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How to Write a Novel: The Musical Melody of Words

I’ve always compared writing to music even before I knew anything about music. Why? Because a good book has rhythm and melody. What do I mean by this?

Well, think about listening to a melody. The melody flows. It has a certain pitch and rhythm that help it to flow and quite frankly a melody sounds like it can never end that there’s no stopping it.

It’s the same with writing. It has to have rhythm and melody. It’s the same thing I tell people when I happen to edit a story. Some people tend to think that long sentences and big words make rhythm, when all it really does is make the reader think that the writer is trying to make themselves look intelligent. It also makes the story seem to drag on forever and trick the reader into thinking they’ve read more than what they have, eventually making them sleepy too. Too many simple sentences and the use of ‘and’ and the audience thinks you’re writing for three year olds, not only that but a whole bunch of short sentences is choppy and makes it easier for the reader to just stop after a couples of pages. Both are examples of bad rhythm and bad melody and no matter how good that actual story is it will make the reader want to stop reading.

A combination of simple and complex sentences are needed. In fact, you need all six sentence structures to pull off a good rhythm in writing. Not only that, but writers should shoot for maybe a six or seventh grade reading level. That’s enough for someone like me who’s in college to mellow down and enough to play around with vocabulary and tell a good story.

Now you’re probably asking, what the heck are the six sentence structures. I have you covered.

Simple sentence: An independent clause with simply a subject and a verb and is a complete thought. It is can stand alone as a sentence.

The cat looks black.

Compound sentence: Two independent clauses joined by a comma followed by a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so. Think fanboys)

The cat looks black, but the cat is actually dark brown

Complex sentence: An independent clause and a dependant clause joined together by a comma and a subordinating conjunction (usually. Sometimes coordinating conjunctions can be used.
While the cat looks black, it is actually dark brown.

Here, I have underlines your independent clause. Notice that the dependant clause (which is not underlined) cannot stand alone as a sentence.

Compound-complex sentence: A sentence that has is a combination of the compound and complex sentence. That means it will have two independent clauses and one dependant clause mostly

Nightshade is our cat, and while it looks black, it is actually dark brown

Notice the two underlined parts can stand alone as a sentence while the part not underline cannot.

The Fragment: In formal writing, this is not a type of sentence. It’s not even a sentence all. It’s either lacking a subject or a verb and is not a complete thought.

The cat. (Missing a verb)
Looks black. (missing a subject)

The thing is that sometimes short fragments like that are okay to help the flow of a story and they pack a nice punch when a writer wants to emphasize something

Well damn.
So wrong

Those are just some examples. Depending on the context, it can be anything, but they generally only work if there are no more than four words. Any longer and the writer may as well make it a sentence.

The Run on: A sentence with too many thoughts. In most cases, there are two sentences joined together that should be separate or is missing a conjunction. In many others the sentence is grammatically correct, but super long and should just be broken up.

Nightshade is our cat, looks black, but is actually dark brown and likes to scratch the side of the house, which makes my mother mad because it ruins the paint, and that means she has to go get more paint to fix it, but first she has to sand it over so it’ll be smooth, and then she paints and decides she clip the cat’s nails…

See? This sentence has two or three different thoughts going on and sounds like the way a five year old would talk. It’s also pretty much grammatically correct.  It works fine sometimes to show what’s going on in the head of a character, but otherwise it kind of drags on.

So why did I do this? Well, if writers use all six of these elements, no matter what the teacher may say about fragments, you’ll get that nice musical flow and rhythm that makes a reader get lost and read a hundred pages for two hours without realizing it… Um, that’s in combination with a good story. See how all that stuff relates?

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