Tag Archives: writing tips

Writing Fiction: How Much Dialogue?

Writing Fiction: How Much Dialogue?

When you’re writing fiction, how much dialogue do you need? a student in a recent class asked.

Great question.

Dialogue happens in scenes, so pacing might be your first consideration. Scenes heavy in dialogue read quickly, so you might avoid writing three or more chatty scenes in a row.

(On the other hand, you might not — “how much dialogue?” is a stylistic choice. Your choice.)

Next, consider your genre.

A psychological thriller might have less dialogue than a romance novel, or a mystery, for example, because the psychological thriller is concerned with characters’ state of mind: their thoughts.

Most importantly however, think about your readers’ entertainment.

Entertainment trumps all other considerations.

When you’re writing fiction, you’re creating an entertaining experience

In revision, look at each scene of your novel. Is the scene entertaining? (Ask your beta readers.)

All scenes can be improved, so check:

  • Your transitions, into and out of each scene;
  • Scene setting: is it clear who the viewpoint character is, and why he’s there?
  • Have you given a nod to time and place? (Check your timeline for continuity);
  • Who “wins” the scene (does every character in the scene have a goal?)

I like writing dialogue, so if a scene’s flagging, I’ll kick it along by adding dialogue, or spicing up the dialogue — anything to add entertainment value.

In revision, look at each scene of your novel. Is the scene entertaining?

What’s your style?

How much dialogue? is always a matter of style. You’re the boss; it’s your style for that novel.

The first time I read Robert B. Parker’s Western novel Appaloosa, I was struck by the amount of dialogue: that’s Robert B. Parker’s style.

As we’ve said, novels with lots of dialogue read more quickly than novels with extensive narrative. Done well, these novels are page-turners. Unfortunately, if the dialogue’s done badly, readers won’t finish the novel.

Tips for better dialogue

Let’s look at some tips to help you to write better dialogue.

1. Focus solely on your dialogue for a scene first (this helps you to write more dramatically)

As I said in this article:

When I write scenes, I write the first sentence, and the last sentence of the scene. I also write down what effect I want from the scene.

When you write “business” — the action part of the scene, description and other narrative — with the dialogue, your dialogue can fade into the background. You pay less attention to it.

Try writing your dialogue first: your readers will pay more attention to it than to anything else in the scene, so you should too.

2. Avoid repetition: it waters down your dialogue

As I suggested in 3 Fiction Writing Tips: Editing For Story Flow:

…when you’re lightly editing for flow, look for any “as you know” constructions, such as: “As you know Bob, my wife Tiffany is an accountant.”

Basically, avoid repetition. Nuke repetitions when you find them.

If you’ve spent three paragraphs describing the sun setting when you open the scene, avoid the sunset as a topic in your dialogue.

3. Keep your dialogue in character

Not easy, but necessary.

From John Sandford’s Silken Prey:

After a couple minutes of silence, Virgil said to Lucas, “At least we know he’s not lying to us now.”

“How’s that?” Lucas asked.

“His lips aren’t moving…”

From Philippa Gregory’s The Queen’s Fool:

I showed him a sulky face. ‘I am commanded by the king, I am commanded by the Duke of Northumberland, I am commanded by his son Lord Robert Dudley, I am commanded by my father; you might as well join in. Every other man in London seems to think he can order me.’

In summary…

Generally speaking, novels today feature more dialogue than novels written even a decade ago. Always however, the amount of dialogue is up to you. Have fun. 🙂

Self-Publishing Strategy Made Easy: How To Market Your Books In 15 Minutes A Day

Self-Publishing Strategy Made Easy: How To Market Your Books In 15 Minutes A Day

eBook: $5.99

Do you enjoy writing and publishing your books, but find that marketing them is a challenge? You're not sure what works, so your efforts are muddled, half-hearted, and inconsistent.

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Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

eBook: $5.99

Your readers want to enter your novel's world. They want to experience your book -- they want to live your book with your main characters.

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3 Time Management Tips: Writing When You Have No Time

3 Time Management Tips: Writing When You Have No Time

Time management is challenging for writers because you can’t manage your time, per se. Everyone has the same 24 hours. You can only manage yourself.

Let’s say that you want to become a successful indie author — but you know that writing books takes time. Depressed yet? That’s OK, because not only do most people have more time than they imagine, they can achieve more, no matter how limited their time.

However, you need to make a decision.

A time management truth: you will NEVER have enough time

It’s true, sadly. Even full-time writers moan that they have “no time.” Your life will eat your writing time if you allow it.

You have a decision to make: how badly do you want to write? If writing is important to you, your writing comes first. Schedule your writing time, then rejig everything else to fit.

Let’s look at our time management tips for authors who are convinced that they have no time.

1. Kill the myths about writing which are holding you back

Here’s the thing. Myths about writing abound. Many are completely incorrect; others are only partially incorrect. Few are true — and even the myths which are true are only true for some authors.

Which myths are holding you back? You may not know, because a myth can be completely unconscious, and nevertheless control your writing.

Myths include:

  • Fast writing is bad writing. You can’t write a book in 24 hours;
  • If your book doesn’t sell immediately, it will never sell;
  • You can’t write 3,000 words in an hour…

There are as many myths as there are writers.

My point: you believe things which are untrue for you, and you’re unconscious of your harmful beliefs.

Try this exercise.

Write this phrase in a new computer file: “The myths about writing which are holding me back include…”

Wait for ideas to come to you. You’ll be shocked at the notions you have which cripple your ability to achieve your writing goals.

Of course, many of your personal myths involve notions about what YOU need to write: “an hour of uninterrupted time”, etc.

2. Dictate your words, it’s faster

Dictation is faster than writing, especially once you get used to it. In the beginning, you’ll feel uncomfortable — persist.

Modern computers include voice recognition software. Read the Help files for your machine, and start talking.

Nuance produces Dragon voice recognition software; it’s worth the expense if you’re making money from your words.

I gave you some tips on how to make dictation work for you here.

3. Adjust your preferences, because everything is a preference

Now for a little Zen. 🙂

Everything you want, or don’t want, is a preference.

If you can become consciously aware of your preferences, and realize that they’re only preferences, you’ll write more, no matter how little time you have.

From Zen Thinking:

Without having a preference of any sort, with no opinion for or against, you become free.

Let’s look at some common preferences.

  • You might prefer to be able to quit work, and become a full-time writer. However, currently you need a day job;
  • If only you could sell 500 books a day, you muse… but most days, you only sell one or two. (You may need to steal a little writing time so that you can advertise more);
  • Perhaps you wish that your partner and children would do more of the household chores. That’s a preference. Tell them that your preferences have changed, and that you’ve drawn up a list of chores for each of them so that you have more time to write.

Time management: you always have more time than you imagine you do

Use our tips to squirrel away more time for your writing — and have fun while you do it. 🙂

Plan, Write, And Publish Serial Fiction In Four Weeks

Plan, Write, And Publish Serial Fiction In Four Weeks

eBook: $5.99

Why write serial fiction?

Everyone's busy today. A serial is by its nature, faster to write, and publish, than a novel.

It's a quicker read too, and many readers appreciate this. While a reader may hesitate before committing hours to a novel, he can read an episode of your serial in minutes.

If you’re a new author, a serial serves to introduce you to readers. A reader may not be willing to commit to a novel by a new author, but be willing to read an episode of a serial.

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Nonfiction Ebooks Goldmine: Write and Sell Nonfiction Ebooks In 24 Hours Or Less

Nonfiction Ebooks Goldmine: Write and Sell Nonfiction Ebooks In 24 Hours Or Less

$5.99
Author:
Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 5
Genre: Writing

You're a writer. You need to make money from your words. What if you could create AND sell a nonfiction book in just a day?

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Writing Success Secrets: How To Conquer Self Doubt, And Achieve Your Writing Goals, Starting Today

Writing Success Secrets: How To Conquer Self Doubt, And Achieve Your Writing Goals, Starting Today

eBook: $5.99
Author:
Genre: Writing

Today, the opportunities for writers have never been greater. Back in the day a writer who was making six-figures a year seemed a creature of myth. These days, highly successful writers are making six figures a month.

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How To Sell More Books: 3 Tips To Help You To Sell

How To Sell More Books: 3 Tips To Help You To Sell

You’re an author, and self-publisher. You want to sell more books. You know that READERS are everything to your business. Perhaps you’ve spent time and money getting traffic to your website, and on promoting your books in various ways.

You’re disappointed at the results.

You suspect that there’s something missing in your book marketing and sales strategy.

There may well be, especially if you’re not completely focused your readers.

Want to sell more books? Know your readers

If you want to sell more books, your best bet is to sell them to people who know and love your work. In other words… get a mailing list. You need a way of getting in touch with your readers when you release a new book: a mailing list is the single surest (and free, almost) way of doing that.

Doing that already? Well done.

The next step is to clone your readers — in a sense.

Yes, we’re all individuals. However, readers of a fiction genre like mysteries, or a nonfiction category like self-help, are more similar than they’re different. When you know what those readers like in a book, that knowledge will help you to write books which appeal to them.

So let’s see how you can sell more books.

1. Focus on one reader at a time: every reader is ONE person, an individual

I’m on lots of mailing lists, for everything from recipes to yoga wear. I grind my teeth when I read: “hi everyone,” or “hi guys…” Or when I watch a video, and hear the presenter address his viewers as “everyone.”

Heh. I’m not everyone, and neither are you. Every single person on your mailing list is an individual, who is sitting at a desktop computer, or lounging on a sofa with his tablet, or reading your messages on his phone.

Each time you think about your mailing list, blog readers, or social media followers as a group, you distance yourself from them. It’s subtle, but your readers recognize this, and you’re pushing them away.

Moreover, this “everyone” attitude affects everything you do when you’re marketing and selling your books.

So please address your readers as “you”, and think of each and every reader as an individual.

It makes all the difference, and your attitude will help you to sell more books.

2. Do some easy research: read reader reviews on Amazon, and on social media

Ah Amazon, what would we do without you? 🙂

I love Amazon for the reader reviews; I spend a lot of time there, reading the reviews of bestsellers, and of books which sell few copies too.

The reviewers are telling you what they like, and what they don’t like. When you read reviews of books, over time you’ll internalize reader attitudes of whatever genre/ category you’re writing.

Again, please remember: each reviewer is an individual. He or she has an opinion. You may agree with the reviewer’s opinion, or not — what’s important is that you’re aware of those opinions.

And no, I’m not suggesting that you keep the opinions in mind when you write, but I do know that getting to know readers, even if only via their reviews, is important to help you to sell.

3. Selling fiction and nonfiction: what do readers WANT?

When they buy fiction, they want entertainment: emotion, and escape from their daily lives.

When they buy nonfiction: they’re buying information, knowledge, and ideas.

If you keep what readers want in mind while you’re writing, your attitude changes. You’ll read a scene in your novel, and you’ll ask yourself how to make the scene more entertaining. You’ll go the extra mile with your nonfiction, so that your books are truly helpful.

You CAN sell more books: you have millions of readers (potentially)

Selling more books starts with you. Over the past few months, since many authors’ sales slumped last year, some authors have contacted me looking for a magic bullet to increase their sales.

Here’s the simplest way to sell more books: start with your attitude to your readers, and get to know them as much as you can.

In business marketing, companies use “personas”, representations of their ideal customers. You can do that too. Write for one person. Imagine that person clearly — give him or her a name, if you like.

You’ve got the potential to have millions of readers, so… happy writing. We authors have never had it so good. 🙂

Resources to build your writing career

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Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

eBook: $5.99

I developed the tactics and strategies in this book to help myself. My students have found them essential to producing both fiction and nonfiction almost effortlessly.

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