I want to achieve the following:

  1. To produce a work that is well-organized and full of substance.
  2. To produce a work in which each thought flows smoothly to the next.
  3. To produce a work that is perfectly clear and coherent.
  4. To produce a work that has poetic cadence or prose rhythm, comparable to that of the King James Bible or some other rhythmical work.

I have often tried writing sentences and revising as I go, trying to apply few rules about metrical feet, being dissatisfied with the sound, not having barely anything written, and finally giving up.

There seems to be rules for clarity. I have a book on it and it is not difficult to apply. But there are no rules for prose rhythm, and before I can ever get my thoughts out I have already tried rearranging words and looking up words in a thesaurus and given up.

But I did write something with good prose rhythm once five years ago. I don’t have it anymore, unfortunately. So I know that at least I had the ability to write in the rhythm that that piece had.

  • 2
    To your point about writing and editing as you go, I would caution about editing too much. Even if it doesn't sound okay, or seem okay, just write it. The main issue is that, every time you flip to editor mode, you tend to, at least for me, lose track of where you are at, and lose that creative flow and rhythm. It's hard to build a rhythm if you keep stopping. Keep writing and practicing imagining that rhythm you want. Just write what ever random things and then eventually over time you will get what you want!
    – ggiaquin16
    Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 15:50

9 Answers 9


1) You're trying to write your final polished draft on your first shot. It won't happen. Focus on one goal at a time. First determine your substance. Then organize it. Then write it. Never mind how it sounds. Just get it on paper. Your inner editor is becoming an inner censor. You can fix it later. Give yourself permission to suck.

2) "Clear and coherent" is in the mind of the reader. You can do your best, but there are no guarantees.

3) Are you trying to write prose or poetry? They have different rules. You can fine-tune some phrasing in prose, but it's not about the sprung rhythm of the text.

4) The poetic rendering of the KJV Bible is in opposition to "clear and coherent." You can aim for clear, or you can aim for poetic and lovely, but aiming for both at the same time will just make you shoot yourself in the foot.

  • 2
    This is a great reminder we may have to choose between which want matters more as we cannot do both. Some times it is hard to pick between 2 ideals, especially early on. Just writing it and seeing how the piece goes might be the best way to decide which way to go ultimately. If not, there is always friends and beta readers!
    – ggiaquin16
    Commented Jun 21, 2017 at 15:39

Experience and the capability to learn. There's no formula for what you want. Good luck!


This is a problem. If you try to "craft" the writing while actively paying attention to every single of these elements, you'll move at glacial pace and even then the whole thing may come out awful. The only way to get that and progress, is to get that all subconsciously. Which is otherwise known as talent. No amount of effort can replace that.

But talent is not something purely inborn. It can be built and improved. Thing is, you're approaching this from a wrong direction.

When a driver learns how to win car races, they don't try to drive at speed of the master of the track, and attempt to crash later rather than sooner, each try the car getting a couple meters farther before crashing. Instead, they drive best to their capability making sure they finish the track, finish it reliably, then they improve their speed, learn new tricks to cut time on curves, improve, and slowly approach the mastery without crashing.

Each unfinished work you write is such a crash. No. Don't try to imitate the masters. Just keep writing, learning new tricks and improving. Instead of trying to get every sentence perfect, aim at making your text better than the previous one. If you have the talent, you'll eventually reach mastery.



1- Sit down and write

2- Finish what you have

3- Edit/polish your work

4- Emerge with a quality, coherent, well-thought off product.

I know this sounds facetious but that's really it. Start by writing "something" and get it complete. Then go back to it and make it better. (Rinse and repeat, as long as you want).

Very few writers can come up with a finished product right off the bat.

Note you did not say when to end such a product... (that's a WHOLE other answer)


You basically have two options:

  1. Write the first draft, edit, edit, edit
  2. Outline, write the first draft, edit, edit, edit (but possibly a bit less editing than in 1).

And, as Lauren Ipsum already has mentioned: allow yourself to suck. Your motto should be: "I'll fix it in editing... moving on!"

With respect to your requirements 1-4. In whose opinion? You could possibly benefit from using beta readers and/or a critique partner to figure out how your text stand up to those requirements.

Apart from that, it's a question of your capability and experience... and perhaps what you've read before... There are no shortcuts I've heard of...


Best writing advice I ever got was a mix of advice from both a published author as well as my husband; write at random. Write whatever scene from your story pops into your head, beginning, middle, possible ending. Doesn't matter, just get it down before you lose it. It's a lot more fun and easy that way. But I do recommend keeping a log of characters, languages and their translations, and locations.


For the specific question of developing prose rhythm, independent of the other goals, I would recommend spending some time reading and writing strict-form poetry. That will help you internalize a poetic cadence, even though you won't actually be writing that way when you switch to prose.

You might also want to spend some time listening to complex rap music and/or recordings of great speeches. Those are both examples of writing that is meant to be heard out loud, and thus has a cadence typically missing in prose that is never declaimed.

As others have mentioned, however, you may want to carefully consider why you are doing this. Rhythmic prose has a "sing-songy" quality that many will find off-putting --the modern style is unadorned, functional prose. I personally like poetic prose myself, but I try to use it sparingly, for impact. It isn't to everyone's tastes.


While I agree that most of these things cannot be expected out of a first draft (instead being the valuable fruits of the revision process), reading problematic sentences aloud should be a useful tool when trying to understand the flow of a paragraph you've written. The only other thing that always helps is a fundamental grasp of poetry.

But the first draft is there for you to get all of the content on paper, rhythm and diction are less important.


I'm going to dissent from the spin straw into gold argument that others have made. It's not that I don't see merit in it, its just that I think prose rhythm is a heard thing, by which I mean that some people hear it in what they read and some do not, and that some writers hear is in their heads as they compose and some do not.

For those who hear it, it is incomprehensible how someone could write an obviously arrhythmic sentence. Such as sentence would be as painfully and obviously wrong as one with patent grammatical flaws. The rhythmic property of the sentence forms in the mind in the first moment of creation: the sentence does not feel right in the mind and on the tongue until the rhythm is there. To a writer who works like this, there is no such thing as an arrhythmic sentence, just an unfinished sentence that is not ready to write down yet.

This being the case, though, I am not sure that there is a way for an arrhythmic writer to become a rhythmic writer. If you are hearing the rhythm as you write, you cannot help but write rhythmically. If you are not hearing it as you write, I don't think you could ever achieve the effect in revision.

This is not to say that a rhythmic writer won't improve the rhythm of their prose in revision. But I don't think they would ever think of this as an "add rhythm" step. It would simply be a case of reading a sentence and feeling it was wrong or ugly and of replacing it with something better -- and it being better mostly because it sounded better in their heads, not because they mechanically applied some axiom of rhythm to it.

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