Balancing Dialogue and Narrative

dialogue-bullesYou have to find the right balance between dialogue and narrative, especially in the first chapter of your novel. While slow to start openings with a lot of narrative were popular at one time, these days, readers prefer a faster-paced opening.

One way to pick up the pace is to add dialogue. If dialogue just doesn’t work for a particular scene, consider throwing in a line or two of internal thought.

I’m not trying to minimize the importance of narrative. It is very important and necessary for the success of your story. Narrative is used to establish background details, setting, tone, and to set up scenes. However, narrative, by its very nature,  will slow the pace of the story and halt the active momentum.  Too many long sections of narrative will eventually bore the reader.

A quick tip for judging if your novel needs more dialogue is to print out the first chapter. If you see long paragraphs with little white space. You need to add dialogue.

If an agent or publisher sees long paragraphs and no white space, odds are, they are going to toss your work to the side. If a potential customer sees long paragraphs and little to no white space while they skim the pages, odds are, that book is going back on the shelf.  Give your reader some action, get the story moving.

Something to think about.

-Jan R


Balancing Dialogue and Narrative

Create Suspense!!!

suspense-headerI’m trying a little experiment this morning. I wrote what I thought was a really good blog on suspense, and I got very few hits. I decided the issue was the title. So for those who read this blog under the ineffective title, I apologize. For those who are reading this blog for the first time, I hope it helps. The title does matter, but that discussion is for another day.

If you want your reader to continue reading, you have to give them a reason why. Draw them in and keep them guessing. The number one weapon in your arsenal to accomplish this feat is the use of suspense.

If you’ve done a good job of developing a character your reader cares about, they are going to hang on to make sure things work out in the end.

There are four main ways to create suspense.

  1. Put the outcome in doubt. Keep your reader guessing. It could end one way, but it could end another. This works best if your reader has a strong connection with the main character.
  2. Make them wait. Don’t show your hand up front. Don’t resolve issues right away. Present the conflict and then take your time presenting a resolution.
  3. Foreshadowing. Hint at what’s to come without sharing the details. Twilight used this technique by opening with the end minus all the details of how and why.
  4. Use a clock. The main character has a limited amount of time to accomplish a task. Will he/she find succeed or fail.

You can mix and match these techniques. You are not limited in your choice. An example would be opening with foreshadowing in the first paragraph and then adding the use of a clock at the end.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Create Suspense!!!

That Word Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Does

imagesL95NB2TU There are so many misused words out there I couldn’t possibly list them all, so I concentrated on the ones that I have problems with

I’m sure you have words that would make the list as well 🙂

a lot, alot, allot: There is no such word as alot.  A great number is a lot. If you mean allocate, you use allot.

advice, advise: Advice is what you get, advise is what you do.

aggravate, annoy: If you mean pester or irritate, use annoy. Aggravate means to make worse.

all ready, already: If you mean all is ready, use all ready; if you mean in the past, use already. It already happened.

all right, alright: All right is always two words.

all together, altogether: All together means simultaneously. Altogether means entirely or wholly.

among, between: If only two people are dividing something use between. If more than two people are dividing something use among.

appraise, apprise: Appraise is to give value; apprise is to inform.

bazaar, bizarre: Bazaar is a marketplace; bizarre is strange, weird.

cavalry, Calvary: Cavalry are soldiers; Calvary is the place Christ was crucified.

can, may: Can-physically able to do something; may-you have permission.

climactic, climatic: Climactic refers to a climax; climatic is related to the weather.

council, counsel: Council is an official group or committee; counsel is to give advice.

elicit, illicit: Elicit something is to extract it, bring it out; illicit is illegal.

fewer, less: Fewer means not as many, it is used with countable nouns (cookies, gallons of gas, cars); less means not as much and is used with uncountable nouns (gasoline, money, cake).

forego, forgo: Forego is used for something that has gone before (a foregone conclusion); forgo to do without.

imply, infer: A speaker implies something; a listener infers.

lead, led: Led means in charge of or guided; otherwise use lead.

literally, figuratively: Literally means precisely as described; figuratively means in a symbolic or metaphoric way.

nauseated, nauseous: Nauseous means disgusting; nauseated means sick to your stomach.

set, sit: Set is to place something – there has to be an object; sit is going from standing to sitting in a chair.

Stationery, stationary: Stationery is paper you write on; stationary is something that lacks motion.

supposed to: I included this one because people incorrectly omit the d.

than, then: If you mean next, therefore, or at that time, use then; if you want the word that shows a comparison, use than.

that, which: For clauses that don’t need commas, use that. For nonrestrictive clauses, which need commas, use which.

your, you’re: Your means belonging to. You’re is short for you are.

What words do you misuse?

-Jan R





That Word Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Does

Don’t Let Words Get In The Way

text-sign-showing-keep-it-simple-motivational-call-conceptual-photo-simplify-things-easy-clear-concise-ideas-written-yellow-sticky-note-p.jpgWrite with your reader in mind. You want to keep things simple: no over the top flowery sentences that belong in poetry not in a novel, no run on sentences that are a paragraph long, or clumsy writing that is hard to understand. When you write this way, you are making your reader aware.

Aware of what you might ask? Your writing. You don’t want your reader cognizant of the fact that they are reading a book. You want them focused on the story to the point that they are walking beside the characters and experiencing their every move.

You want them to continue reading until the end accepting every coincidence and slightly questionable storyline written. We often refer to this as the suspension of disbelief. If the reader is focused on the story and not the writing, they will accept most of what you throw at them without stopping to question its plausibility.

 Remember: Clumsy writing that’s hard to understand makes readers aware. Don’t let the words get in the way of a great story.

-Jan R

Don’t Let Words Get In The Way

Edit, Edit, or Edit – Revisited

imagesI know I’ve posted this before, but it’s been a while, and I thought it was worth being revisited. When you’re a newbie like I was, you don’t even think you have to edit-much. The publishing company has people that will go through and correct your work, making you look like a pro, right?
A few years ago, I ran into an article in Writers Digest that talked about the different types of editing. Yes, there are different types, can you believe that? As a novelist, you need to know what they are.

Developmental Edit – better known as content editing, story editing, structural editing, or substantive editing. This edit looks at the big picture of your novel and focuses on:

  • character arcs/development
  • pacing
  • story structure
  • plot holes or inconsistencies
  • strong beginning, middle, and end
  • plausibility/believability
  • clear transitions
  • point of view
  • showing vs. telling
  • dialogue

Copy Edit – is the one most of us think of when we hear edit. It is completed after the developmental edit and cleans things up. This edit is the line by line with a focus on:

  • grammar
  • punctuation
  • spelling
  • redundant words
  • inconsistencies/continuity errors
  • awkward sentence structure

The proofread- I never thought of a proofreader as an editor, but in all reality he is. The proofreader checks your manuscript for lingering errors, missed commas, and typos. It may be tempting to skip this step or do it yourself. Keep in mind, you’ve read the book so many times you will be blind to any lingering errors. You need an unfamiliar eye.

I’m not sure where you are in the writing process, but you do need to know the proper steps to take before submitting your work. Remember as stated above, you don’t see the errors. You are so familiar with your work the errors become invisible. Your brain actually fills in the holes as you read.

I didn’t have this information and submitted my work to several different agencies after I ‘edited’ it and had a few friends read through it. Needless to say, I got nothing but rejections. I followed up on suggestions, and that’s when I realized just how bad the manuscript was. I couldn’t believe I sent such shoddy work to an agent. I was embarrassed and glad I hadn’t met the agents in person.

Hope this helped!

-Jan R

Edit, Edit, or Edit – Revisited