Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Writing as an Art Form — Continuity

Learning to write is a lifelong course. Word art—the ability to create stunning imagery or exert desired influence with clear, concise information—might be compared to painting a sunset or composing a song. Words come in many shades and hues, notes and tones. Combining them into a specific “sight” or “sound” involves careful mixing of “colors” and “chords.” This series of articles examines the elements of writing that set the artist apart from the ordinary journalist.

Let’s consider continuity. Continuity involves connections. Effective writing needs to “connect” all the parts so that flow is not interrupted by mismatched colors or discord. How?

Careful attention to details—hair or eye color, location, timeframes, and so forth—eliminates confusion and contributes to a cohesive whole. Whether writing a business proposal or authoring a fiction or nonfiction book, a writer must make sure the reader not only understands what’s being said, but also follows the reasoning or the storyline to its logical conclusion.

One way to assure continuity involves manuscript readers. Have another person read your material. Ask that person to tell you what it says. Does the response match your intent? Also, read your words aloud and listen carefully. If you have a recorder, read your work into that and play it back. Combining the senses of sight and sound doubles your ability to assess what you’ve written.

For fiction pieces, outlines and character sketches help to maintain continuity and keep story progression on track. For example, action should never veer down a divergent path unless coherent development permits that to happen. Or if Mary has brown eyes in chapter three, they’d better not be green in chapter seventeen unless the reader knows she’s wearing colored contacts.

In nonfiction works, the use of an outline reduces the opportunity for error or confusing/conflicting information. Are you writing a proposal or speech, an editorial or how-to book? Make sure of your facts. Then be sure those facts are consistent throughout your work. Use chronological order and/or logical development for clarity. Focus on your purpose and don’t digress.

Just as colors blend to produce varying shades and musical notes combine to form major and minor chords, continuity overlaps with other writing elements—flow and coherent development, for example. We will discuss these and others in later articles.

Next time: Let Your Characters Tell Their Story – Don’t You Tell It.


Linda Lane, fiction writer and editor, will be co-presenter of a 50-minute segment on editing at Colorado Independent Publishers Association’s annual seminar (CIPA College) on March 26, 2010. Owner of Pen & Sword Publishers Ltd., she has edited two national award winners. Her latest novel will be released at the CIPA College event.
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  1. I'm all about the outlines and character profiles!

  2. When I think about continuity I'm always reminded of an episode of The Avengers--yes, yes, I'm dating myself. Anyway. Emma Peel, in that wonderful black cat suit of hers, was fighting the villain in a river. He dunked her and held her under a frightfully long time. But our Emma prevailed! She broke the surface, gasped for air, reached for the guy's neck, and pushed him underwater--

    --and her hair was perfectly blown dry.

  3. Emma was SO good, wasn't she? LOL. This analogy really resonates with me, being an artist turned writer. Good stuff, Linda, thanks!


  4. Interesting topic, Linda. I hope you'll develop the art connection further in future posts. I was a painter before I became a mystery writer, so my books are full of visual imagery. But the most fun was in ELDERCIDE, creating a villain who's also a painter, and getting inside his head while he paints passionate canvases featuring my protagonist.

    I'm also a poet, and I love reading at open mics, maybe because I don't take my poetry as seriously as my fiction. I recommend poetry as a great way to develop a concise yet colorful voice and learn how to say a lot with fewer words.

    Julie Lomoe's Musings Mysterioso

  5. Sometimes it takes an outside reader to catch continuity problems. The writer has read the manuscript so many times, they can assume something's there when it's not.

    Nice post. Thank you.

    Straight From Hel

  6. Good points, Linda. We all need to remember to pay attention to those little details to make sure they are correct. I just finished reading a book in which a character jumped on a horse and kicked it in then withers to get it moving. Wrong, unless he was sitting backwards on the horse. (For those who might not know, the withers are what we might call a shoulder)

    And, Kathryn, I saw that same episode of the Avenger and noticed the perfectly dry hair. Cracked me up.

  7. Mary K. Marelli

    My biggest stumbling block right now is promotion. A first time author, I find it very hard to be taken seriously. Any suggestions?

    Eagle Lake Follies

    A collection of short stories by Mary K. Marelli
    Available at: www.moosehidebooks.com
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    Homepage: www.eaglelakefollies.blogspot.com

  8. Hello there,

    I just gave you an award at:

    Thank you,
    A.F. Heart


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