It was an illuminating moment for me when I first became aware of the music playing in my writing. I was part way through a sentence, the words temporarily eluding me in the hide and seek game they sometimes play, when all of a sudden I realized I had a vague cadence dancing through my mind, offering to take me gracefully forward. Sitting quietly, I could hear the tone of the last word which would sum up my non-existent sentence. Except there were no words offered as the bridge which would propel me there. Just the ethereal music of the way the sentence would, not only sound, but also feel.
When the words eventually emerged, I wrote them down with a new respect, more aware of their internal rhythm. It changed the way in which I write. Now, when I become lost in the forest of blankness, I merely fall quiet in my mind and wait. Sometimes, the words will push themselves forward. Other times, I have to listen for their music first, be patient with their vaporous dance before they will reveal themselves in bodily form. While at times quite lovely, this discovery of the symphony forming in my novel, No Story to Tell, also presented a few challenges.
When the time came to subject the manuscript to a rigorous copy-editing, there were a few occasions where my copy-editor felt it was best to re-structure some of the sentences. Upon reading his proposed recommendations, I had to agree his suggestions had merit. Often, a longer sentence, when split into two, or even three, shorter, more concise sentences, becomes more reader-friendly. I struggled greatly with these changes. In a few instances, I applied the new structure. I re-read the sentences over and over. Yes, they were now better in form. They would have made my high-school English teacher mark them off enthusiastically with a bright, bold, red check mark. But, I couldn’t do it. They had lost their music. Grammatically correct, but somewhat soul-less. If this was a symphony that had played out on my page, then it was up to me not to erase the cadence of that gentle beat with my writer’s baton. In the end, I reverted almost every sentence back to its original form. (Fortunately, I was working with a very wise and extremely patient copy-editor who understood what I was attempting to achieve.)
This proved to be a valuable learning experience for me as an author. It taught me to trust the innate flow and movement of a piece of writing. It taught me that prose is far more than just words strung together across the page to tell a story. Prose– or at least my style of prose– is more like an intricate dance, each word a note specifically placed, creating a strong internal rhythm for the reader.