What’s the draw? What makes you pick up a book and proceed to the next step? Most likely the first thing that catches your attention is the cover. At least that’s the first thing I notice. I do look at the title, but unless it’s something totally overboard, it doesn’t stop me from taking the next step.
I was at a discount store this past week looking at books. An employee had put the price tag over the face of the heroine on a book that I was interested in purchasing. I couldn’t believe it. I wanted so bad to yank that tag off.
The cover matters, and yes, that tag could have been a deal breaker. I did see enough of the cover to know that it was an inspirational romance set in the civil war era. That was a plus and enough to encourage me to read the back cover to determine the premise of the story.
I know some people read the first couple of pages, but I have to admit that is not something I do when determining my selection. Maybe I’m shallow. I have no doubt I have missed out on a lot of great books because the cover failed to get my attention.
I can tell you this, the process of determination I use to choose a book appears to be the norm based on my observations of others in book stores. The author’s name may catch a customer’s attention, but when they pull that book off the shelf, they look at the cover and then read the summary on the back before deciding to purchase.
Just something to think about as you prepare to publish your work. What’s important to you. What compels you to choose one book over another?
Any one that follows me, knows I write blogs on the issues I am having. I figured that if I was having problems with a certain aspect of writing, my readers probably were too. Especially the newbies like myself.
Well one of the areas I experienced problems with was dialogue. I had an agent to return my work and tell me my dialogue was dragging. What was that suppose to mean? My people were having conversations and I thought they were pertinent to the story.
At any rate, after doing some research, and reading novels with my attention focused on the dialogue, I think I cracked the code 🙂
Dialogue should be seamlessly integrated into the story. It should flow. If you can feel yourself reading, 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.
If you’re new to the process, you’re going to make mistakes. I’ve made them all. Well, I haven’t tried to self-publish so maybe that was an over-exaggeration, but not by much:-)
Everybody wants to get published. Once my story was written, I didn’t hesitate to send it out. I knew it had a few grammatical errors. There’s no way you can catch them all. That’s what an editor is for – right? My story was so good, or so I thought, an agent would jump on it and make sure mistakes were corrected so it was ready for publication.
Well, that wasn’t exactly what happened. I’ve written numerous posts outlining the errors I made in that first very rough draft. When you begin your writing career, odds are you don’t know what you don’t know.
I received a rejection letter from every agent I submitted to with the exception of one, who I like to think saw a promising new author in that mess somewhere. She rejected my work as well, but praised what was right and pointed out what was wrong.
Her list was long and I was more than a little shocked once I realized how rough that first draft was. She used words like head-hopping, writtenese, and dragging dialogue. That didn’t even count the grammatical and structural errors. You know, the ones the editor was going to correct 🙂
Do your homework and remember, that the first draft is the first draft. Get it done, then get it good.
I took a few month break from my blog. It was a mistake on many counts. What started out as a need to get away from everything turned into several months of doing nothing.
When I first started this blog about five years ago, I never missed a post. It wasn’t until this year that I got slack and decided it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I skipped a week. Well if you’re following me, you know that week turned into months. The more I skipped the easier it got.
Writing novels, poems, songs, whatever you’re interested in, can become the same way. Especially if you’re dealing with discouragement due to writer’s block, or rejections. If you’ve been around for a while, you’re going to face both of these dilemmas.
One of my favorite blogs is Battlefield of the Mind. I got the title and idea from a Bible study I participated in years ago. The study was wide sweeping, covering every aspect of life, whether you were a Christian or not.
The reason I brought this blog up is our mind is where it all begins. Not just our story ideas, but our motivation and ability to complete what we start.
What is your mind telling you? You’re not good enough? You’ll never have an agent? You might as well give up? It’s okay to take a break?
The problem with taking the break, is you get slack. It’s easier to skip the next time, and the next time, and the next time. Before you know it, you’re not even thinking about that blog or whatever else you’re writing, it’s been put on the shelf to gather dust.
Don’t give up! Keep moving forward! Write! Write! Write!
I remember when I first started taking my writing seriously. I did a lot of research and read a lot of information on how to write a publishable novel. Somewhere along the way, I missed the part were narrative and exposition were not the same. As a matter of fact, I used the two interchangeably.
In response to one of my earlier blogs, a fellow blogger commented that she thought I was wrong in reference to a statement I had made concerning exposition and narrative. She, of course, was right, and as a result, I took a closer look at these two concepts.
Narrative is your voice as the writer sharing information with your readers.
It tells the reader instead of showing.
Narrative lets you set the scene and give background information.
Used for transitions, it moves the reader from one scene to another.
It slows the pace.
Exposition provides the detached, third-party perspective on a story.
Shows the reader what is happening, doesn’t tell them.
Uses description to inform and move the story forward.
Exposition gives the reader more information, more emotion, and helps with active scenes by quickening the pace.
Allows us to hear character thoughts.
In a nutshell, narrative is telling, exposition is showing. I found the following example during my research and thought it did a good job of showing what I am trying to explain.
Exposition: Brian stopped and reached into his pants pocket. He pulled out a lighter. Then, he reached into his lapel pocket for his pack of cigarettes and took one out. He placed the cigarette between his lips, cupped his hands, and lit it. After putting his lighter back in his pants pocket, he resumed walking.
Narration: Brian stopped to light a cigarette and resumed walking.
So much info on this subject. It still can be confusing, and it seems everyone has a different opinion. I would encourage you to do your own homework and think twice about using the two concepts interchangeably. They are not the same.
In a recent blog, Maybe You Should Consider Biting The Bullet! I talked about my experience with agents and my journey towards getting my book published. Needless to say it was disheartening. The response I got back, was it just wasn’t ready.
I thought about using an editor in the past, but didn’t really think I needed one. I’m very bright. I know how to read and work things out, so why should I pay someone to edit my book for me?
I had friends read my work and point out mistakes. After all, everybody knows you need another set of eyes besides your own. You are so close to your work, and have reviewed it so often, the mistakes are all but invisible.
If you have a friend that’s trained and knows how to review and edit manuscripts, that’s awesome, but most of us don’t. Those wonderful friends of ours who have volunteered their time, can read our work, and say yay or nay on the premise. They may catch a couple typos, misspellings, or missing commas. They may offer a suggestion or two to make the story a little more interesting. But it’s not fair or realistic to expect them to churn out a publishable piece of work.
I tried this route for years. I would get friends to read, go in and make the corrections they suggested, along with the ones that I found while making their suggested corrections and would send it in again.
As you probably guessed, it still wasn’t ready. It wasn’t until I got the chapter back from a professional that I realized why the agents, who took the time to comment, were saying it wasn’t ready. It wasn’t.