Wednesday, March 26, 2014

"The Music Of The Write" *


*  A rhyming allusion to the signature tune from “Phantom of the Opera” serving no discernible purpose beyond the inexplicable amusement of the writer.

A while back, in the context of beating myself up for being unable to deliver up a novel, I wrote about the necessity – in whatever I do write – to continually look for improvements, in my relentless pursuit of communicational perfection. 

(This assiduous effort presupposes, as with the “Indisputable Truth” I am always looking for and shall write again about shortly, that a “communicational perfection” actually exists and it is only for me to connect with it.  A supposition that may ultimately prove incorrect.  In both cases.)

As then mentioned, a considerable amount of my rewriting involves deleting words and phrases I put in the first time, inserting in their place what I now believe are more accurate replacements.  Sometimes my most successful alternatives do not appear until my third, or possibly fourth, revision.  And then I smile, as only one can when their “Loftiest Purpose” has been rewardingly achieved.

After which I immediately start wondering if I could not possibly have done better.

Beyond the words – and you might think that, in writing, there is nothing beyond the words but you’d be wrong – there is another essential task that must be performed in the process of communicating on paper to strangers.  (And I consider this to be “communicating on paper.”) 

After the words – or, more accurately, correlative with the words…

Comes the music.

Hey, Earlo, are you writing songs here and we don’t know about it?

Precisely.  (And, if not songs, he bragged not entirely comfortably, some subspecies of poetry.)

I have previously mentioned that one of the smartest things I have ever said – and it arrived “in the moment”, rather than two days later when I belatedly thought of it – occurred when a writer-colleague once inquired, “Sometimes you say, when a joke is pitched:  ‘Too many words.’  What do you mean by ‘It’s too many words’?” 

I instantaneously, responded to this query by singing the iconic opening to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, but deliberately adding an extra note, so that, when I sang it, it came out, “Dah-dah-dah-dah-dahhhhh!

My point being – it’s not as good.

In retrospect, I was not actually talking about “too many words.”  I was, in fact, referring to too many beats.

So that’s another thing I do in the rewrite.  Rereading what I have written, I examine the rhythm of every sentence, excising beats when there are too many of them, and adding beats when there aren’t enough of them. 

(I realize this process is subjective, but, lacking information about you, I must proceed as if my rhythm were universal.  Well, not “universal.”  But at least culturally in sync.)

Writing is not exclusively about content or the language you use to express that content.  A book is often enjoyable to read because it hits the ear – you see the words with your eyes, but you absorb them with your ears – in some a viscerally satisfying manner.  The material “dances its way in”, so to speak.

I can’t tell you how many books I’ve encountered whose subject matter appealed to me enormously, but whose writing style, auditorally, resembled a rocky ride on a bumpy road.  Despite my acknowledged interest in the content, I was finally unable to stay with it.  To me, it was a literary cacophony. 

The possibility exists, when I am writing my sentences the first time around, that I will be “off” with some of my cadences, my primary focus at that point being attending to the content.  Upon rereading, however, every sentence is accorded meticulous scrutiny for “rhythmical deficiency.” 

You cannot believe how many “it’s” I change to “it is”, and how many “I’m’s” become “I am”, all in the service of “mellifluous flow.”  If, however, upon further revision, I should add a “replacement word” that increases the sentence load by one syllable, I immediately revert back to the earlier contraction, so that the “beat allocation” remains aggregationally unaltered.

Does this all seem obsessive to you?  (Keep in mind I have a lot of time on my hands.)

Inevitably, my rewriting involves additions for comprehension, and deletions if it gets dull.  But I must also adhere to my “Inner Time Keeper” that keeps me ineluctably “on measure.”  

(“Ineluctably” is another example of my “rhythm obsession.”  I was not sure what “ineluctably” meant, but I knew it was “metrically perfect” for the sentence.   Sometimes, I employ such words as a bookmark, changing them later for a word whose meaning is actually appropriate.   In subsequent drafts, “ineluctably ‘on measure’” could easily surrender its spot to “inescapably ‘on measure’”, a more appropriate word with a duplicate number of syllables.) 

(I once wrote about the purgatorial existence of all the words that the writers take out.  I don’t know, do they feel like the “Fifth Beatle” who almost made it, but at the last minute, disappointedly missed the cut?)

So that’s a little secret about a less generally known concern writers think about when they’re revising.  It is possible some writers pull this off “on the fly” – they are spontaneously rhythmical on their very first try.  For me, however, there is a substantial component of post facto revisionizing, wherein I am on guard for superfluous notes to take out, and for previously unnoticed “bridging notes” that need adding.  

And then the thing’s perfect.

Till I read it again.

Was that at all interesting?  I hope so.  But you can never know for sure.
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In keeping with my "more responsive to my readers" M.O., the mysterious "Anonymous" inquired what my blog platform is.  I believe it is called "Blogspot." Although, in truth, I did not set this up myself.  Ken Levine, of bykenlevine.com fame, did.  So if you are looking for certainty in this matter, it might be best to check with him about it.  But thank you for asking.  And feel free to ask more questions about whose answers I am not entirely certain.  I sincerely enjoy the company.

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