Sunday, January 31, 2016

Feel the Beat: How to Propel Plot

I did a reading in New York this past week as a part of the Mysterious Bookstore launch for Orchard Grove, my new standalone noir novel from Polis Books. After the reading, a fan asked me how I'm able to balance my dialogue with the prose while pushing along the plot so swiftly. It wasn't an easy question to answer. In many ways, it was like trying to find an answers for why do our hearts beat? Or why life?

Ask one hundred authors how they go about writing something and you'll get one hundred different answers. But for me, it's a matter of rhythm. Of creating a specific beat to the writing, much like a drummer laying down the back beat behind a particular piece of music. I'm able to make this analogy because I'm a drummer. And when I'm drumming, I feel the beat more than I hear it.

It's the same with writing.

I'm able to create 3,000 new words a day, not because I grind through it, but instead because of an ability to create a specific rhythm or beat that I feel inside my body and that is made manifest on the paper (or digital screen of my laptop). The steady beat comes about by a balancing act of description and dialogue. Never should one overtake the other or the entire piece of music will crash and burn. The reader senses the rhythm, and whether they end up liking the story or not, they will almost always point out, "Holy crap, I just could not put the book down."

Sometimes I'm writing to a frantic punk rock beat and other times, I'm writing to a more creative, improvised jazz rhythm. Sometimes it's funk, and other times, I'm writing to a slow, lovely but sad ballad like The Long and Winding Road, strings and choral voices bringing tears to my eyes.  

Looking for a way not only to write more words per day, but to create novels and stories that are unputdownable? Think in terms of rhythm. Feel the beat, man...Feel the beat. 



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