Bring on the beats

Posted: July 28, 2014 in writing
Tags: , , , , , ,

For a writer, I can be terrible at thinking about the purpose of my words.

I realised this as I was helping everwalker with some editing last week, looking for ways to make one of her scenes punchier. All my suggestions were about taking things out rather than adding them in, because I’m that sort of editor as well as that sort of writer. There’s always a conscious element to the choices I make in that process, but for the first time another part of the process, one that had previously been happening subconsciously, came to the fore.

Not the sort of punch we were after. And please, not the face!

Not the sort of punch we were after. And please, not the face!

I realised that I was thinking about what each sentence did in the reading experience. Not just what information it conveyed, but what it represented as a function in the scene. What changes in this sentence? What emotional impact does it have?

Several sentences in a row can convey different descriptive information while all serving the same function, for example telling you that a character is tense. In a slow scene that’s fine, it adds vividness, but once the pace picks up you really just need to convey that tension and quickly move on.

I’ve never read my own work in quite such a functional way before, but something has clearly clicked in my brain. I expect it will make my writing and editing better, as well as giving me a new perspective as a reader.

* * *

Quick update on the e-book. It’s been delayed by a mixture of other deadlines and technical failure on my part. I wanted to get a mailing list set up before I publish, so that I can direct readers there from my books. But two days after switching domains to I discovered that I’d done that in the only way that didn’t let me embed a signup link. Curse my mildly inadequate research!

I then put off solving this for a while, because mailing lists and internet domains are slightly outside my comfort zone. And when I came back to it yesterday I realised that it wasn’t a big problem – I could have a signup page over on Mailchimp and a page here to direct to that.

So yes, I failed at the internet, but at least now I have a mailing list. And if you’d like to receive updates when I have a new story out, as well as occasional free stories and offers on the books I will soon start to release, then please go and sign up.


Image by bark via Flickr creative commons.

  1. If you’d like, I’m happy to help with the ebook. It’s well within my comfort zone, and I’ve had plenty of practice 🙂

    Also, if you don’t mind, I’d really like to see if I could help with the mailing list. It’d be good to have the link at the top of the page go straight to the sign up form, whether that’s here or at MailChimp.

    • I’m more than happy to have the help!
      I think I’ve worked out the book formatting now – after some setbacks, it’s mostly now a matter of de-formatting old documents and putting them into a Scrivener file for compiling. But managing a direct link to the mailing list sounds like a good idea. I’ve read in several places that the Mailchimp widget doesn’t work on blogs that are hosted by WordPress (that’s the bit I discovered two days too late) – do you know if there’s a way around this? Or how easy it is to shift away from WordPress hosting having just bought into it?
      I haven’t tried creating a direct link to the Mailchimp page – just didn’t occur to me for some reason – will see if I can find a straightforward way to do that.

      • Sometimes I forget that most people aren’t as geeky as me 😦

        I don’t use Scrivener, so if you’re just exporting from there, I might not be able to help with that after all :/ I use Sigil or the Calibre editor to directly edit my ePub files.

        It looks like you can change the mailing list link to go direct to the sign-up page:

        In the menu editor, add a new link item. For the URL, use “”, for the Link Text use “Sign up for the mailing list”.

        • Yeah, I know Scrivener’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I love it. I looked at the option of getting into HTML editing, Calibre, etc, and decided to just go with what I’ve got. Fortunately, I think I’ve now mastered that side.

          And thank you very much for the advice about the menu. I’ll admit, my first response was ‘I have a menu editor?’ But having worked it out there’s probably lots of other useful stuff I can do that I couldn’t five minutes ago, so thanks!

          • Lots of people seem to really like Scrivener, so it’s obviously doing something right. I use Linux, and the Linux version is still in beta, so I may re-visit it at some point, but right now, I’m happy with what I’ve got.

            I’d probably still manually edit the ePub files, though. I can be a massive control freak sometimes 🙂

            • I occasionally wish I had the skills and IT confidence to run Linux. It seems like such a good idea in principle, but in practice it would create too many extra complications and adaptations to be worth it for me at the moment.

              If they get a good version of Scrivener working for your system then it’s well worth giving it a go. It creates a lot of easy flexibility in breaking down and reorganising manuscripts, sitting your planning alongside the text you’re writing, and putting it into different outputs and formats at the end. I don’t know whether there are other programs that do the job as well, but after years of MS Word it was a revelation to me.

            • Linux is much easier than it used to be, but there would be a certain amount of learning involved. I used to be very comfortable using Windows, but nowadays I find it difficult and frustrating, simply because I’m used to something else. It’s not that one is easier, per se, more that they’re different, and when you’re used to one, it requires time and effort to adjust to the other.

              … which I think is part of the reason I didn’t get on with Scrivener. The things that most people seem to really like just aren’t important to me. Most people seem to like that it will organise their notes, but I prefer to have my research organised in a separate program. I’ve heard people say how they love that you can drag chapters around to re-organise them, and that is a great feature, but I can also do it in LibreOffice (I have no idea if it can be done in Word – if it’s possible, no-one seems to know how).

              What I’ve never understood is people that seem to feel a need to evangelise for their software of choice. I didn’t get on with Scrivener, but it works for you, and that’s great.

        • Oh, and I wouldn’t say I was any less geeky – just a different flavour of geek.

  2. everwalker says:

    Thanks again for the assistance! I’ve now gone back through all my fast-paced scenes and done the same. 🙂

  3. AsIf says:

    Noyce. We have trained ourselves to look at scenes this way, but applying it to sentences is “the next level” of discipline.

    And yeah, MailChimp is cool. It’s my recommendation of choice for clients who want third-party mailing lists. You made the right decision.

  4. Sue Archer says:

    I think describing why you edit things a certain way can be a challenge, as so much of it is instinctual. Excellent that you now have a mailing list! I can report that it worked well. 🙂

    • For something that’s about catching what’s ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ editing does often feel like a vague, shadowy art. I think that’s part of why I was so excited with this realisation!

      And thanks for signing up to the mailing list – I’d better start actually mailing something!

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