Beats and How to Spice Up Your Dialogue

I’m just taking a short breaking from working through the line edits for Amy Green, Bridesmaid Blitz which will be out in October. The timing’s pretty tight so I’m trying to devote as many hours to them as I possibly can, day and night.

Line edits come after the structural edit (sometimes there can be more than one of these if the editor has encountered lots of things they’d like to see changed or worked through) and accompanying author’s re-write. It’s when the editor (or sometimes a different editor) goes through each line of the book, making notes and suggesting changes; some small, like changing a word or adding a line, some bigger, like moving a scene, or checking a character’s motivation rings true.

It’s a vital part of your book’s progression from manuscript to finished bound book, and it’s important to put everything you can into it. By the end of the editing process you should a/ know every chapter practically off by heart and b/ be ready to let your work go, knowing you’ve done all you can to make it the best book possible.

And yes, you can get more than a little sick of your own book by the end of things, that’s kind of normal. It drives you on to write the next book and start the whole process all over again. Like childbirth, you forget the hard bits and keep writing regardless.

There are several issues that are reoccurring throughout my Amy Green book, which is now in its fifth draft. The main one is my ‘beats’ or lack of. ‘Beats’ are (and I’m quoting a book on editing here by Renni Browne and Dave King) bits of action interspersed through a scene, such as a character walking to a window or removing his glasses and rubbing his eyes – the literary equivalent of what is know as theatre as ‘stage business’.’

So there you have it – ‘beats’. Bits that spice up the dialogue, and often, make sense of what’s happening when characters are talking.

My problem – this is book 3 in the series. I now know my characters so well that the action unfolds right in front of my eyes. But I have to keep remembering that my readers don’t know my characters the way I do. They may need some nudges in the right direction. They won’t know Amy is staring at her feet and mumbling unless I say or show she is.

But too many ‘beats’ and the dialogue starts to sound stilted and unnatural. It’s a difficult balance.

‘Beats’ – good word, isn’t it? Better get back to the line edit – it won’t wait!

Yours in writing,

Sarah X