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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 Part 2

 

interruption-cartoon

In our last lesson regarding writing dialogue, we discussed simple rules that we can follow to assist us in writing dialogue. Just as writing can be more complicated, so can dialogue. In this next lesson, we’ll up the ante a bit and discuss some of those complications that not only bring our characters to life but might also have you pulling your hair out trying to create such dialogue.

It’s not as difficult as you might think. Let’s begin…

Every so often, your character may pause briefly, interrupting dialogue with a breath or hesitation. There are two ways you can deal with an interruption using dialogue tags and either one is correct. Everyone has their own style according to their voice.

The first is dialogue interrupted by a dialogue tag and continuing the dialogue following the tag but it all stays in the same sentence.
When using this method, a comma will end the first part of the dialogue remaining inside the quotation marks, and a second comma will follow the tag but remain on the outside of the quotation marks.

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

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

If this is something that doesn’t feel comfortable for you, you might also separate them into two complete sentences. The first sentence will end with a period following the tag, and the second will begin with a capital letter.

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

Questions in dialogue with no dialogue tags are done the same way as one with a period. The question mark stays within the quotation marks. The same construction applies to using exclamation points.

Example: “Will you marry me?”

“Marry me!”

When using a dialogue tag for a question, the question mark replaces the comma before the closing quotation marks and before the dialogue tag and the same capitalization rules apply.

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

If you put the tag first, the construction is the same as with a period.

Example: Damien took hold of her hand, and asked, “Will you marry me?”

Now…sometimes dialogue becomes a bit more complicated when your characters are interacting and action interrupts the spoken words. Or even in some cases, a character’s thoughts might interrupt their speaking. If we do it, our characters do it.

Let’s say your character is speaking and another character interrupts him.

Example:  “If I could have a moment of your time,” he said, grabbing Annabelle’s hand, “it’s very—”

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

The Em dash demonstrates his words as being interrupted by hers. Sometimes, a character may interrupt his own words; the use of Em dashes will play into this construction as well but will be outside the quotation marks to show the action interrupting the speech.

Example:

“If I could have a moment of your time,”—grabbing Annabelle’s hand and pulling her close—“there’s something I need to ask you.”

This construction is very similar when a character interjects a thought within an action.

Example:

Annabelle walked past Damien—telling herself not to look at him—needing to get to the door before her tears fell.

Not sure how to make Em dashes – there are three easy ways to make them, you can choose which works best for you or simply hit dash twice, enter, then backspace but always make sure the Em dash follows the last letter of the word it connects to with no spaces. If you’re using Word, you can try one of these methods:

  1. Press Ctrl+Alt+Minus (on the numeric keypad)
  2. Hold down the Alt key as you type 0151 on the numeric keypad.
  3. Choose Symbol from the Insert menu, and then select Em Dash from the Special Characters tab.
  4. Simply hitting the hyphen key twice directly after the word preceding the Em Dash then hit Enter then backspace and close the gap.

Sometimes, a character is speaking and will quote someone else’s words, this is easy to deal with and shouldn’t frighten you away from using it.

The entirety of the dialogue is enclosed in quotation marks following the same rules above only you’re going to add some single quotation marks (‘…’) with the dialogue.

When single and double quotation marks are used side by side, put a space between them simply to make them more easily read by the reader.

Example:  “He said, and I quote, ‘To be is not to be.’ ”

“He said, ‘To be is not to be.’ I heard it with my own ears.”

Indirect dialogue for the inner quote also works if you’d rather not use a quote within dialogue.

Example: “He said the line as to be is not to be. I heard it with my own ears.”

Direct and indirect dialogue emphasizes different elements of the sentence, so choose the one, which works best for what you want to convey. It’s your voice and either way works fine.

Next time, we’ll ramp it up a bit more with interruptions cutting off words and just how to make that effective. I hope this helps and if you ever have any questions or wish me to address another issue, please feel free to leave me a question, comment, or request I the comments below.

Happy Writing Everyone! Let’s get you success in the New Year!

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!

The TEN Most Common Mistakes in Writing

10 Most Common Mistakes in Writing

We are all guilty of using crutch words and common misspellings but some mistakes are made over, and over again by many of us, regardless of correction or laziness. Are you one of the members of the guilty party?

 

Mistake number 1

WHO or WHICH

WHO refers to a person/persons/people and WHICH refers to things/animals but never to a person.

The girl who was always late for class was chastised often.

The dog, which ate the boy’s homework, was punished.

**And replacing it with that doesn’t make it right either.

 

Mistake number 2

Commonly misspelled words:

SEPARATE

DEPENDABLE

RECOMMEND

ALL RIGHT – this one especially, there is no such word as alright.

RESPONSIBLE

INDEPENDENT

 

Mistake number 3

ITS, IT’S, and ITS’

First of all…there is no ITS’, none, nada, never!

ITS is the possessive form of IT.

Every dog has its day.

IT’S is the contraction for IT IS or IT HAS.

It’s raining outside. It’s been a wonderful day.

 

Mistake number 4

EMPTY ADVERBS

First a definition of adverb for those who don’t know what it is.

Adverbs are used to modify verbs. They tell us when, where, how, in what manner, or to what extent an action is performed. In most cases, adverbs are one word but they can also be adverbial phrases.

Empty adverbs are those adverbs, which are unnecessary, and tend to be overused as filler and can be seen as redundant. Examples:

ACTUALLY   /   BASICALLY   /   COMPLETELY   / CONSTANTLY      LARGELY  / LITERALLY  /   SERIOUSLY  /  TOTALLY  / INCREDIBLY

UNUSUALLY   /   VERY   / REALLY   / FINALLY  / ABSOLUTELY  /

and many more.

It doesn’t mean these cannot or should not be used but instead, used sparingly and only when the action needs bolder, more urgent emphasis.

The ship was filling with water and the reality of death was becoming a seriously incredible possibility.

 

Mistake number 5

THERE, THEIR, and THEY’RE

Their is a possessive form of they.

They’re is a contraction of they are.

There is used to signify a place, or as an empty word to start a sentence.

Their goals were lofty.

They’re hungry after playing the game.

There are seven days in a week.

 

Mistake number 6

LOOSE vs LOSE

A very common mistake.

Lose means you have lost something

Loose refers to a certain fit.

If your shoes are too loose, you might lose them running for the train.

 

Mistake number 7

SITE AND SIGHT

Sight refers to your sense of vision.

Site refers to a location or place.

The sight of children playing together always brings a smile.

Before it shut down, that history site was one of my favorites.

 

Mistake number 8

THE APOSTROPHE

For the most part, there are only two reasons to use an apostrophe.

One…for contraction as in don’t for do not.

Two…to show possession as in Dave’s house.

If ever you are in doubt as to whether or not to use an apostrophe…just say no, and leave it OUT.

 

Mistake number 9

THE SEMI-COLON

What is a semi-colon? A semi-colon is part comma and part period. In non-fiction, it works well as a strong comma but in fiction, it tends to act as a weak period.

In fiction, it can halt or block the flow of the text, whereas in non-fiction, it helps break up long explanations, which in another world be called run-on.

Ideally, we don’t want run-on sentences in either type of writing but most definitely not in fiction.

A semi-colon should never, ever be used in place of a colon.

The child appeared to be healthy; however, the doctor chose to wait.

 

Mistake number 10

THE ELLIPSE

Ellipses are not just random dots in punctuation. It has specific uses and is always created by using THREE consecutive dots with no spaces before or after. ONLY 3!

Use an ellipse when there is an intentional omission of words or as a pause in speech or thought, but do not overuse. Although, to be honest, I’d rather see them used more often than semi-colons if it’s fiction.

“You over there…yes, you,” he called across the field.

The man had attempted to scale the wall twice…falling wasn’t his plan.

 

And there you have them…the Ten Most Common Mistakes in Writing. Trust me, there are many more but if you can master these, your writing will improve hugely.

Is there anything you’re not sure of but are too afraid to ask? Feel free to ask. Advice is always free.

Happy Writing Everyone!

You Truly Cannot Judge A Book By Its Cover or Its Blurb – Every Book Needs Editing

LG Book for Sale

We all love to look at book covers. We enjoy the different images, the sexy ones, the elaborate ones, and the ones that intrigue us, but are the covers the most important things about good books? Then again, just because a cover draws my eye and the blurb is intriguing, will I enjoy the read? Not necessarily. I’ve read my share of books with fabulous covers where the story was so amazing, it could be wrapped in brown paper and I would still love it. But we truly cannot judge a book by its cover – or blurb.

With the onset of digital books, covers still attract but it is ultimately the blurb, which sells the book. I’ve discussed the importance of a great blurb, which captures the reader’s attention and sells the book. What happens after the blurb and the cover already hook the reader but when he/she begins reading the actual story, it just isn’t as good as was expected?

Well, in some cases the reader has actually asked for a refund. Oh yes, my friends, readers have asked for refunds on digital books which only cost them a mere 99¢. I’ve purchased my share of books, which turned out to be okay reads or even something I couldn’t finish because they were poorly written but honestly, I never asked for a refund. Print copies, I donate to a local library or book bank, and digitals, I just forget about them or delete them from reader, but I’ve never asked for a refund. I always thought it was too much like going to the movies, sitting through the entire thing and then asking for a refund because it was horrible. I say chalk it up to taking a chance on the unknown. So, when I hear a reader has asked for a refund on a digital book that cost only 99¢, I can only assume the reader is actually doing so to make a statement.

What statement, you ask? A statement I totally agree with and support. Indie publishing is competitive enough without readers being pushed away from taking chances on unknown authors who might be extraordinary storytellers by those who refuse to acknowledge that even the best authors don’t publish without an editor looking at it first. Yes, that’s where the problem is with books that aren’t even worth 99¢ – poor or worse, no editing at all.

Authors who publish through traditional publishing have editors who work for the publishing house who scrutinize the entire manuscript, make suggestions on how to improve it, point out awkward writing, grammar and spelling errors, as well as catch continuity problems. Admittedly, I still find all of the above in traditionally published works but hey, no one’s perfect. Although, I do have to wonder why everyone, including the author, editor, copyreader, proofreader, and beta readers all miss them but what can I say, I guess everyone’s not perfect.

These are all things that an author cannot see without stepping away from a work for months or even years in order to come back and look at a manuscript with a fresh eye. Who has that kind of time, right? No one, not if they want to publish it in a timely manner. It’s for this reason, every author – EVERY AUTHOR – needs an editor who will scrutinize every word, every line, make corrections, pay attention to continuity, and make sure the story makes sense, flows well, and the characters grow as well as making sure the plot coming to a sensible conclusion. It’s a lot more than just putting words on a page and telling a story – it’s creating a world the reader wants to climb into every time he/she picks up the book. It’s a creative work, which will leave the reader happy they read it and eager to read more by the same author, not return it for a refund of 99¢.

So who is your editor? Don’t think you can afford an editor who will do your work justice? Who will polish it until it shines so bright, anyone who reads it will exclaim over its ability to hook, capture, and keep the reader’s attention and never wish to ask for a refund? You can afford an editor. If you’re looking for someone to do all that for your manuscript, just give me holler. It’s what I do and I do it well, without breaking your bank.

Happy Writing Everyone!

The Most Commonly Missed Editing Errors That Can Ruin A Great Read

Bad editing

As a reader, as well as nit-picky editor, I get very discouraged when I find major errors in a finished work that might have otherwise been a fabulous read, if only it hadn’t made me stop and think about what should have been written there instead.  I always have to wonder what the editor or proofreader was doing while giving the work its final read. Did they just run it through spell check or grammar check and hope that all the boo boos were caught?

Continuity Errors:

Continuity errors can consist of such things as wrong dates, number of items used by a character repeatedly throughout the story, the color of hair or eyes, or nicknames for characters. As the creator of a world, action, or character, you don’t want your readers stopping midst the action of the story to wonder if they imagined the number of husbands someone had or the color of the hero’s hair or eyes as wrong. I see this happen far too often. It can happen to any of us. Most likely it happens because as the author was writing she/he decided to make a change but didn’t catch all of the places in the work that needed replacing. Frankly, it’s an easy switch out to make if your program has a find and replace feature. But then again, an objective second set of eyes will inevitably help.

Missing words:

A missed word here or there can happen to the best of us. Our brains tend to move faster than our fingers on a keyboard and if an author is writing longhand, it’s guaranteed that a word or two will get dropped as the story unfolds. When an author reads over what’s been written, she/he is too close to the story to always catch these holes in the prose. Our brains will fill in the blanks without us realizing anything is awry. A good editor should always find these holes that can cause a reader to trip through the words.

But THE worst error in my book of things that can wrong:

Wrong Names!

Yes, the wrong name being used at the wrong moment can send a reader into a tailspin causing them to read and reread a line, a paragraph, or even go back pages to reread thinking they’ve missed something. I know, as a reader, I’ve done it. I’ve even read books where a character’s name from a completely different work showed up in place of a character in the current one. Very disconcerting, distracting, and frankly, it can take a lot away from the scene and the overall impact the book has as a whole.

My point is that nothing beats a second or third pair of eyes to ensure that everything in a book is copacetic and exact in order to tell the author’s story in its best light. No program, no spell check, or grammar check can spot all of the missing words, no proofreading program that simply looks for misspellings can catch a he where it should be a she or a wrong name, wrong color of eyes, or a missing word that might change the entire aspect of a scene. The only way to catch these errors is with the reader’s eye.

When I read a book, I want to enjoy it. I read many ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) and so expect to find errors – after all, it’s not always complete – and so I allow my brain to fill in the holes where words should be and hope that someone somewhere has caught the error before it goes to print. But at the same time, I always worry about those wrong names, wrong hair color, and other things that skew the story. I worry that they weren’t caught and are going to worm their way into the final publication and so, yet another potentially great read goes down with a less than stellar effect on the reader. This is why I created Romancing Editorially, to help those authors whose works need that nit-picky, detail-oriented, pain-in-the-ass person to look at every aspect of their manuscript and hopefully catch those nasty errors so they don’t ruin a great read.

So what errors in novels drive you nuts and keep you from just relaxing into the story?

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