BTS029, Writing Beats within Scenes, Scene Blocking and Experimenting with First and Third Person POV in a Novel | March Author Diary Update, Part One
I hope you are all well and are staying safe.
In this author diary update for March, I discuss rewriting a novel, beats within scenes, experimenting with first and third-person point-of-view in a novel, and scene blocking.
Just to let you know, this episode was recorded on Wednesday the 22nd of July so this show is primarily me looking back at March. In the same spirit as the previous episode, there is a backlog with the show due to the Lockdown that we’re all facing. After a few weeks, I’ve managed to figure out how to work from home with my husband and do all of the things I would typically achieve.
If you’re watching this on YouTube you’ll notice that I’ve gone back to an audio-only version of the podcast, that’s because of my hair situation. I know this is a vanity thing, but my hair has become too long and unmanageable, and I can’t get away with wearing a cap. So, I’m sorry for the lack of video for this episode.
And, one last thing, this is the last of the scripted episodes. I’m going to experiment with going off script and trying a new approach to blogging. Fingers crossed it works out.
Rewriting Book Two
There’s nothing but good news in terms of rewriting for the first two weeks in March. I’m so excited, but I’ve found a way to get me writing every day. Putting stickers on the calendar, like a five-year-old doing chores, apparently is what it takes for me to get motived to write. It’s embarrassing, but it works for me.
A Name Change for Book Two
Over the last few week’s I’ve been agonising over the book title for the second novel in my James Lalonde series. I’ve brainstormed a few options and made my final decision.
Overall, I feel that this title better reflects the theme of the story than the original title. It’s taken me quite a while to get used to the new name. But, I’m happy nonetheless.
My Writing Progress in Week One
During the first week of March, I managed to fit in four writing days. That’s four half days of writing. At the start of the week, book two started off with 47,268 words. On the last day of the week, the word count for the novel reached 48,198 words. So, I contributed 930 words to my revised draft. It’s not a lot of words for seven days, but the process of rewriting involves adding and subtracting words within the manuscript.
What did I achieve during those four days? I decided to revise the novel in chronological order. Chapter Two required a slight setting change and to correct issues with white room syndrome, where the dialogue seems to be occurring without a context. As I rewrote this chapter, I ended up researching the temperature and weather conditions of the locations in my novel because I wanted to give it a real-world feel. Maybe this is lazy, but it means there’s one less decision I need to make.
Chapter Three had similar problems in regards to white room syndrome and with setting description. Because this story was the second full-length thriller that I’d written, I made a mistake with setting description. I simply described the setting in a similar way that you would describe setting in a screenplay. In short, it wasn’t filtered through the eyes of the point of view character. As a result, this needed to be rewritten as well.
During the rewrites for this chapter, I needed to research the English reformation, languages of religious texts, and the description of smells and sounds. I used the Emotion Thesaurus, Rural Setting Thesaurus, and images from my most recent trip to Oxford to help me improve the scenes. At present, I’m going through a phase where I like to add in the extra senses of smell and sound where appropriate. In terms of character development, I had a discussion with Roland about using English as a second language. Just like my husband Roland, James speaks English as a second language.
- A Helpful Writing Tool: 106 Ways to Describe Sounds by Writers Write
My Self Line-Edit Process
On Wednesday, I performed a self copy-edit on chapter three because I didn’t get it done on Tuesday. The technique I use to do the copy-edit is I listen to the computer read the scene back to me in small chunks. I frequently pause to make changes to the beats or sentences that sound clunky. It’s not a perfect system, and the computer struggles with certain aspects of grammar, but that’s to be expected.
After multiple rounds of torture, I then move the scene over to Grammarly, and I perform a pass with the help of Grammarly premium. Once I made the changes in the programme, I then copy and paste the scene back into Scrivener before copying the scene into Pro Writing Aid. While Pro Writing Aid has a spelling and grammar checker, I use the programme to help me improve my writing style, reduce overused words, and improve readability. And, it also helps me keep an eye out for inconsistencies within the scenes.
Next, I rewrote chapter four. The scene is from the perspective of an unidentified person; as a result, the rewrite required me to be vague about certain aspects of the individual’s identity. Naturally, this rewrite took longer than expected, and I did not get a chance to do the line edit for this chapter.
Experimenting with First and Third Person Point of View within a Novel
The next four chapters (four, five, and six) are all single scenes all from the perspective of an unidentified person. At the moment, I reference this individual in a similar way that the princess bride references the ‘man in black.’ So, it’s written in third person point of view. As a result, the scenes are all difficult to write in third-person because I have to reference the individual without giving away certain aspects of their identity. Due to the complexity of the writing, I’m decided to write the villain’s scenes in first-person and all the other scenes in third-person point-of-view. I was a little apprehensive about doing this in book two because I was planning on using this technique with a book in my Byline series.
On Friday, I rewrote chapter four in first-person, and it’s so much better. And, unexpectedly, I enjoyed writing the scenes from the point-of-view of the villain. Before I made this decision, I researched the use of first-person and third-person point-of-view within the same novel. I found a question with a series of answers on Quora quite helpful in making this decision.
- A Helpful Writing Tool: Quora Q+A
My Writing Progress in Week Two
During the second week of March, I managed to fit in three writing days. That’s three half days of writing. At the start of the week, book two started off with 48,198 words. On the last day of the week, the word count for the novel reached 49,572 words. So, I contributed 1,374 words to my revised draft.
A Week in Review
What did I achieve during those three days? On Monday, I read through, revised, and performed a line edit for chapter four, and I rewrote chapter five in first-person point-of-view. Towards the end of the day, I had issues with Pro Writing Aid’s web app. It was slow with analysing one 900-word scene. At this stage, I’m ready to cut out anything that was wasting my time, so I stopped doing the Grammarly and Pro Writing Aid passes as I went along. On Wednesday, I rewrote chapters six, seven, and eight. Because I stopped doing the line edits as I went along, I was able to rewrite more scenes and get closer to reaching the end of act one.
Writing Beats within Scenes
It wasn’t until Friday that I started scene blocking and writing beats for a new scene in chapter nine. Here I’m using the term beats in the same way that a screenwriter uses the term. A beat is a moment within a scene where the emotion shifts from one point to another. You can have multiple beats to a scene. A beat is what an actor works with during pre-production to prepare for a role.
Essentially, beats help a scene to turn, or in Story Grid terms, it helps a scene change in value. For instance, a scene could start off positively and end in a negative way or, in my case, starts off negatively and become a double negative where things get worse. Before I write a scene, I write down these moments that help the scene to turn. It’s how I make sure that the scene fulfils its purpose in the story.
Scene blocking, for me, is a little different to a beat. Before I write, I like to block the movement of my characters across the “stage.” Again this is a technique I picked up from writing stage plays and screenplays and figuring out how to direct. It’s easier for me to picture how a scene plays out if I know how every character moves and the direction they are facing.
By the way, I only do this for the first draft writing. When rewriting a scene, I’m not rewriting it from scratch. I’m merely rewriting specific beats. If I do a complete rewrite, I already have the beats and scene blocking playing in my mind.
After all of this scene blocking and writing beats, I wrote and revised chapter nine in the third person. And then, I revised chapters ten and eleven. Unfortunately, this left me with one chapter left to rewrite in act one at 7:00 pm on a Friday evening.
- A Helpful Writing Tool: How to Develop Story Beats for a Screenplay
The Last Two Weeks
My fortnightly writing goal was to reach the end of Part III by Saturday, March 28. To be honest, it was an ambitious goal, which I did not meet. Something unexpected happened to me during the two weeks that changed everything for me. But, more on that later, in part two.
During the last two weeks of March, I managed to fit in four writing days, where I worked on book two in the James Lalonde series. That’s four half days of writing. At the start of the period, book two started off with 49,572 words. On the last day of the period, the word count for the novel reached 49,845 words. So, I contributed 273 words to my revised draft. It’s not a lot of words for fourteen days, but the process of rewriting involves adding and subtracting words within the manuscript, and research.
Throughout these two weeks, I spent a lot of time trying to get clear on the motives of each character for committing the murder. With book two, I want to make it a little challenging for the reader to figure out the whodunnit while presenting all the facts. And, the best way I can do that is to make every character a suspect.
In February, I also made another critical decision about how I wanted to rewrite the story. I decided to eliminate James’s interaction with the police, leaving him to do his own investigations independent of forensics, and police resources. Due to this change, I needed to come up with a plausible reason for each character to talk to James now that the police are not accompanying him on his investigations. This wasn’t as easy as I first thought, but, I believe I’ve come up with some exciting but believable reasons.
Adding Another Level of Realism
As I was rewriting chapter twelve, which is the final chapter in the first act of the story, I decided there was something unrealistic about the earlier chapters in my story. Due to this decision, I went back and added an extra item of clothing to the antagonist’s outfit to conceal their identity. This change meant I needed to go back and check for inconsistencies with the villain’s clothing in act one.
Working with My Alpha Reader.
Earlier in this episode, I mentioned that I stopped performing the self line-edit using Grammarly and Pro Writing Aid as I went along. On Monday, I had to go through chapters six to twelve and perform the self-line edit. To be honest, this week the programmes seemed to work well, and everything was all smooth sailing. After this, the next step was to export the ebook cover from Photoshop. I’ve done five drafts of the cover since I first started writing the book. At this stage, the cover is in CMYK format, which is the print format, but that’s okay.
I set the book up in Vellum and sent the act one sample to my alpha reader using BookFunnel and MailerLite with a list of questions to help with the feedback. My alpha reader read the story within a day, answered the questions and got back to me quickly. I applied the changes to chapters one to twelve in Scrivener. And, that’s the entire process from start to finish.
Of course, I need to repeat this process for act two and act three.
When I initially wrote the script for this episode, I foolishly thought this would only take 33 minutes. How naive I was. The final recording for parts one and two was over 40 minutes, and it was too long. So, I chopped it up into two parts which will be released on consecutive days. The first will be released on Saturday, and the second part will be released on Sunday.
If you have any questions or have tips on book marketing that you would love to share with me, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Thank you for listening, and happy reading and writing, everybody, and I’ll see you in part two of the author diary update for March.
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I’m Amelia. When I’m not hosting the Authorpreneur Podcast™️ and the Book Nerd Podcasts, I write Mystery Novels under the pen name A. D. Hay. And, I’m the author of Suspicion, the Lawn, and the Candidate.
On this blog, I help new writers to finish their first draft, prepare their manuscripts for professional editing, and when they get stuck in the first draft phase or are confused about the revision process.
Right now, I’m editing and preparing my soon to be published mystery novels, Suspicion, Duplicity, 24 Hours, and Immunity for publication.