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Revisions: Writing Dialogue Part 3

dialogue-3

My apologies to everyone for being away for so long…family issues intermingling with a busy schedule have kept me from concluding this three part series…that and inconsistent Wi-Fi. Don’t get me started on that.

So…as I was saying in Part 2, interrupted speech can build action into dialogue but even more so having one character abruptly cut off another character’s words in an immediate manner—mid word—can speak volumes.

Dialogue abruptly cut off this way is handled the same way by use of the em dash. This takes a little more concentration as you’ll need to consider the sounds of words and syllables before deciding where to break the interrupted word. For example, if you’re asking someone to stop what he’s doing (Please stop…) but that someone cuts you off mid word as soon as you begin. You wouldn’t break off the word stop after the s (s—) because the first sound comes from the combination of the S and the T (st—).

Example:  “I love y—” Annabelle’s foot slipped off the step as she began to declare herself.

Sometimes a person is speaking and someone interrupts them but they ignore the interruption and continue with what they were saying, again the em dash comes into play.

Example:  “If I could have a moment of your time—”

“I love you.”

“—there’s something I need to ask you.” Damien smiled.

Sometimes a characters dialogue trails off because he’s lost his train of thought, doesn’t know what to say next, or in times of stress, doesn’t want to say what perhaps is best left unsaid. When you wish to show this, use the ellipsis (…) and remember, that’s only three (3) dots…not four or more.

Example: “I know we haven’t known each other very long…” He was so nervous that he forgot what he was going to say.

Creating a tension or an intimacy between the characters.

It’s best not to use names within dialogue too much but sometimes, when you’re building intimacy and/or tension, you’ll want to do just that—use the name of the person whose point of view it’s not to create a deeper connection. By the way, this is good advice in real life too.

Always use a comma before and/or after the name when addressing someone directly in dialogue—even if the name isn’t a proper name but an endearment, or curse. 🙂

Examples: “I love you, Damien.”

“Damien, I love you.”

“I love you, honey.”

“I love you, Damien, more than I ever loved my ex-husband.”

Dialogue within a paragraph.

When dealing with multiple lines of dialogue within a paragraph, make sure all the dialogue belongs to only one speaker. It’s best to put the dialogue tag at the end of the first sentence since tags are for readers so they may keep track of the speaker, but this a personal voice thing as well.

My greatest advice for a long bit of dialogue is that it is not left hiding at the end of the paragraph as that doesn’t help the reader and can make them backtrack—something you don’t want them having to do. Ever! Remember everything is about flow and moving the story forward.

Where to put the dialogue tag is something that you need to feel out for yourself. The feel of the dialogue or rhythm of the speech might require a different construction but as a rule, the end of the first sentence helps keep the reader on track. Especially, when three or more characters are talking in a group, readers might be able to guess who is speaking but there’s nothing wrong with helping out the reader either.

Examples:

“I was wondering if we could talk a moment. I know you’re probably tired and want to get home. I even heard it might snow tonight but there’s something I want to say to you,” Damien said. “It’s rather important.”

(This might work well if you want Damien to sound rambling.)

“I was wondering if we could talk a moment,” Damien said, grabbing her hand. “I know you’re probably tired and want to get home. I even heard it might snow tonight but there’s something I want to say to you, and it’s rather important.”

(The reader knows it is Damien still speaking. He even sounds a little surer of himself too.)

It’s all about your voice.

Now beyond this, sometimes dialogue might stretch across paragraphs without another character speaking. This happens quite often when someone is dominating the conversation. When this happens, you will use proper punctuation, a terminal punctuation—i.e., a period, question mark, or exclamation point at the end of the paragraph but if the dialogue continues, there will be no closing quotation marks until the very end of the dialogue. Some grammar experts say to use an opening quotation mark to start the next paragraph, but this again is a personal choice. As long as the reader understands that the character is still speaking, it’s your choice to use opening quotation marks. But you must close the dialogue with closing quotation marks.

Example: Note the quotation marks.

I was wondering if we could talk a moment,” Damien said, grabbing her hand. I know you’re probably tired and want to get home. I even heard it might snow tonight but there’s something, I want to say to you, and it’s rather important.

The sky is looking a little like snow, isn’t it? Here, let’s sit over here and I’ll tell you what I have in mind. Oh, careful of that step, it wouldn’t do to have you fall and hurt yourself, he told her catching Annabelle’s arm as her foot slipped from the step.

However, when another character joins the conversation, each dialogue set must be opened, and closed, with quotation marks as well as a new paragraph begun each time the speaker changes, whether there are tags or not.

Example:

She glanced over at Damien. “I’d wanted to tell you for some time now but we’ve been friends for so long, I didn’t know if you wanted more. I just didn’t know what to say.”

“I’ve loved you nearly from the first moment we met. Being friends was the best way to stay close to you…even after you married.”

“Had I known that, I might not have married him. I never loved him like I love you, Damien,” Annabelle admitted. “I’m sorry I never said anything before.”

Mixing dialogue with narration in the same paragraph can work as long as the narration refers to the character speaking and preferably, the one whose point of view the scene is focusing on. Dialogue can go in at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of the paragraph and the narration. However, if the narration refers to several characters or you can’t tell which character is the focus of the paragraph, begin the dialogue with a new paragraph and a dialogue tag. In other words, don’t make the reader guess who is speaking.

If the paragraph opens with a wide view of a group of people but then the focus narrows to a single character, you could introduce that character’s dialogue into the end of that same paragraph because the focus is completely on that character—or you can simply begin a new paragraph with the dialogue.

This is what makes your voice unique but the important key to good dialogue writing is to keep the reader in the flow of the story. Confusion over dialogue can and will pull the reader out of the fictional world you’re working so hard to create.

Example:

Annabelle exited the building, the cold wind blowing up under her coat as she walked along path toward the parking lot. Her steps slowed when she spotted Damien standing near the pedestrian bridge that stretched over the creek separating the building from the lot. Still embarrassed and somewhat angry at having walked in on him in the break room with Sarah in his arms, Annabelle decided ignoring him was the best course of action. Tucking her head down as if evading the wind, she quickened her steps to get past him without confrontation. When she saw him step forward, she said, “Not now, Damien.”

“I was wondering if we could talk a moment,” Damien said, grabbing her hand. “Please, I know you’re probably tired and want to get home. I even heard it might snow tonight but there’s something, I want to say to y—”

“I love you,” she blurted out before she lost her nerve.

Remember…attributions can come before the dialogue, especially if you want the dialogue tag to be noticed but you can also hide them, put them in the middle or at the end of a sentence, however, although not always, you will want the dialogue, and not the attribution, to stand out.

I hope you now have a greater appreciation of how dialogue can evoke emotion, action, and create depth in a scene, sometimes without saying it all. If you have any further questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments or write me directly. I enjoy hearing from you and want you to succeed, grow, and be a happy writer. Let me know, if I may assist you in gaining success for you and your manuscript…it’s what I do.

Happy Writing Everyone!

Revisions: Writing Dialogue

dialogue

Hi writers, I know it’s been a while since my last editing/revision lesson but family matters have kept me busy as well as clients so let’s get things rolling again. One of the things that I notice quite often in editing is incorrect punctuation when it comes to dialogue. I understand it can be confusing at times but with practice, anyone can become so comfortable with the rules that it will come without thinking. Trust me.

Dialogue has its own set of rules for punctuation.

Commas always go in particular places, as do terminal marks such as periods, question marks, and exclamation points.

A simple rule to remember is that only what is said aloud is put within the quotation marks, and always within quotation marks—those are the double marks by the way. (“…”)

Any other parts of the same sentence such as dialogue tags (said, remarked, commanded, etc.) and any action or thought go outside the quotation marks.

Dialogue always begins with a capitalized word, no matter where in the sentence it begins. Only if the dialogue is interrupted and a tag continues it followed by a comma and not a period is not capped.

Example: “If I could have a moment of your time,” he said, grabbing her hand, “it’s important.”

Only direct dialogue, words spoken to someone or aloud requires quotation marks. Indirect dialogue is a report that someone spoke and what they said. The word that is implied in indirect dialogue.

Direct: “She was spoiled rotten,” he said.

Indirect: He said [that] she was spoiled rotten.

Now…as for punctuation in regards to dialogue, there are a few rules but the most basic ones are:

When using a single line of dialogue with no dialogue tag, the entire sentence, including the period or question mark or exclamation point is placed within the quotation marks.

Example: “I love you.”

“Will you marry me?”

“I’m so excited!”

When using a single line with dialogue tag (attribution) following the dialogue, the dialogue is enclosed in quotation marks with a comma following the dialogue and the comma is always placed before the closing quotation mark. A period ends the sentence after the dialogue tag. Punctuation in the form of the comma serves to separate the spoken words from other parts of the sentence. Since the sentence is not finished after the dialogue, the dialogue tag—he said, she demanded—is still part of the same sentence, and so it is not capitalized unless a proper name or title is being used.

Example:  “I love you,” she said.

“I love you,” Annabelle said.

The same construction occurs with a question mark even though there is no comma but instead a question mark, the dialogue tag continues the sentence and so there is no capitalization of the first word following the quotation marks unless it is a proper name.

Example:  “Will you marry me?” he asked.

“Will you marry me?” Damien asked.

When it comes to the use of exclamation points…if at all possible use a dialogue tag that expresses the raised voice or excitement in the voice of the speaker rather than an exclamation point or do not add a dialogue tag and use the exclamation point as too many exclamation points can slow the flow and distract the reader.

Example:  “I’m so excited,” she exclaimed throwing her arms around his neck.

“I’m so excited!” She threw her arms around his neck.

Sometimes, the dialogue needs more definition and so you might wish to put the tag first before the line of dialogue. When using this method, the comma still separates the dialogue tag from the spoken words but now it is outside the quotation marks and the dialogue-ending period is inside the quotation marks.

Example:  She said, “I love you.”

Annabelle said, “I love you.”

When using a single line of dialogue with dialogue tag as well as action, the dialogue is always enclosed in quotation marks no matter how much action is added to the sentence. A comma still follows the dialogue and is enclosed within the quotation marks. The dialogue tag follows immediately with no capitalization unless using a proper name then the action follows and a period ends the sentence.

Example:  “I love you,” she said, hoping he loved her too.

“I love you,” Annabelle said, hoping he loved her too.

Just as with a single line of dialogue with a simple tag, the action and dialogue tag can also introduce the dialogue, only now you’ll follow the action with the tag but the same rules apply as before.

Example:  Tipping her head to look at him, she said, “I love you.”

The most important thing to remember is make sure the reader knows who is speaking so as to avoid confusion. The dialogue is always key to fiction…let’s get it right. Next time, we’ll explore more complicated dialogue construction.

If you have any questions in particular that you’d like to see addressed, feel free to let me know in the comments and I’ll be happy to include them in the next sessions of Revisions: Writing Dialogue. It’s all about helping you find the success you deserve.

Happy Writing Everyone!

No First Drafts Need Apply…

First Draft

SO…you’ve written a book, and are now thinking…this being a writer thing is easier than I thought. I’ve written this great first draft and it’s ready for publishing…who needs revisions or editing, right? If I get a publisher, they’ll do that, right? And if I decide to self-publish, I don’t need to do anything more…because…I’m a writer! Right?

No. No. And no!

As a well-known writer once said…The first draft of anything is shit. And he’s right because it’s the second, third, or even fourth or fifth draft that will finally tell the reader the story.

If you’re a writer planning to self-publish or you keep getting rejected after submitting to publishing houses because your manuscript is ‘not what they’re looking for’, it’s because your manuscript is far from being ready. A first draft is exactly that—a FIRST DRAFT.

Those two words speak volumes. It’s rough…it’s a first draft, which means it is the first thoughts of your story. A first draft is more like an outline. You’re telling your initial story but now it needs fleshing out…meaning the characters are still in need of development, both internally and externally. Its missing words, filled with spelling errors, and the punctuation may or may not be correct. And maybe, you don’t have a good handle on point of view changes or if writing in first-person, understanding how to stay there. If it was perfect, polished, and ready for publishing, it would a FINAL manuscript not a FIRST draft, or even a second.

I recommend all writers, even the best, even best-sellers revise their first draft at least twice before even having an editor look at it. When we are writing, we are completely submerged into the work and because of that, we don’t see all the errors, missed words, poor sentence structure, head hopping and sometimes, we are even missing points of conflict and emotion that our characters and story line need. When we write a first draft, we don’t always get everything on the page we want there. It takes starting from the beginning, and going through it word for word, and experiencing it to begin to achieve the level of completeness to make it ready for an editor to see. And then the editor takes it apart again.

Editors are a fresh eye on your work, and once you reach the point where you don’t think you can revise one more word, an editor might see other problems or places that can be expanded or deleted that will enhance the story, and the characters even more…and can also suggest how to fix it. Without an editor and a fresh eye, you may be hindering your work and keeping it from being published or if you’re self-publishing, keep you from getting top rated reviews and in turn, selling books.

Do you really want to put your hard work out there in a first draft or even unpolished manuscript? I have to tell you that is a surefire way to make sure you don’t succeed.

Yes, editors are costly. There are some that cost thousands, some come a little cheaper but honestly, where as some say they are cost efficient, and might be able to do a 65,000 word manuscript for a squeak under a thousand dollars, I can do it for less than $600. In addition, for new clients, I always offer a FREE 2000 word sample to show them what I do for them…and to see if we’re a match.

Who knows, you might be a fast study and be able to take what I show you in that free sample and edit your work yourself…but would you be sure that you did your hard work a good service?

No.

But if you want publishers, readers, and reviewers to take notice…you want your manuscript thoroughly and completely, word for word, edited. No First Drafts Need Apply—ANYWHERE! 🙂

Let’s find you success. Happy Writing Everyone!

Client Pride! A 3rd Place Win for Ella J. Phoenix!

VAMPIRE LEGACY by Ella J Phoenix 3rd place win

I am so proud of my client, Ella J. Phoenix for her 3rd Place WIN in the Paranormal Romance Guild 2015 Reviewer’s Choice Awards for VAMPIRE LEGACY, book four in the Dragon Heat series.

This is such a great series and I was so proud to be able to assist her on this installment after loving all of the previous ones so much. This series is fabulous and award winning already so to have helped her maintain her standard and achieve higher makes my work worthwhile.

So just imagine how well it might have done had she taken all of my suggestions regarding passive voice. *wink* Congratulations Ella…keep writing and keep striving for the best you can create. XOX

Remember, helping you succeed is what I do, and I want to help you find your success too.

Happy Writing Everyone!

Cover Reveal for RYDER, a Men of Clifton Montana novel by Susan Fisher-Davis with #excerpt

Best RYDER by Susan Fisher-DavisRYDER

A Men of Clifton, Montana novel #5

by Susan Fisher-Davis

Ryder Wolfe is a solitary man. Happy, living alone with his horses and the mountains as company until the man, who rescued him from the streets as a lost teen, sends him a beautiful woman in need of protection. He takes her in even as it goes against his very character. Now he’s fighting his desire to have her for his own with all he has. But his job is to protect her, not seduce her.

Kelsey Sullivan hasn’t had the best luck with men but then one of them decides to stalk her, and make her life miserable. A family friend sends her to Clifton, Montana. To the one man trusted to protect her. But what if the man protecting her is the man she wants more than any other, only he insists on protecting her, even from himself?

Can Ryder accept her love and trust in the man she believes he is?

Excerpt: 

She was preparing a pot of coffee in the kitchen when the back door opened. She turned to see Ryder enter with the dogs following behind. She could feel and smell the cold coming off them. The dogs greeted her with pants and wagging tails. Without a word, they sat down in front of her. She smiled and reached down to pet them. They put their paws up for her to shake. She laughed and looked at Ryder, who busied himself taking his hat and coat off. He hung his hat on a peg by the door, then walked into the laundry room and hung up his coat.

Continue reading

Happy Release Day to my fab client, Susan Fisher-Davis!

I’m so excited to announce one of my clients has gone independent publishing and has released her first indie pub book today. It is the third book in an already established series, but it’s her first without a publisher. Huzzah to Susan Fisher-Davis and may COOPER do great with the readers. I have no doubt. 🙂

COOPER by Susan Fisher-Davis

 COOPER

book 3 in the Bad Boys of Dry River, Wyoming

by Susan Fisher-Davis

Cooper Lang has all he needs in life—his ranch, his motorcycle shop and female companionship whenever he wants it. So when Kendra Mattingly reappears one hot summer day and knees him in the groin for kissing her, he knows he should stay clear but being one of the Bad Boys of Dry River also means accepting dangerous challenges and this obstinate beauty is definitely too much to resist. 

Kendra has been in love with Cooper since her teens but after he rejected her, she settled for a loveless marriage, which she eventually escaped. Now her chance with Cooper has finally arrived yet she can’t help but feel he doesn’t desire the same things in life. 

Upfront about his feelings regarding marriage and kids, Kendra ends things because she’s always wanted marriage and a family. When her past threatens her safety, Cooper wonders if he’s made a huge mistake. 

I hope you’ll check out this amazing story…since I was the editor, I can pat myself on the back and brag a little about this one. It’s good! Feel free to contact me about helping you succeed in making your story the best it can be too. COOPER is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobobooks.

***And yes, in case you’re wondering, I wrote the blurb for this. Just so you know. I can do the same for you.

Happy Writing Everyone!

Exciting News!

celebrate

I am so pleased and excited to say that yet another of my fabulous clients has signed a contract for a book that she and I worked together.

This is why I am an editor, I love seeing my clients succeed. I love seeing their work accepted because it’s shining bright and compelling others to read it. This is worth every late hour, all the missed sleep, meeting deadlines, and doing all those corrections. It’s as exciting for me to have a client tell me that he or she got a contract as if I were signing one myself. Of course if, and when that happens for me, it might be a tad bit more exciting, but somehow I think it will be an equally happy moment.

Congratulations to Tina Mrazik for selling ALL ACCESS!

Happy Writing Everyone and feel free to ask me what I can do to help you succeed too!

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