Coffee & Contemplation: Returning to Work

As the whole pandemic situation calms down in the United States, many places have reopened their services. I recently went back to work but with limited hours. I’m thankful to return to work but I fear I won’t be able to make enough money to support myself. This is nothing compared to the millions of people who are unemployed due to Covid-19. But I still worry because I could only get part-time work and many of my other gigs were in events and entertainment. To my knowledge, events and gatherings are still canceled.

So, with this return to work, I have also cut back to only my essential expenses. I have rent, the electric bill, the phone bill, groceries, and a reduced student loan payment. That’s all. Some good things about returning to work include getting cash tips to use for the laundromat, getting out of the house now and then, and walking to work gets me my daily exercise. But with part-time work, it’s only enough to cover my expenses with not much left over. At least I have a job when so many don’t. 

I do continue applying for jobs hoping to get something full-time. Full-time work would allow me to live easy. The downside is I would not have as much free time for writing. I’m about two-thirds complete writing the first draft of a novel and I have two more novel ideas in line. I also have a short story collection and a couple poetry collections in the works. And then there are the posts for this blog. If I could afford it, I would write full-time. That, however, doesn’t pay the bills. Once I finish my first novel and edit it to something I like, I’ll submit to literary agents and try for a publishing deal. Fingers crossed.

Write Prose Like the Pros: Beats in the Dialogue

What are beats? Beats are bits of action narrated during dialogue. This would be called stage business or blocking when reading a stage play. There are also internal beats where a character has a short passage of interior monologue. Beats can help change the pace and tension of a scene depending on how many are used. Fewer beats give a faster pace and can help build tension in an argument scene. Too many beats can stop the pace of the story and move at the same speed as an entire page of narrative summary.

Don’t use too many beats and don’t use too few. What’s the right amount? It depends on the scene. Use fewer beats to build tension. Use more beats to slow things down and give the reader some time to breath. Peaks and valleys. In most cases, there only needs to be enough to keep the reader in the scene. If the scene takes place in a machine shop, an occasional commentary on noise being heard will remind the reader where the characters are speaking. Beats are also important for showing body language to the reader. This is as important as what the character says.

Beats help break up the page making it more engaging. A full page of a one paragraph narrative summary may look boring on the page. That narrative may be important but it’s easy to break it up with beats or internal beats. Through a couple internal beats into the paragraph and now there’s several paragraph on one page and some short internal monologue. But don’t overdo it. If it isn’t important to the story or plot and doesn’t help move the story or plot along its path, it isn’t needed. Do what’s right for the scene and the story overall.

The best place to learn how to improve one’s writing is with Renni Browne and Dave King’s “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself into Print.” If I were teaching a class on fiction writing, this is the book I would use as the course textbook.

Flashback Friday Poetry: False Beliefs

as my dreams now fade
in an empty home
the fun is unseen
sitting here alone

get up and out i scream
but i cannot go on
i sit here in dismay
i sit here for too long

in dark catacombs
i search for a path
in the bleak caverns
found nothing i have

a way out is what i crave
from my own confusion
the strange hours of twilight
increase my own delusion

Early poetry from James. From the poetry collection Pariah Bound: The Lonesome Poetry.