Editor’s Note: This a guest post from Chad R. Allen, a writer, speaker, editor, and creativity coach. Chad serves as an editorial director for Baker Publishing Group, a major trade book publisher. Connect with him on Twitter and his blog.
When I was younger I played the trombone, but I didn’t really get it. I had friends who got it. You could tell orchestral music did something for them.
I wanted to like it, I just didn’t. Perhaps that’s why I was always just a mediocre trombone player. I hated practicing my scales; that I remember.
Listening for the music
But as I get older I’m starting to understand it more. I hear moments in orchestral and chamber music now that make me tear up. It’s not just sound, it’s music, and I’m beginning to hear it.
So many different elements — the different timbres of the instruments, the volume, the tempo, the underlying feel — they all come together to fill the air. When orchestral music is performed well, it can transport me to a different world.
That’s how it is with books too.
When I work with an author, I’m listening for the music. I listen for flow, consistency, engagement, fit, voice, rhythm, tempo. I listen for a theme.
Sometimes a manuscript comes to me with only a partially formed idea of the finished piece. As I read, I’m trying to hear what the manuscript wants to become.
The symphonic moment
When I give feedback to authors, I comment on things like understandability or appropriateness for the audience or verbosity.
I tell the author to consider telling a story here or deleting those two paragraphs. Try the word “audacious” not “auspicious” there, I might say.
But the real magic happens when an author and I walk our way into an overall conception for the book. I call it the “symphonic moment” — that moment when we hear the music.
Sometimes, in fact often, when we hear it we realize it’s going to take a lot of work to get there. But usually the tune is so compelling, we have to try. Even if things don’t come together in just the way we want, the book is still so much better than it would have been.
Every once in a while the music comes through loud and clear, and we both have to sit back and take it in. These are the moments that keep me coming into the office.
How to hear it
You might wonder, where’s my symphonic moment? How do I get in on this? Here’s the thing:
You’ll never experience it if you give up. It is only when we writers keep writing that we have a chance of hearing the music. [Tweet that]
Writers: keep listening.
Sometimes, you won’t hear it until the rough draft is complete. It certainly won’t happen if you don’t put in the time. Your work will be worth it in the end, so please keep on writing.
You can do this, and we need you to do it.
I put together a resource kit especially for Jeff Goins readers, just because I love Jeff (and you!) so much. Visit this special page, enter your email address, and I’ll send some items I’ve prepared specially for you. Here’s what you’ll get:
- A new infographic on how to come up with a great book concept. I recently collaborated with an artist to design this. It unveils a process for brainstorming and refining your ideas so you’ll know exactly what book concept you should pursue.
- A video tutorial in which I talk through the infographic and help you apply it to your situation.
Get it all here.
What do you need right now to keep yourself on the writing journey? Share in the comments.