3 Quick Tips For Dialogue Writing

When I read fiction, and even when I write it myself, the area that often needs the most work is the dialogue between characters. Whether the character is talking too properly, leaving out key details or divulging way more than necessary, dialogue tends to be riddled with easily-fixed issues.

There are many in-depth approaches to improving your dialogue, but to get you started, I’m going to give you 3  quick tips. Feel free to add your own tips in the comments below!
1. Lose the proper stuff.
giphy (1)
via giphy.com/mashable.com

So long as you’re writing fairly present-day fiction, your characters shouldn’t always be speaking in full sentences or using ‘proper language.’ “Make sense?” (vs. “Does that make sense?”) Think about how you talk with other people. Do you use contractions? Do you leave out words that can be assumed? The answer is probably and usually, yes. So let your characters talk the same way and suddenly their dialogue will take on a much more believable tone.

2. Let profound statements happen, but not all of the time.
via giphy.com/wifflegif.com

Some of us (raising my hand here) tend to create characters with a streak of wisdom or flamboyance, and these characters like to speak up once and a while. But whether a character is offering advice or proclaiming his/her love, save profound and wordy dialogue for those rare memorable moments. Because let’s be real, no one talks like that very often.

3. Listen.
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via giphy.com

Often when we speak or listen to others talking, we’re only half present. We miss the nuances of language, the half sentences, the common and miraculous things that people say to one another.  Listening well is the first step to understanding how people really speak to one another, so you can insert it into your fiction.

On Writing “True” Fiction

Writing Truth

Fiction is a lie, and good fiction is the truth inside the lie – Stephen King

I believe that one of the most difficult tasks to master when writing fiction is to write truth.

Fiction must have more of a ring of truth to its words than nonfiction often does, because as Mark Twain so expertly articulated, “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”

I don’t pretend to have the recipe for writing what is both true and fictitious, but being a new mom has me stumbling on some new realizations about my own writing and writing in general.

I’ll share what I’ve been learning and would love to hear what you think makes fiction writing ring true in the comments.

Writing truth comes from a place of humility.

Writing as if you have some deep insight on life or even your character’s psyche doesn’t ring as true as approaching subjects and characters with humility. The willingness to accept the mystery in this world, the finite nature of humanity, even your own limitations can infuse your writing with unforgettable characters and moments of profound insight on life.

It’s organic. 

Writing is very much a discipline, but I still believe the truest writing can’t be coerced. The best and truest writing must still flow from a place of conviction, experience and acceptance of what we’ve been given to write.

It’s not all “wrapped up”

In 6th grade, I entered a local writing contest and was invited to a luncheon with a local author. The guest author who evaluated our stories said that my story was good, but the ending was too “wrapped up.” It was the first time I realized that good fiction always has some fraying strands because life is never perfectly wrapped up either.

6 Tips: How to Find Inspiration For Your Writing

Back in my college days, I noticed a trend in my fellow English major. The majority seemed to spend a lot of their free time reading. It got to the point where I felt almost guilty for not gobbling up the latest trending book on a Friday night. Instead I was playing intramural sports, meeting with confused freshmen,  and planning hall events.

When I got over the fact that I wasn’t the bookworm writer, I began to see how these other life things informed my writing in a very real way. Okay book-lover-writers, hear me when I say NOTHING is wrong with reading, in fact, there is a lot right with it. But I’m pretty certain that if you want to be a writer who can create a believable character, do justice to your dialogue and keep a reader hooked, you’ve got to find inspiration from more than just someone else’s stories.

So how do you find inspiration for your writing? The answer will look different every time.  However, I think these tips might help you along the way.

 6 quick tips

With all of these tips, I recommend bringing along a little (or big) notebook.

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some crazy animal bones I discovered on one of my walks

1. Take a walk. There is nothing quite so slow as walking. Yes, I mean slow. We are not used to being slow, to paying attention. Talk a walk and you are having an experience with the sounds, sights and smells of the world around you. It’s the perfect way to ground yourself and refresh your writing with accurate sensory descriptions?

2. People-watch. I’ve done some pretty great people-watching while in hospital waiting rooms, on restaurant patios or mall benches. Put yourself in a public space and then pay attention to body language, to facial expressions and to how conversations begin, escalate and end.

3. Go somewhere new. This might be hard for those recluse-writer-types out there, but it can do wonders for your words. This new place could be a different coffee shop, park or unfamiliar city (even country)! Get out of your comfort zone, and I’ll bet your descriptions of places and cultures will find a refreshing zest.

4. Listen to soundtracks. Nix the lyrical stuff, just let the raw complexity of these scores light your imagination on fire. These sounds are meant to be paired with stories, so see what your mind weaves as you listen.

5. Start a conversation with a stranger. I realize this could be terrifying for an introvert, but it doesn’t have to be as crazy as you think. Simply go beyond pleasantries with your barista or sales clerk. Ask a question about the weather or a sports team, give someone a compliment and see where it leads. You could be chatting with the person who inspires your next main character.

6. Read something you wouldn’t normally read. I realize that I kind of gave reading a hard time in this post, but past and recent literature will always be a part of what informs new writing. This time though, instead of sticking to what you’re comfortable with,  pick up something new. Try local newspapers, scientific studies, travel brochures, opinion pieces. Branch out, and you might just be surprised at how the tidbits of information you pick up can become part of your novel, character  or poem.

I hope my 6 tips will help you find inspiration for your writing, and I hope you comment with a few of your own!

*originally posted on suzieruewrites.com

Setting Actionable (Achievable) Writing Goals

It’s only the end of January, but you might already be seeing your 2016 goals and resolutions slipping to the wayside. In fact, it’s so easy to let this happen that over 90 percent of us ‘resolution setters’ drop the ball by year end.

But maybe it’s not our butterfingers to blame. Maybe it’s not just lack of discipline or forgotten desire. Maybe we’re just setting the wrong kinds of goals.

I read an excellent article once on goal setting (and though for the life of me, I can’t remember which publication it came from), I remember the main point. Set actionable goals. Set goals that have a little substance, that can be measured and mostly controlled. So many of us focus on the end result instead of the process it takes to get there. With no process, no roadmap, we often get lost along the way.

So take a moment to revisit your goals. Use the five tips below to create goals that are both actionable and achievable.

mseditors_actionable goals
My goals are scratched down on a little ripped piece of paper much like this one. But they’re actionable and visible–propped up on my desk where I can see them every day.

4 Goal-setting Tips For Writers

1. Focus on submissions not publications.
“Get published” is quite a lofty goal, and, unless you plan to self-publish, is usually somewhat out of your hands. Instead, set goals about how many times or places you would like to submit your writing to. You might even set a goal to specifically reach out to a certain agents or publishing houses.

2. Focus on time spent writing. “Write a novel” can also be a goal that is somewhat out of your hands. Sure, you can force yourself to write a really crappy novel, but in the end was it worth it? In my opinion, setting a goal of writing for certain amount of time or even a certain number of words per day/week is a better alternative. I’m willing to bet that without the pressure of a novel as your outcome, your writing will be less stress-induced, higher quality and fit into your someday novel a lot more naturally.

3. Create accountability. Support, encouragement and accountability (usually) don’t just happen to you. You have to create them. Reach out to fellow writers or even friends to tell them your actionable goals. Then ask them to ask you how it’s going. Create self accountability by writing your goals down and putting them somewhere you’ll see them every day.

4. Schedule it in. If your goals are truly actionable, they will usually take up actual space in your day or week. If one of your goals is to write for two hours a week, don’t leave that up to the fates. Schedule it in, and treat it just like a coffee date with your best friend. Don’t be late, and don’t let something else crowd it out.

5. Treat yo’ self. I love how Kyra wrote about this one for NaNoWriMo. Celebrating is so important. When you complete a goal, give yourself a little treat. Not everyone needs material things, but most of us crave some kind of reward or recognition for our achievements. Let’s be real, the universe isn’t waiting to crown you Mr. or Ms. Writey-pants of the Year, so create the reward/recognition yourself. Text a supportive friend when you achieve a goal. Or create little incentives (buy new pens, get a massage, take a day stay-cation) that will keep you motivated.

Now that you have a few tips to get you started, we’d love to hear from you on how it’s going, what works for you and what doesn’t. Comment below or tweet at us!