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?


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