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A Unique Tool for the Craft

On the advice of a writer friend, I downloaded some Kindle editions of writing craft books by John Gardner. Although my friend advised me to start with one particular volume, On Becoming a Novelist came up first in my Kindle contents.

It took me a little while to settle into reading Mr. Gardner’s style, but the man had some common sense advice. I started jotting notes. When I came to a passage where Mr. Gardner compared flow/rhythm in two books by Herman Melville, Omoo, and Moby Dick, to my surprise there were graphics on my screen.

Mr. Gardner had taken a quotation of text from each book. Above the words, he had used the accent marks that are frequently used when scanning poetry for meter. Below the quotation, he’d written in musical notation—quarter notes for single syllable words, and sequences of eighth notes for longer words.

This might be just what I need, to get my novel manuscript ready. I’ve copied my manuscript, but increased the line spacing to four, rather than the usual two. It’s played havoc with chapter header centering, but I’ll be the only one working with the copy.

Given that music, Irish music, is a major element in my novel, I think trying to use this tool will be highly appropriate. It’s going to take a lot of time, paper, and ink, because with the alterations, the manuscript is now at 600 pages. I’ll also be printing pages from the standard format copy for the members of my critique group to use.

Mr. Gardner preferred Moby Dick over Omoo, because he said Omoo plodded along in 4/4 time, and Moby Dick was far more complex in its rhythm. Now, I wonder if I can get my tale to dance along in an agile 6/8.


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