Word Count 64: Katherine May on boundaries, Julian Simpson on how to write action sequences

by Suw on December 5, 2023

Plus James Capel’s end of year round-up, Word Count’s book list, and Copurrnicus watching some dolphins.

Hi there,

Bit of a short email this week because technically I’m on holiday. My husband had a bit of time to use up before the year end, so I’m taking a week off to lounge about, sew, and generally relax.

Talking of holidays, there’ll be one more Word Count before the end of the year and then I’ll be taking a proper break over Christmas, so the first newsletter of 2024 will be on 16 January. I’ll also organise another Grist webinar for January, skipping December completely because I’m sure we’re all too busy/tired. I also have some more author webinars lined up for next year, which I’m very excited about!

Stop, look, listen: Not Too Busy To Write – Katherine May on writer boundaries

I loved this episode of Penny Wincer’s Not Too Busy To Write in which she chatted with Katherine May, the author of bestseller, Wintering. One of the issues Penny and Katherine discuss is how hard it is to get paid for writing and how writers, especially women, are socialised to believe that our writing has to be free. Penny has a post expanding on that point which is also well worth reading.

Katherine also talked about how exhausting it was to do all the promo for Wintering, how she came to outline the accommodations she needs in order to do promo work as an autistic writer and how difficult it can be for early career writers to ask for what they need.

Read this, two: How to write an action sequence

Julian Simpson has written a very helpful piece on how to write action sequences, where an action sequence is a part of the story that isn’t based on dialogue and which “conveys or continues story”.

An action sequence which does not move the story along just breaks the flow. We should be in a different place at the end of the sequence to where we were at the beginning. If you can cut the sequence without having any effect on the overall story, then it shouldn’t be there.

Julian breaks action sequences down into three acts and outlines the various phases they have to go through in order to work as an integral part of the story, rather than just fluff that’s expensive to film. His advice works just as well for novels as well.

(This post is for Julian’s paying subscribers, but you can read this and his other paid posts with a 7 day free trial.)

Read this: Comparison is the thief of joy

Screenwriter James Capel, who is also the founder of Scribe Lounge, shared an end-of-year recap that I think we can all relate to, detailing all of the challenges he’s faced and rejections he’s had.

Okay I’m going pretty off-brand for a second because I want to offer some balance. Let’s be honest, when things aren’t going well it can be hard to see your peers flourishing when you’re feeling stuck. So, you want know how my writing year has been? ????

It’s been shite. I’ve been pummelled with rejections, had projects stall in development, missed out on rooms and generally felt I’m going backwards. I’ve doubted my ability, doubted my place in the industry and questioned how much more I can take. BUT…

Read the full thread on Twitter.

If you’re buying books for Christmas

I have a Bookstore.org list of all the books and authors I’ve ever mentioned on Word Count, so if want a few recommendations, take a look! I do get a tiny commission on every purchase, so if you buy from Bookstore you’re helping authors and me at a time of year when we need it the most.

Obligatory cat picture

In the spirit of being sort of on holiday and therefore refusing to work at my desk, I am sitting on my sofa and this is a real time shot of Copurrnicus snuggled beside me and watching the dolphins on the AppleTV screensaver.


Right, that’s it for this time! See you again just before Christmas!

All the best,


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