Writing Rhythm

Rabbit - playLike any work, writing has a rhythm to it. It’s finding this rhythm, and becoming comfortable in it, which makes one able to do it each day. But the more I write, the more I discover that different projects have different rhythms, and that moving in and out of these can be tricky.

For example, when writing a picture book, my rhythm is a little choppy. The word count is so small, so the first draft may be written in a single sitting, but then the editing and rewriting and polishing may spread out over months. I can move in and out of working on a picture book several times throughout a day, with small bursts of time spent playing with words, and much more time spent thinking about it all. I frequently move between writing and sketching – when stuck in one area, I move to the other. Doing the final illustrations is different as it’s much more focussed: once it’s all planned out I often spend up to 10 hours a day working on them (it’s very absorbing).

On the other hand, my novel writing rhythm is more smooth. To write that first draft, I need to get in a rhythm where I’m working each morning, uninterrupted, writing an average of 1000-2000 words a day. I have to let the scene unroll in my head before writing it, and it’s easier to get into this rhythm if I do the writing at around the same time each day.  Editing (especially in the re-writing drafts) is similar, where I need dedicated time to do it every day, so the characters are in my head and the story is unfolding and I keep that regular rhythm rolling.

Moving between these rhythms is something I’m still learning about. After completing the mentorship novel I took a month out to work on a picture book, and so developed a much more choppy rhythm to my writing. Now I’ve returned to complete the second draft of a novel of mine, but I’ve lost my novel writing rhythm. I’m no longer used to sitting on the computer for long periods of writing. My mind is still flitting around as it does with picture books. I’m having to force myself to settle, and pin down the characters and make them play nice.

I know I’ll get there. I can feel the muscle memories flexing as I write, stretching them out.  My writing rhythm will settle once more, but it will take time. And patience. And baking (I made some scones yesterday – a sure sign of a bad day). But the sky is clear today.  I am 6000 words in, and already excited about what I may achieve tomorrow.


9 Responses to “Writing Rhythm”

  1. 1 Karen Tyrrell June 16, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    I’m glad you’re rediscovering the rhythm to your writing, even taking a side-track to write this BLOG … Writing begets more writing!… And a beautiful BLOG it is.

  2. 2 Sheryl Gwyther June 16, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    My favourite part is when it’s time to sort out the rhythm of the actual language – reading aloud. You know when a sentence clunks or if it zings. If you weren’t an avid reader how would you know those things?
    Mind you, I know about listening to the rhythm of my writing but don’t always get it right. Trying to hurry the story along? Or just plain slack? ;)

  3. 3 Katherine Battersby June 16, 2009 at 10:27 pm

    I think blogging helps my rhythm, Karen (but may also be a little bit of procrastination…)

    Sheryl, I know exactly what you mean – I think that’s what keeps me writing picture books, as it’s ALL about the zing!

  4. 4 Karen June 17, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    I have a background in music and I’m constantly amazed at how melodic good writing can be. Like Sheryl, I try to always read my work aloud. Some parts stick out like a B-flat in D major, but others create a welcome dissonance. I actually find it really hard to get back into a story if I have left it for too long. I can eventually find that groove again, but it’s hard work. The temptation is always there to follow the next bright and shiny idea that comes along, instead of staying committed to my current ‘beau’. Personally, I find my rhythm comes most naturally when I’m writing picture books. Maybe it just suits my writing style? I’m not sure. Or maybe I just like a lot of zing and picture books either deliver or they don’t! There’s very rarely any middle ground…

  5. 5 Katherine Battersby June 19, 2009 at 11:16 am

    Karen, I can so relate to your experience! Especially in trying to get back into the ‘voice’ of a story after a break, and then being distracted by shiny new ideas when the current project gets difficult. Pursuing a project from first draft through to the final highly polished draft takes real commitment and tenacity!

  6. 6 Caroline Rose June 19, 2009 at 11:47 pm

    Hi! Just saw your comment on Rachelle’s blog and thought I’d stop by. I also write picture books and mid-grade novels. I was an exchange student to Adelaide in high school and still have a deep love for all things Aussie.

  7. 7 Jennifer June 20, 2009 at 2:08 am

    Hi Katherine!

    I just popped over from Rachelle’s blog party. I love your banner. Beautiful!

    I find myself struggling for that rhythm with my first draft. After that, everything just flows, even if I have to go back and rework most of it. It’s the initial extraction of the story that is the hardest.

    I’m glad to hear others read their work out loud! I have been doing that for years and find it to not only be a great way to get to know the story, but also great fun! I’m afraid if someone were to see me reading one of my books aloud, they may think me crazy! Ah well…such is the writer’s life.

    Happy weekend!

  8. 8 Katherine Battersby June 20, 2009 at 9:35 am

    Thanks for stopping by, Caroline! It’s always lovely to connect with other children’s writers.

    Jennifer, I know what you mean about first drafts – they can be painful. There are so many aspects of writing that can make us seem a little … unique. Like talking to our characters, and getting ideas in the middle of a conversation, and reading our work out loud (which I try to only do when I’m home alone!). At least we understand each other!

  1. 1 Writing Mojo « the Well Read Rabbit || Katherine Battersby Trackback on February 3, 2010 at 11:35 am

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About this Blog…

A blog of ramblings about the world of writing and illustrating for children, by an author / illustrator who might just have a thing for rabbits.

Katherine's picture books, 'Squish Rabbit' and 'Brave Squish Rabbit', are out with Viking (Penguin, US) and UQP (Australia). Please e-mail if you would like her to blog about something in particular.

All text & images  Katherine Battersby

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