubic area was often hot and humid, and hair still thrived there, but was also usually dark. The pubs rarely saw the sun. So, after deep meditation and contemplation about his life, he said good-bye to his follicle and made the leap into the basin.

Catmors

Catmors is the result of a feline jumping or running on an object, such as a bed, sofa or body part, sending vibrations through the surface. Example: “Catmors by his feet awoke Michael. He knew from the subsequent quick gentle steps along the ridge of his legs that Quinn was joining him.”

Writing Past a Problem

Lev’s post mirrors my own. My subconscious mind is often working to further develop characters and ideas. I’ve learned this about myself, and will, as Lev did, let it go from my conscious thinking. The biggest take from this is that I need to avoid trying to overanalyze or think through the problem, because that will often build dams that will stymie me.

A Writer's Path

by Lev Raphael

Working on my most recently published book, I ran into a significant problem.  To move the novel forward, I needed my protagonist to have a confrontation with a minor character.  I knew what this woman’s role was in the book and how she drove the plot forward.

But the woman herself was a blank.  I had no idea what she looked like, what she sounded like, what kind of house she had.  None of that was real.  And so I did when I’ve learned to do after many years as an author: I let go.  Consciously, that is.

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Today’s Theme Music

I’m still streaming from my childhood years in the Pittsburgh area today. This one came out while I live in Penn Hills. Those days were filled with school and snow activities in the winter, and sports and friends just about every day. When the sun heated the days into the eighties and nineties in the summer, Penn Hills was a gorgeous backdrop to growing up. Baseball was our big thing. With Maz, Steve Blass, Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Manny Sanguillen, Richie Hebner, Al Oliver, Manny Alou, and big Dave Parker, the Pirates under Danny Murtaugh had become a force. The Steelers’ emergence remained a few years away.

The era’s music seemed customized for our lives. This song, ‘Psychedelic Shack’, by the Temptations, is from nineteen seventy. The lyrics are easy to learn and the beat carries me like a wave.

Catalogical

Catalogical (definition): the order in which activities must be planned and completed to appease a household’s feline masters.

In use: “Michael didn’t want to arise early, but once he rose, the first order of business was to feed to cat. Even body functions had to wait until the cats were fed, unless he was willing to endure some nips to his ankles and fury bodies attempting to get on his lap.”

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