Are You Waiting For Inspiration?

If you are you might as well give up. It is one sure fire way to doom your novel. It’s also an excuse I have used many times over the past five years, which is probably one of the reasons it has taken me so long to finish.

I decided to write a series on things that will put an abrupt halt to your writing career. I chose waiting for inspiration first as it is arguable. It makes sense, at least to the reasonable mind of a person who doesn’t write for a living or ever aspire to become a published author.

Some writers don’t write unless they feel inspired. They think that they are wasting their time by pushing forward through the mental block that is stifling their creativity. Their argument is that they are bound to make more errors and have to go back and do significant revisions so why bother. These writers are better known as aspiring authors or the unpublished.  Many don’t complete their masterpiece because they are waiting for something that may never come. Think of writing as a job. You can’t call in every other day and say I’m not working today, I just don’t feel inspired. You could but it wouldn’t go over very well and that would be the end of that job. You get the picture?

Sometimes we have to push ourselves even when we don’t feel like it. In most cases the results are positive and once we get going things just flow. Published Writers/Authors have the mindset that you work on your craft everyday. They set quotas based on amount of time or number of words.

Remember the more you write the better you will be at it. Writing everyday also helps you to develop a writers mindset. If you are concerned about ruining your story by writing without inspiration you could always leave your story alone and work on something else until the creative juices start flowing. Just write.

I can relate to those of you who procrastinate and make excuses. Some days it is a true battle of the mind. Thank goodness for my accountability partner.

Hope this was of help to someone reading.  Please let me know what you think and follow me by pressing the follow button in the right lower corner of this blog. I would love to hear from you.

-Jan R



Are You Waiting For Inspiration?

Using Dialogue For Exposition

I have to admit this is one of those days that I don’t feel like writing. Yes I have them too. Lately I’ve been putting more emphasis on providing information and less on me and my journey. I need to find a good balance. My main objective however is to provide useful information.  Things I wish I had known before I got started.

One last blog on dialogue for now anyways. Dialogue can also be used for exposition. Exposition is a literary device used to introduce background information about events, settings, characters etc. to the audience or reader. It is crucial to any story.  Without it nothing makes sense.

Using dialogue for backstory can be tricky.  It works well if you are interjecting small amounts into a conversation, but if you are trying to provide to much information during the conversation, it could cause the story to come to a complete stop. You will have action, stop for conversation and set up, and then action again. Nothing seamless about it.

There are three ways to provide exposition without using dialogue.

  • Provide the information directly. This does violate the show don’t tell rule but sometimes it is necessary.
  • Provide information through a first person narrative.
  • Use indirect dialogue-Provide a summary of what a character has said without using the persons exact words.

Remember that dialogue is not a separate entity from the rest of the story but an integral part that works with everything else to make the story seamless.

-Jan R

Using Dialogue For Exposition

Using Dialect In Writing

One way to differentiate between characters and to get a better understanding about who they are is through dialect.  We can learn a lot about a person based on their accent, grammar, and choice of words.

You don’t have to ask a person if they are from the North or South-just listen to how they speak and note their word choices.  While that is one of the most obvious examples for me, you can also distinguish education level, social status, race and ethnicity from the way a person speaks.

One thing you want to avoid is coming across offensive or stereotypical(racist).  Look at your word choice or variation of syntax as tools to differentiate your characters and suggest their ethnicity.

Use slang, nonstandard syntax, or grammar to suggest race, social class, education i.e. gonna vs. going to,  kinda vs kind of,  holler vs hollow, don’t matta vs It doesn’t matter. If you have a character from abroad throw in some regional slang ( Scottish say-aye for yes and bairns for children).

The next time you read a book take a close look at your characters and their dialect. You will learn a lot and the fact that you didn’t even think about it while reading the novel is a plus for the author. It was seamlessly woven into the story.

Creating a characters speech pattern is less about reproducing dialect and more about knowing your character. If your character is……

  • terse                –   short burst of speech
  • angry               –   speaks through clinched teeth
  • nervous           –  stammers or rambles
  • domineering  –  silent and threatening or rages

If you’re writing science fiction you can develop you own language and your own rules. There is no limits. Just be consistent.

Hope this gives you something to think about when writing dialogue. Remember to differentiate through dialect and the dialect should match your characters position in society. Also remember to be consistent with speech patterns, unless an evolution in speech pattern is an integral part of the story (Flowers for Algernon, My fair lady).

Please consider joining me on this journey and press the FOLLOW button to receive new posts as they are published. Also if you have any comments or questions, please let me know what you think.

-Jan R




Using Dialect In Writing

Writing Seamless Dialogue

As I stated in a previous post, dialogue should be seamlessly integrated into the story.  It should flow. If you can feel yourself reading then stopping for a brief conversation and then reading again something isn’t quite right.

Conversation works best when combined with thoughts, actions and settings.  Don’t separate them but interweave them. People don’t stop to talk, they keep doing what they are doing unless it’s something really important that demands their full attention.

You can integrate by using setting, thought and action in combination with dialogue.


The day had been crazy but it wasn’t over yet. Walking into the conference room, Mark  found Ellen sitting at the head of the table preparing packets for their upcoming meeting.

“Sorry I’m late,” he said walking over to offer assistance.

Handing him a few, she looked him in the eye, anger and disappointment written all over her face, “Isn’t that your norm?”

Mark grasped for something to say that would ease the tension between them and get him through this day. Staring at the packets he was at a loss. What she said was true and he couldn’t explain why. At least not now.

Easing herself up, she walked by him without saying another word.

“Well that didn’t go well at all,” he said quietly to himself as he continued to prepare for the meeting. He would attempt to smooth things over with his secretary later, but for now he had a business to save.

By interweaving thought, action, setting and dialogue, the scene moves forward seamlessly. I hope 🙂

If you just use dialogue you are witnessing a conversation. When you begin to interweave thoughts, actions, settings and dialogue you are pulling your reader in and making them a participant.

A really good exercise to help understand and follow this concept would be to write a simple conversation with no tags or anything.  Read it. Now go back and add tags. Read it again. Now go back and add more tags or actions. What was the person doing during the conversation? What about setting.  Where were they during the conversation?  You can even add thoughts. These aren’t conveyed through the conversation but because we are on the outside looking in, we can get a better idea of where the character is coming from.

Hope this series on writing dialogue helps you in your endeavors.  Would love for you to join me on this journey. Please consider pushing the follow button and you will receive a notice any time I write a new blog. Also if you have any comments or questions I would love to hear from you.

-Jan R





Writing Seamless Dialogue

Writing Dialogue?

Writing dialogue isn’t as straight forward as it would seem. It was one of the areas I was dinged on when I first submitted my manuscript. My dialogue dragged. Basically I wrote out conversations just like real people talk. After taking a few classes and looking at how other authors wrote in published books, I did get a grasp on what the literary agent was saying.  My dialogue was weighing the story down and offering unnecessary detail. It caused everything to come to a stop.

I plan on spending a couple weeks talking about dialogue as there is a lot more to it than you would think. Fictional speech is more focused and coherent than real speech. Fictional speech also has to be purposeful. You can’t just rant and rave about the newest fashion with your friends unless it’s an integral part of the story providing information that you are going to need later. Your dialogue should be evoking something from a character or moving the story forward. It also needs to be seamlessly integrated into the story. Told you there was  more to it than you would think.

There are special rules of punctuation that are used to separate dialogue from other texts and signify who is talking. These rules are pretty standard and if you pick up any novel and turn to a page with dialogue you will see them in use.

  • Direct quotations are set apart by using quotation marks.
  • Alternating speakers are set apart by paragraph breaks.
  • All quotations begin with a capital letter.

Dialogue tags are not part of a quote and should not be included in the quotation marks. They  are necessary to identify who is speaking and to convey information that isn’t clear. A character tag usually includes the character’s name and some version of said, unless conveying information that isn’t clear.
e.g.   “I love you,” Mary said.      vs.    “I love you,” Mary sobbed.

Dialogue tags should be used sparingly. You don’t want to bog down your story with he said, she said. Use them only when necessary to inform the reader who is speaking or to convey feelings.

If two characters are in a short conversation you should probably be able to get by with identifying both at the beginning of the conversation without adding additional tags. If you’ve written a long conversation between two characters, you may need to add tags ever so often to help the reader keep up with who is talking. It isn’t fun when you have to stop and go back to the top of the page and count by two’s to figure out who is saying what. You also may want to use the tags to convey feelings. Mary may have gotten angry in the middle of the conversation and you need to add a tag to suggest this.

I will continue this discussion in my next post and probably look a little closer at how dialect can be used to distinguish between characters.

If you have any questions please comment and I will answer them to the best of my ability.  I would also like to request that you join me on this journey and consider hitting “follow” to keep up with my latest posts.  Thanks.

-Jan R

Writing Dialogue?

How Do I Start My Novel?


A lot of people would like to write but aren’t sure where to start.  They allow this to paralyze them. There are no hard fast rules to writing novels but there are some guidelines that need to be followed.

Wherever your opening paragraph begins in the story, it had better draw your readers in and make them want to find out what happens next. A good opening should hint at what the story is about.

The opening paragraph in my novel reads as follows:

A cool breeze swept over Josh’s face tousling his too long hair across his forehead and into his eyes. Brushing the loose strands to the side, he stared out at the glassy water with only one thought on his mind. Laura. He would be going to Iraq in a month and there wasn’t a thing he could do about it. Six months wasn’t that long, but it felt like an eternity right now.

I hope this draws you in, it most definitely hints at what the story is about and paired with the title “Always and Forever”, provides a little foreshadowing.

You don’t have to start your story at the beginning. Some stories begin with the ending and are followed by back story explaining how the character ended up where they are. Creative writing isn’t a science, whatever works go for it.

Some people do a story outline in advance and others start with an idea. Just begin writing and you’ll be amazed at how your story unfolds. You don’t have to know how it ends.  Once you start writing it will take on a life of it’s own. Be prepared for the happy accidents that seem to come out of nowhere when the creative juices are flowing or when you pray for a little help. Just keep it on the track and don’t let it wander off course.

Remember it doesn’t have to be good to begin with. You can do as many drafts as you like. I have done so many revisions I’ve lost count, and plan to go through my manuscript one more time before resubmitting it. Get it done then get it good.

Write, Write, Write! The more you write, the better you will get. I still have a lot to learn but there is such a difference between my first draft and my current one.

-Jan R


How Do I Start My Novel?

Character Development

It’s hard to overstate the importance of strong characters in a narrative. Think of all of the characters from fiction that you never forgot (Scarlett O’Hara-Gone With the Wind, Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hood, King Arthur, Dorothy-Wizard of Oz).

Our goal is to have our characters stay with the reader for days after they finish reading. Characters who readers think about as though they are real people, as though they know them…or wish they did.

Know your characters before you introduce them in your story.  J K Rowling spent 5 years doing complete biographies on all of the characters in her Harry Potter series before she even started writing the novels. It’s that important.

  • What does your character look like?
  • What are your characters thoughts?
  • What actions and deeds are typical of your character?
  • How does your character talk?
  • What is your character’s name?

Love you characters and don’t be afraid to let one go if he or she isn’t working for you. When you lovingly create a character, warts and all, it shows. Take your time and be thorough. Chances are if you fall in love with your character, the reader will too.

Make every character unique. This may seem like an obvious thing to do, but it’s important that even minor characters have something that distinguishes them from everyone else in the story-something to make them more than a name on a page. This distinguishing trait or tag could be anything and as insignificant as chewing a toothpick or always saying, “exactly!” Perhaps the character has flaming red hair or grins like a Cheshire cat.

The minor characters only need one distinguishing trait/tag but your main characters need to be more complex. The main character should have 4-5 distinguishing traits and at least one on the negative side, so your characters seem believable rather than something out of a children’s fairytale. The negative trait doesn’t need to be a serious flaw just something that makes the character seem like a real person that people can relate to.

Writing a novel can take a long time and it is important to be able to quickly remind yourself what traits a particular character has without having to thumb through pages and pages of work. Creating character profiles can save you huge amounts of time, prevent you from creating inconsistencies and really help you build upon their individual journeys. I  had to thumb through pages and pages of my manuscript during my first draft and then I got smart and started cheat sheets for each character.

-Jan R

Character Development

No On-The-Nose Writing Allowed.

images open book

What is on-the-nose writing? It’s the number one writing mistake of amateurs. It’s prose that mirrors real life without advancing your story. No one chooses to write this way. It has nothing to do with your ability to put together a sentence, paragraph, or scene. Even pros have a hard time with it.

I’m a big fan or Jerry Jenkins and recommend his blog to anyone reading my posts. I have gained so much useful information from him and he writes in a way that anybody can understand. He’s a great teacher.  With this being said, I’m using an example that he gave to help you understand on-the-nose writing.

Paige’s phone chirped, telling her she had a call. She slid her bag off her shoulder, opened it, pulled out her cell, hit the Accept Call button and put it to her ear.       

“This is Paige,” she said.

“Hey, Paige.”

She recognized her fiancé’s voice. “Jim, darling! Hello!”

“Where are you, Babe?”

“Just got to the parking garage.”

“No more problems with the car then?”

“Oh, the guy at the gas station said he thinks it needs a wheel alignment.”

“Good. We still on for tonight?”

“Looking forward to it, Sweetie.”

“Did you hear about Alyson?”

“No, what about her?”



Here’s a good example of how that scene should be rendered:

Paige’s phone chirped. It was her fiancé, Jim, and he told her something about one of their best friends that made her forget where she was.

“Cancer?” she whispered, barely able to speak. “I didn’t even know Alyson was sick. Did you?”

We don’t need to be told that the chirp told her she had a call, that her phone is in her purse, that her purse is over her shoulder, that she has to open it to get her phone, push a button to take the call, identify herself to the caller, be informed who it is.  I think you’re getting the point.

This is a good example of dragging dialogue as well.  It’s not necessary and adds fluff without any real purpose. Don’t distract with minutia. Give the reader the adventure they signed up for when they chose to purchase your book. Take the reader with Paige when she says:

“I need to call her, Jim. I’ve got to cancel my meeting. And I don’t know about tonight…”

Remember show don’t tell is one of the most important aphorisms of the writing life.

-Jan R








No On-The-Nose Writing Allowed.