No Dead “Beats”

mcmurray-HR-9By Robert McMurray

As one who prefers not to use attributions, I had a tendency to overuse action beats to delineate speakers, often groping for a variety of beats to use, when many were unnecessary and intrusive. These dead beats often proved to wreck the rhythm of my writing.

Yet, well-placed action beats, often called descriptive beats, can heighten the story, give your characters character, when used as reactions to dialogue to show movement or emotions. Reading your scenes aloud should show natural pauses which would benefit from beats or reveal where beats you have used are intrusive and interrupt the flow of the story.

Beats like a raised eyebrow or a quivering hand can ground your character. However, having him raise an eyebrow or have his hand quiver for no reason other than as a substitute for a dialogue tag is a dead beat that does not move your story forward and hinders the rhythm. In a recent editing experience, I encountered the following: “How dare you speak to me in that manner?” She set her cup on the table. “Get out of my house.”

drumsIt appeared that the beat was merely an attempt to avoid an attribution and it mitigated the emotional effect of the scene. The first revision simply omitted the beat: “How dare you speak to me in that manner? Get out of my house.” This implied a controlled, seething anger which did not fit the character, and, when read aloud, showed a pause.

The result: “How dare you speak to me in that manner?” She slammed her cup on the table, sending shards of china skittering across the floor. “Get out of my house.” Here the emotional impact is heightened with a solid visual image that displays her anger.

Although solid beats add life to your story, dead beats serve to lessen the emotional impact and rhythm of your writing. So watch for dead beats and remove or revise where necessary.

Winter Writer’s Retreat

20160227_152227On Saturday, February 27th, at Lisa Betz’s house in Morgantown, six members and one guest participated in what we called the Winter Writer’s Retreat. Look under the Writer’s Retreat tab for more information on how to hold one in your area.

The day included devotions, prayer, creative writing exercises, brainstorming, and critiquing. We had lunch together and also had time to work on our WIPs.

We decided to do this more often. Another retreat is being planned for May with more actual writing time included to work on our WIPs. Members present: Kelly Barr, Lisa Betz, Alison McClennan, Robin Archibald, Laura Zimmerman, and Donna Smith. Our guest was Amy from Lancaster Christian Writers.

Happy 2016! New Year, New Things

2016We have some new things planned, changes in old things. Keep updated by following this blog so you’ll be “in the know” as we walk through this year together.

Do you make resolutions? I don’t. I’m deciding to change one thing about my life this year, because I know a “list” won’t work for me. Our home page tells you who our new officers are this year. But in addition, we’ll have new “non-board” positions to help the chapter board make this year, our first FULL year of existence – something special. If you have any ideas of things you’d like to see or do – let one of the board members know.

Blessings as we move forward in 2016.

December ACFW Pennsylvania News

Christmas Tree flashWe’ve had an amazing ten months of existence as a State Chapter! Thank you for your participation. But let’s look to the future. And let’s change it up a bit.

Here’s a survey link to tell us when you’d prefer to meet. It’s a short two-question survey, text box-style, so you’re free to write comments.

Link for Meeting day and time preferences:

Chapter members are also voting on a new officers board for 2016. Those candidates are: Donna L.H. Smith for President, Robert McMurray for Vice President, and Carol Hamilton for Secretary. A treasurer will be named later.

Our first conference was a Success!

Jim & Joyce Hart, Mike Dellosso, Carol Hamilton (L to R)

Jim & Joyce Hart, Mike Dellosso, Carol Hamilton (L to R)

Our first Keystone Christian Fiction Writers Conference held on Saturday, November 7th in State College, PA was a success! We had around 30 attendees. Not quite half the chapter attended, with a few who had registered who couldn’t come due to physical illness.

We learned a lot from the day, and we’re excited about future possibilities. Here’s a few photos from the day.

If you were there, we hope enjoyed your day. If you weren’t there, we hope you’ll join us next year.

Brad Herman & Jonathan Nori, Christine Whitaker, Gloria O'Donnell, & Dwight Kopp (L to R)

Brad Herman & Jonathan Nori, Christine Whitaker, Gloria O’Donnell, & Dwight Kopp (L to R)

Chapter Member Carol Hamilton speaking on Social Media

Chapter Member Carol Hamilton speaking on Social Media

Chapter Member Kelly Anne Liberto

Chapter Member Kelly Anne Liberto speaking on Hiding God’s Word in Your Story

Two Weeks and counting…

CONFERENCE LOGO-1It’s hard to believe that it’s now only two weeks until our first writer’s mini-conference. We’re excited and pleased to offer this conference.

We have two agents, three publishers, and three published authors to meet with. We have two tracks, writing craft and marketing with four workshops.  Our keynote speech to begin the day is Mike Dellosso from southern Pennsylvania. You can find out more about him under the conference tab.

We’ll have devotions and worship, Christian fiction books and books about the writing craft for giveaways! A special treat for those attending: an ACFW logo magnet. If you’re not a member of ACFW, you can join both the national organization and our Pennsylvania State Chapter that day!

To cap the event, we’ll have a nine-member panel consisting of agents, authors, and publishers. Ask them any question you’d like!

We’re meeting at The Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center in State College. It’s a lovely and professional setting. Lunch will be included, as well as beverage service throughout the day, and snacks available both morning and afternoon.

You won’t want to miss it! Saturday, November 7th, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Less than THREE weeks away!

CONFERENCE LOGO-1Can you believe it! I can’t. Here I am at a writer’s retreat in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains outside of Asheville, North Carolina, and I’m thinking a little less than three weeks in the future when we have our Keystone Christian Fiction Writers Conference.

It’s going to be a fabulous day. Literary agents Joyce and her son Jim Hart, from Hartline Literary Agency, will be there taking appointments. Destiny Image, Whitaker House, and Storyline Publishing will also be taking appointments for consideration. In addition, Christine Whitaker of Whitaker House and Jonathan Nori of Destiny Image are presenting workshops.

A full list of workshops and presenters is available on this site under the Keystone tab. As Chapter President, I am thrilled that we’re hosting this conference and we believe we’ve put together a stellar slate of speakers on a variety of subjects in two tracks, writing craft, and marketing.

It’s not too late to sign up. Hope to see you there!