Sunday, 17 November 2013

The Art of Connection

The Art of Connection

Do you find that you waste time wondering how to start the next sentence?
Do you find yourself lost for words when you are required to link your ideas coherently and persuasively?
Do your sentences flow together and support the larger structure?
Do you want your writing to communicate more effectively and efficiently?

The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences is an innovative practical book that explains the Nine Arts of Connection: Location, Timing, Comparison, Contrast and Difference, the Supplement, Disputation, Sequence, Example and Illustration, and the Summary.

By following the easy to use guides and examples provided in this book, writers can learn how to write fluently and begin to enjoy the process of composition.

Whether your are a student or learning English for the first time, this book will assist you to write successfully to achieve your goals. By dividing the common words and phrases used to signal transition and connection into nine categories this book guides the writer through the principles of effective writing and outlines everything that you need to know about the Nine Arts of Connection. Two thirds of the book are devoted to tried-and-tested examples of practical usage. This approach enables the writer to identify the value and effectiveness of connectvity as an active principle in composition.

A thought-provoking critical introduction also outlines in detail how effective writing employs a balance between creative flow or spontaneity, and the need to provide coherence, logical and structure.


1.0 Introduction

1.1 The Social Sentence
1.2 The Use of Connection
1.3 Understanding the Psychology of Transition
1.4 Style, Oratory, Elegance
1.5 The flow of spontaneity and passion
1.6 Power, Rhetoric and Repetition
1.7 The Philosophy of Association
1.8 Beyond the Logic of Connection
1.9 Écriture féminine
1.10 Openings: the genesis of this book

2. The Art of Location
3. The Art of Timing
4. The Art of Comparison
5. The Art of Contrast and Difference
6. The Art of the Supplement
7. The Art of Disputation
8. The Art of the Sequence
9. The Art of Example and Illustration
10. The Art of the Summary
Further Reading

About the Author

Dr Ian McCormick served as a Professor at the University of Northampton until 2009. He holds degrees in English Language and Literature (University of St Andrews (M.A.) and a doctorate awarded by the University of Leeds (Ph.D).

Ian's published work has been featured on BBC Radio and TV; in the Times Literary Supplement, The Observer, The Guardian, TimeOut (London), and in several academic journals. Awards and Prizes include the King James VI Prize (1989); the Lawson Memorial Prize (1985); British Academy Studentship (1990-93). Ian has also published and edited books on Gothic literature and Romanticism; sexuality and gender studies; modern and contemporary literature; teaching and learning strategies; drama education; and literary, critical and cultural theory.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Film Editing for Beginners – Understanding the Process


This blog examines problems and solutions for collaborative or participatory film editing.  I will be arguing that the time and resources spent on a loving and caring editing of the material filmed is a mark of respect for the community participants.

I'm saying that we need to value the detailed impact of micro-changes in film editing - it's part of the media butterfly effect.

Helpful advice on film editing typically focuses on the technical aspects of the process. Familiarity with Moviemaker, Adobe Premiere, AVID, Final Cut etc will be an advantage, but it is not the primary subject of my advice in this blog.


Movie editing software may appear formidable to the beginner, volunteer, or amateur, but the reality is that you can learn the basics in half a day. Gaining a professional feel for editing process takes much longer, requires patience, and will not be everyone’s preferred activity.

Remember that attentive editing will take at least as long as your planning and production time filming added together.

There are many ways to make the process smoother and more efficient. There are also supplementary and specific problems for community film makers compared to corporate and commercial approaches.


Let’s admit at the outset that it is usually unrealistic to have all participants crowded around a laptop, attempting to view all the footage, at the end of a project.

Participants inevitably become disillusioned with the drawn-out discussions, disagreements, micro-changes, and tantalisingly slow pace. Demoralization and boredom is not your goal. No one is really happy with the final product, if you ever get that far.


Realize that the problems with the end points have their origin in the opening stages of the project.

Creative discussion and selection of topic, focus, and angle, need to be defined at the outset. These are a rough map, a sense of direction, rather than a prisoner’s cell.

(I don’t mean that you have to be too rigid in advance. That would be the death of a project in which, wonderfully, participants embark on a collective journey. But I will say that the characteristic emphasis on process, at all costs, can be disastrous for the quality of the outcome. Are we really aiming for mediocrity in which ‘everyone had a great time’ – do we really have to compromise? I am suspicious of those who police and enforce false binary oppositions such as planning and improvisation, fixed structure and organic evolution, process and product.)


Collective energy and community participation productively inform the storytelling and storyboarding of your idea or topic - at an early stage. A storyboard will be a guide-map for a smaller editing team to work from. A weak story or an incoherent sequence of events doesn’t impress anyone, and will alienate the community producers.

Some people like editing, others don’t. Find out early on in the project about people’s skills and preferences, and training requirements – don’t leave it all to the end.

Edit the film as you go along, in a rough and ready fashion. If you filled half a tape accidentally recording irrelevant chair legs there’s really no point wasting that space on your hard drive.

Respect people’s wish for their contribution to be deleted.

Review the day’s shooting with participants, if possible

Make notes on the best clips of the day. This is called logging. Invent the system that works best for you. Always label tapes or disks at the time of filming. Keep a note of the best clips, and the ‘who, what, where, when’ bits of information.

It should be possible to create a rough edit based on (1) a selection of the best material actually filmed; (2) the valued work of a trained editing person or small team; (3) referring back to the story and storyboard as guides.

In community film it is essential to allow participants to view and comment on the rough edit. Misrepresentation is a crime!

The rough edit screening is an opportunity for creative dialogue between the editor(s) and the other participants.


How can we make our film more relevant?

Despite our noble intentions - are we trying to appeal to too many disparate groups with insoluble differences between them?

How can we strengthen the people/character element of the story?

Is there anything that’s irrelevant, flabby or surplus? Are we lingering tediously over uninteresting shots?

What’s distracting our attention from the main message?

How can we make our film shorter? (We seldom encounter a community film that we would wish to be longer)

If there’s disagreement (excellent); if you can’t resolve it, why not identify an objective focus group for a screening of the rough edit?

Have the editors gone overboard on special effects? (Children in the sweet-shop syndrome)

There’s far more advice on editing – one could write a whole book on the subject, but I’m going to save the next cluster of tips until a later blog.


If you are an ‘old-fashioned’ film editor you will be lamenting the turn to digital media and fondly remembering the reels of film, dailies, rushes, the sheer physicality of cutting and sculpting your film. Films and documentaries took years to make and were seldom in reality produced on a low budget. Production belonged to an elite which sometimes produced wonderful works of social consciousness and poetic beauty.

Today’s world offers free or cheap editing software and non-linear editing which presents creative opportunities.

I believe that the often missing strand of creativity comes from the quality of the community engagements, as much as it does from the power afforded by a liberating technology.

Barry Hampe’s excellent book Making Documentary Films and Reality Videos inhabits both old and new worlds. He reminds us of the need for technique and craft.

He notes that ‘Video editing is an intellectual exercise that is more like running a spreadsheet on a computer than sculpting a work of art […] And I think the best documentaries are sculpted rather than assembled.’ (289)

But it would be unfair to omit his recognition of the ‘possibilities for playfulness’ presented by new editing systems that allow all footage to be uploaded on your laptop. I absolutely agree with the advice that you need to be familiar with what the footage (digital clips) is saying – on its own terms – rather than what you intended/ planned to record, or thought you had shot. An editor needs to be patient. Take your time. Follow Hampe’s advice:

Play with the footage and hold off on making final decisions until you are really familiar with what you’ve got. It will make you a better editor. And you will make a better documentary. (290)

If you’re working with a notion of community participation in your film edit - rather than the solitary romantic master-editor -  then patience and the generous allocation of time will be valued post-production aspects of your successful project.

© Dr Ian McCormick. 
But please do contact me if you want to use this article as a guest post on your blog, or in your community newsletter. With attribution offered I seldom refuse!

Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(2013) ... also available on Kindle, or to download. A bargain!