Word Count 38: Upcoming extras, my editing process, how professional screenwriters outline, the importance of notebooks & James Henry’s The Cabinet of Curiosities

by Suw on March 7, 2023

Hi there,

You might have spotted that last week I sent you an extra email – a long read about the potential impact of AI-generated books on the publishing industry. Substack sometimes feels more like a blogging platform than a newsletter so it seems sensible to put additional material there. No doubt I’ll blog again, as and when the whim strikes me.

I’ve also decided to post The Gates of Balawat there as well. I’ll publish it in instalments over the next seven weeks, starting on Thursday. I write to be read and, now more than ever, you have to go where your readers are. Sharing my fiction on Substack will put it in front of a lot more readers than I could ever reach on my blog. Of course, if you prefer to read it as an ebook, you can download it for free right now!

Suw’s News: Tag progress and story editors

Last week I finished editing episode 4 of Tag, which had started out at half the length it needed to be and ended up at 54 pages, which will do for now. I’ve started on episode 5 and am settling into a nice rhythm with the editing.

So much of writing is, I think, finding out how you work best. The process I’ve settled on with this round of edits is to write out a list of plot points in the order they pop up in the script. This isn’t necessarily the same as a list of scenes, because sometimes one plot point, such as “William breaks into the museum” is split out over several scenes.

This list is confined to the left-hand side of the page and then, on the right, I use colour-coded tiny sticky notes to add in the new scenes that are needed to flesh out the episode. A-story additions are in blue, though there are few of these as the A-story is pretty much all there. B-story is on green sticky notes and C-story on red. Random issues with structure or character are on yellow. This allows me to see at a glance how I’m weaving the stories together, and I can move the sticky notes around until I’m happy with how it all flows. Then it’s just a matter of going through the script and writing it all out.

Now that I’m on episode 5, which is only 12 pages too short, I decided that it was time to find a story editor to look over the whole series with fresh eyes and give me some pointers. I have two whom I’m paying to look over the pilot and then I’ll work with whichever one gives the best notes. I’ve sent them both the script and I’m excited to see what they come back with!

Watch this: How professional screenwriters outline

If you’ve ever doubted that you need to find your own process rather than slavishly copy somebody else’s, this video from Behind The Curtain on YouTube demonstrates extremely well that no two screenwriters work the same way. They’ve cut together interviews with professional screenwriters, including Quentin Tarantine, Rian Johnson and Greta Gerwig, talking about how they outline their scripts and none of them do it the same way.

If you haven’t settled on your own process, there’s lots there to consider trying, but ultimately, how you write is going to be singular to you. There is no right or wrong, there’s only what works for you and what doesn’t.

WAIW?: How a notebook reinvigorated my writing life

It’s as if the universe is very keen for me to think about process this week, because my Why Aren’t I Writing? post was all about the way I take notes and how it opened up when I discovered disc-bound notebooks. It might seem trivial, but it wasn’t until I found a non-linear way of taking notes that I started to get really productive with my writing. If you’d asked me what was causing my blocks before then, I wouldn’t have been able to explain, but as soon as I found the solution I realised what had been going on. Truly, the human mind is a strange thing.

Stop, look, listen: The Cabinet of Curiosities

I read James Henry’s The Cabinet of Curiosities years ago and loved it, so was delighted when he recently turned it into a podcast. Now it’s been picked up by xigxag, a “fully integrated listen-and-read experience, at an affordable price without a subscription”. What that means is that you automatically get the ebook and the audiobook together. More importantly, their pricing model is such that prices go down the more you buy, starting at a very reasonable £7.99 and going down to £3.99 if you buy more than 20 titles in a year.

Obligatory cat picture

Please excuse the poor quality of this week’s photo – cameraphones really have come a long way in the 13 years since this photo was taken – but I’ve always loved it for the composition rather than the detail.

As you can probably guess, there was a bug on the ceiling and neither Grabbity nor Sir Izacat Mewton had any problems with clambering up whatever was most convenient in order to reach said bug, in this case, Kevin. They were just over a year old, so still growing but still able to both fit on Kevin’s shoulders. I wouldn’t want to try this with Grabbity now, not least because her balance isn’t as good as it once was!

Right, that’s it for this week.

All the best,


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