I have written a lot of books in my time. I’m currently writing book number sixty-five.

For the last few books, I’ve been focusing on finding the rhythm for a book, as a tool to help me write better and faster.

What do I mean by rhythm?

It’s an overall sense of how the story is told. Sometimes those rhythms are short and fast, sometimes they encompass multiple chapters.

Let me give you some examples. Hopefully, that will make it more clear.

The water witch novel that I just finished, which is paranormal women’s fiction with an emphasis on mystery, not romance, is the third in the series. I discovered this rhythm in book two, and using it for book three made it just fly.

The rhythm for that series goes like this:

  • Statement
  • Reply
  • Eyeroll

Seriously, that encapsulates how the story is told. There aren’t always eye-rolls (though two sisters are bantering). But there is almost always a strong reaction.

The reason I express this story rhythm in this way is because these books have so much dialog. Both books one and two are about 43K words and are almost 200 pages long. That’s because of all the short lines and talking.

The book that I’m currently writing is book two of the Live Contact science fiction series. The water witch series is all told from the point of view of AJ, while the current book has a myriad cast of characters.

I’ve found myself occasionally stymied while writing the current book. Every time it’s been because I’ve started in the wrong point of view, or in the wrong place in the narrative.

I finally figured out that if I focus on the rhythm of the novel, the writing flows. I start in the right place with the right person.

What is the rhythm of these novels?

  • Setting/Attitude
  • Banter/Planning
  • Action

So each character, as they get introduced, has these three sections to go through.

Science fiction is all about setting. It’s one of the hallmarks of science fiction. What makes this place different than today, as well as all those other places?

The characters in these novels all have attitude and serious opinions about everything that they’re looking at. (Remember, all description of the world comes from the point of view of a character.) They are voicy and want to tell me all about it.

The first step has got to be that setting and attitude.

That’s a big part of the fun of these novels. It isn’t always an eye-roll, but sometimes it is. I have a starship with an AI who’s a frustrated interior designer, who complains about the feng shui of any place they visit. Jamaal is a retired assassin and is concerned about sightlines, exit strategies, and how best to defend himself.

The next step is banter and planning. These characters aren’t by themselves, on purpose. I did that as a challenge for myself, to have characters who are almost always interacting with other characters. It gives me lots of opportunities for banter, teasing, dry commentary, and so on.

There’s also planning that goes along with the banter. These characters have things to do. How do they get to their goal?

Then there’s action. Part of my problem has been that I’ve been skipping the first two parts with the various characters and just jumping right to the action. That doesn’t work for these books.

There isn’t a tremendous amount of action. This isn’t a Lindsey Buroker novel, which I swear follows the pattern, “Okay, it’s been ten pages. Time to roll initiative!”

However, there is some. And it’s quite fun, writing those action scenes. It’s again, something of a stretch for me, to be planning on regular action sequences throughout the novel.

The novel I wrote before these had a different rhythm. That had much more of a two-step rhythm:

  • Statement/observation
  • Angry reaction

This novel didn’t have a lot of action, as in physical fighting. However, it did have a number of confrontations. The main character was always testy and ready to come out fighting. (She has a hell hound encased in her soul. That’s enough to make anyone cranky.)

Because I was so in her point of view, it was easy to write her. Everything flowed from her and her reactions to what was happening.

Really, all I had to do was to plop her down in a place and watch as things happened.

So these are some of the rhythms that I’ve discovered while writing. They aren’t constant, not every scene has to follow these patterns. They just occur often enough that following the rhythm helps me write. Hopefully, this might be useful to you as well.

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