In my effort to tackle, wrangle, and tame some of my longer works—especially when working on multiple projects—I’ve developed a new-found appreciation for story beats. While I’ve long used them (without realizing it at first), it’s only recently that I’ve been using them to show both the big picture and the moment-at-hand simultaneously.
This combination has definitely impacted my writing process. There’s a lot less of the going back and saying, “Well, to accomplish this, then I need to do that there, too.” I can see how the pieces or beats or moments go together to create a more elaborate whole.
For example, every story has fluctuations in its emotional tenor. There’re the ups. There’re the downs. And often, which is which depends on the other moments in the story. One moment could be a big downer in one story, while in a different story (a darker one) it’s a high point. Besides, if you have too much darkness in a row even the writer, that being you, would struggle getting through it to the next bright spot.
Every story also has fluctuations in its pacing. Some moments go by very quickly—and should be written accordingly. Other moments are more leisurely, giving the writer the opportunity to explore the moment in depth. Seeing all your moments at once can help you select which ones should be quick and which ones should be slower. While the moment itself influences this decision, it’s also a factor of everything else you have that goes around the moment.
At the same time, a moment is a unit of story in and of itself. Sometimes it’s a scene, but a moment may be a portion of a scene or the filler in between two scenes. It’s a moment or a piece of information, and you need to be able to concentrate on delivering that little bit all by itself.
In my new office, I now have cork boards. I purchased a total of six board, but only put up (okay, so my mom put them up, but only because she didn’t like my solution) one set of screws to hang them on. So, I have a board for each project, but only one visible project at a time. This improves concentration. It also allows me to take down a moment from the board, to have close by me, front and center, while still having the board visible with the big picture up all neat and clean.
Now, with the right tools in place, I’m ready to really get some work done! So, here I go, beating out my stories. I can now more easily beat each story—and each moment—at its own tone and pace, to its own tune.