Beats in a Book

I have my book completely written, but it’s just the first draft. While trying to edit my writing, I feel so scattered and disjointed. I can’t seem to clear my mind and organize my thoughts and my draft.

The remedy for me has been segments, that is, organizing my writing into smaller pieces. By doing so, it’s easier to manage many smaller pieces rather than one huge piece. If you’ve ever eaten food in your life, you know what I’m talking about. 

Segments can include chapters, books, and acts, but what I’m talking about are the unseen divisions, those being the organizational segments that the reader doesn’t notice as blatantly as something like, “Chapter 12.”

I read an article about these a few years back and I’ve adapted it to myself. There are: beats, segments, sequences, chapters, acts and the book.

A beat is the smallest unit. A beat denotes a sentence or a small paragraph. For example, if two characters are conversing, each reply would be it’s own beat.

From there a segment is the next biggest. A segment is a group of beats (obviously) that convey an idea. In my writing a description of the room or a scene is a segment, then the characters talk in said room and that’s another segment.

A bunch of segments make up a sequence. Building from our previous examples a sequence would be all the segments put together. The following segments, description of the room, the conversation in the room, the fight that took place in that room and then how the bad guy got away, all make up a sequence. 

Now this is where it gets tricky. A sequence could be a chapter. But you could also string several sequences together to form a chapter. The determining factor would be that the sequences build from each other and generate a gratifying chapter ending.

Some books point out the acts and others don’t. Regardless, they are present. Most stories have the classic three act structure. It’s stood the test of time, it portrays a story well and why should a new writer try to reinvent the wheel? (So to speak).

Act one sets the stage, introducing the characters, the setting and before the end, tells us what the main conflict of the story will be. It’s in act one where the reader will determine what kind of story this will be, the genre, and whether they want to invest the time or not. 

Act two is where the drama and the conflict play out, as protagonist and antagonist fight (sometimes figuratively and sometimes literally). Our main character reaches their lowest point and curtain close.

Act three the protagonist finds what he/she needs to keep going and to overcome obstacles. The conflict is so wound up, to tight it could explode at any moment and it all culminates at the climax.  After which, the tension releases and there is a nice conclusion to the journey we have shared with the characters. 

With all this combined, we have a book. From there, there could be more books, trilogies, series and “expanded universes.”

In conclusion, writing a story, organizing a story, is all about purpose. One should ask introspectively, “In writing this beat, this chapter or book, what am I aiming towards? What does it all lead to?” Some of those answers could be character development, plot development or world explanation. It builds and grows and little by little a wonderful story is born. The story is greater than the sum of the parts, but would be nothing without each tiny beat.


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