You may not realize this, but books are music. Don't believe me? I'll get more specific for you: all writing possesses audible components that create structure and sound for the reader.
It doesn't matter if you're reading aloud or not (though I'll get to how important that is in another post). Words = Music. And though I may be biased as a musician, I'm going to do my best to break down my premise so you'll believe me and maybe apply it to your own writing. While editing, I've found once an author discovers sound, their writing greatly improves.
Let's begin, shall we?
Hip-hop artists know about flow. It's basically the rhythm of a string of words. When you're flowing, the words are moving smoothly off your tongue, or for our purposes, onto the page.
But it's more than just being "in the zone" and pumping out a rapid word count. For writers, flow is the smooth composition of words into sentence, sentences into paragraph, paragraphs into page, etc. Flow is what makes a reader enjoy the reading experience. It can also equate to the ease of reading. When writing is described as "lyrical" or "quick," that's mostly flow. Having a good flow can make your epic novel seem fast-paced, as once a reader gets lost in the words, you've got them hooked.
How do you have good flow? I'm glad you asked!
1. Vary your sentence structure. If all your sentences are Subject + Verb + Object, it will sound stiff and be clunky to read. Vary simple sentences with complex/compound sentences. Add in dialogue, fragments (use sparingly!), and participles for different structure. Once you get a feel for your writer's voice, this varying will come almost naturally.
2. Remember sound symbolism and connotation. Connotation is the associated meaning of a word in addition to its primary definition. "Home," for example, connotates a sense of safety and comfort, while "hut," makes you think of small, less-secure shelters. Sound symbolism tells us that sounds convey meanings without regard to the word's definition. Keeping with our example, /h/ sounds are more likely to refer to dwellings: hut, home, hovel, habitat, house. Hard noises like /k/ and /g/ seem "meaner" than soft consonants /m/ and /l/. What do you do with all this? Like always, use words precisely.
3. Repeat sounds. Or ACHA. Do not do this every sentence as it will get annoying, but do use it regularly. ACHA is my mnemonic acronym for Alliteration, Consonance, Homoioteleuton, and Assonance. Don't get intimidated by the big words, as the concept is really simple: use repetitive sounds in a sentence. The vowels, consonants, beggining, and ending sounds can all be used.
This kind of repitition and sound creates verse, which means poetry. Prose, verse, music... a big web of words.
Much of your flow--and overall sound of your writing--has to do with voice. The more you write, the more your voice will express itself. And please, please, don't think too hard about ACHA or sound symbolism or connotations as they will make your brain bleed. You'll know when you need to fix the sound of your writing when you read it out loud and find yourself caught on a sentence or growing bored. Then remember these tips. The devil may be in the details, but the details can bog you down if you get caught in them.
I'll talk more about the music of writing in the future, as this post has run a bit long. There are things you can do with dialogue and onomatopoeia to help your "sound," that I want to cover. Flow is the most important part of your sound, though, so this should be a good place to get you started.
Any Questions? Thoughts? Curmudgeonly griping?