Friday, January 23, 2015

Abundance of Dialogue in Short Fiction


When it comes to this writing element in short and long fiction, in general: I'm a fan. Ever since practicing for specific dialogue only contest on a writing site, I've often put a fair amount of talking in my stories, in particular in first drafts and during NaNoWriMo cause it's now the easiest for me to do quick with little worry of end result. I struggle to get much description and at times with action, but boy can my characters talk.

There can be benefits to the chatter, however. Dialogue has definite uses and many stories would not be complete without some (though it is possible to write a short story without dialogue, for sure). It can allow characters to provide information to each other and the reader without coming off as too much of a tell from the writer.  There are times when the right bit of dialogue in a moment, the right phrase or saying can help set the tone, pacing or even conflict. The way the speech is done and word choice can also be useful in showing character.

It can also be used to help setup a scene/story. All one has to say is: "We need to talk" and a moment is created with much potential. There is the anticipation and internal thoughts that occur when the character is preparing for the talk, no matter which pov is being used at the time. Much potential exists when it comes to dialogue.

However, it can reach a certain point, where the talking might become too much. At times, in particular with short fiction, if much is taking place in dialogue only, there might be other things missed. Pacing is affected along with distraction and uncertainty as the reader tries to see the whole story. Depending on the story, this could mean that too much dialogue was used.

Yep. I said it. Too much dialogue.

Is that even possible? Honestly, even as a fan of characters who talk, there are times when there is too much dialogue in a story. It is possible.

Most of the time this experience is with unpublished work as I spend a fair amount of time on a writing web site. However, it's possible to see this in published work as well because opinions will vary. There are times when I'll read a story on here and while it has potential, I will struggle because much of the story will be done in dialogue. I'm not saying that can't work, however, it can also work against the story in some cases. While at times, characters talking can help with the show versus tell aspect, when taken too far it becomes the characters telling, and it's easy enough to notice. The reader might end up distracted by all the chatter or feel as if they missed something important because other aspects of story telling are lacking. And in short fiction, word count does limit what can be shown to the reader in the given time frame.

Balance is a difficult task to achieve because it will vary with every single story but it's something we should all work on as writers. Plus, the dramatic dialogue reveal can be made stronger by also having other aspects such as emotion and enough description to put the reader in the moment even more. Something to consider at least. One story will require more dialogue than another, but trying to determine what is needed is all part of the craft and challenge of writing.

This will be more noticeable in short fiction than novels because there is less space and words used to tell the entire story. All dialogue stories can be successful, but it will depend on the writing and the story being told. On the other hand, a story with half dialogue can feel like the talking takes over the story. Variables. Let the character's talk but in editing the task will be working on reigning things in with the hopes of making the story the best it can become.

What do you think? Can there be too much dialogue?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

End to Beginning Editing

One option to attempt when editing a novel is to start at the end of the novel and work backwords. You don't have to do it one word at a time, that might be a tad tedious, but to catch some of the small, easy to miss errors, it helps to do it one sentence at a time from the very end of the novel to the beginning.

I did this in my last edit. It took a fair amount of time, since it's monotonous and difficult but it had many benefits.

Benefits of the end-beginning edit:
Easier to focus on the individual sentences.
Not as easy to get caught up reading.
Focuses more on the technical side and not the overall story.
See the words and not what you think is there.

Time consuming.
Not for general story fixes, character development, and such.
Focuses on the very small errors.

This isn't a method for many, but it's a nice option. This and maybe using a speech program to hear the sentences instead of just reading them off the page.  There are many different edit options to help writers get a clean as possible draft ready for submission or publication.

Have you tried this?
Would you?
How do you edit?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Forming Habits

While this is often a topic that pops up more in January, I thought it would be a good time to discuss forming habits (both writing and others). Part of my goals for right now are to form healthier habits along with trying to write, edit and read on a regular basis. I posted about some of it a couple of months ago: and I'm still trying to find the right balance (which will go out the window for November but other than that, balance is helpful).

Often times, the hardest part of habit forming is to keep going. It's like New Year's resolutions because the first couple of weeks there is the excitement, but eventually it wears off and one then must find other forces to help persevere until it becomes second nature. Most habits take time to change, whether it's quitting bad ones or starting new ones, it's a challenge. And not everyone is the same. Some can quit cold turkey and others need more gradual, assisted approaches for quitting. Others need lots of encouragement to start up and keep going while some can switch at a faster pace while still feeling in tune despite changes made. Like writing methods, habit forming will vary too.

Here is an interesting article on  the time it takes to form a new habit:

One thing I've found that helps make habit forming fun is a gaming orientated web site called HabitRPG. Check it out at and see if it's something that might work for you. It's kind of fun with the different levels, the little animals and other incentive/punishments to keep one on track.

I have 2 daily goals right now. Read and write. The rest of my habits and goals are divided between the habits option and to-do checklists. My habits vary from submitting stories and posting blog entries to eating veggies and drinking water. My to-do lists have things like read a book, write chapter 23, submit 5 short stories and research. Soon they will have world building ones too in order to get ready for NaNoWriMo.

It's fun for me, so far. I like getting points and such for doing things like having a glass of water. And the to-do lists gets you lots of points and such if you took a while to do it, there is a checklist and such. I'm also in a group so we can fight little monsters and win prizes. Seems like a really fun way to get things done.

Are there any habits you are trying to form?
What habits do you have right now?

Check out habitrpg and let me know what you think if you do. :-)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Social Networks and Platforms

While I have been working on my writing for several years, one thing I’ve also had to consider in that time is developing a platform as a writer, even though I don’t have anything published at this time. There are a few options available nowadays and more pop up every now and then. I have tried a few of them but not all because it’s good to not stretch beyond what one is capable of updating on a regular basis.

One of my blogging buddies, sparked this topic when she posted on her blog about how some were leaving the long blog sites behind for other web sites with shorter content requirements. However, most of the ones who responded to the blog about the topic were all people who still loved and continued to keep up their blogs. Social media does represent its own challenges and while having a presence online is useful, in the end it’s up to you which method maintainable over years in order to truly put a platform building use to the technology.

There are different options to consider, and these are just a few of them:
 Blogging (Blogger, Wordpress, Tumblr, etc)

There are a few others and some more may come up in the near future, but let's focus on these four. I put several in one category because blogging itself is a big option, one that many have picked up in the last two years or so. What used to be "you must get your own web site as an author" has in part switched to some people just recommending a blog because it can work much like a personal site. They can either be free, which means they still have the website name attached like blogspot or wordpress before the dot com, or for a small fee, it can just be the blog name you pick out and dot com (among other options).

Most of the sites also allow page creations, which can be whatever you want. I have a couple of blogs and each have an about me type section, the book review one in particular to discuss reading preferences since it's more than just me blogging, and I even have on my writing ones a page that shows my current works in progress and word count widgets. I started blogging several years ago and continue though I am sporadic at times with my posting. My advice for any blog is not to get too ambitious. It's okay to on occasion do special times where you post every day, but realistically that is a very hard schedule to follow. Like writing, you can get burned out and struggle to post then guilt sets in. Consider a schedule and topic that works best for you, then be a little flexible. Also, take part in blogfests and blog hops because they are fun and help gain an audience. Remember not to expect comments if you never post on anyone else's blog. Networking, no matter the system, takes time and effort.

Facebook is another well known site for networking. There are different writing groups, ways to create author pages and personal uses. It is far more of a social site and allows different types of posting that can range from how your day is going (like twitter) to random images that are shared over the Internet. It can be good for updating though you will want to be aware of who you have added on the page and what you write because almost anyone can have a facebook page and they can be monitored by employers and such. Honestly, I do have a page but I only use it for family and old high school/college acquaintances. If I want to know what my grandma is up to, then I check facebook (cause yes, my grandmother uses facebook and way more than I do). However, I keep it private from my other internet networking options because for me, it's a personal option and one I don't want intermixed, but that is a personal choice. Though I do have my posts from this site show up on my facebook feed.

Twitter is a bit different because it's basically a lot of people writing random updates at a limited character count. I have used twitter for several years, but nowadays I almost never post. While their are a lot of jokes about posting daily life things that no one cares about on the site, there are some good uses for social networking as a writer on Twitter. It's good to keep up with certain industry companies and members. Many agents and editors have an account on the site, along with some publishers. Some will even host twitter chats where they will answer questions on a certain hashtag conversation, like #askagent is a good example of one. It is also a good place to on occasion advertise or do an update so people are aware how things are moving along, like if you made it through an edit or what not. That or you can talk about cats, always good topic on one of these sites.

Finally, there are places like pinterest. Now, this isn't necessarily a writing focused one but it's a good source to consider. However, pinterest is also one that is good at connecting to different networks. Most of the ones I have pinned so far are craft, cleaning or cooking ideas and often the image won't have the information but it will link to a blog entry that explains the item in question. The image sites can be useful in that way, plus they can serve as a way to find inspiration for stories because of the visual creations available.

Each one has merits and down sides. And many of them have ways to interconnect. Facebook can post an automatic update when you have a blog post go up on your personal blog. Pinterest can link to a blog page or site. There are a number of options available. However, it's easy to go overboard, then become so overwhelmed that it's hard to keep them going. You don't need them all, so check them out and find the ones that are going to work best for your needs and what you want to accomplish. Don't be afraid to set schedules and know that posts don't have to be several times a week all the time. Keeping up a social page does take time, but it doesn't have to take up all the time because while we want to have an available presence online, we also can't forget to save time for the actual writing.

Friday, June 20, 2014

How Many Edits

How many edits does it take to get to the chewy center… oh wait, that’s candy. Really though, when you start editing and rewriting, a similar question is going to come up. How many drafts does it take to get a send-able product? And like many aspects of writing, the answer will be: it varies. For each writer and even each project, the number will vary. It’s your job to find out the combination that works best for you and for the individual story.

I’m still figuring out mine. I’ve got 10 chapters left for the minor edit I’ve been doing. I call it a minor edit because even though I’m doing it from the very end of the novel towards the beginning to look at it sentence by sentence (tedious work indeed), the changes are all minor. I’m catching the typing errors, tense slip ups and such. I have another edit planned for after the nit-picky one, which sounds weird to a degree since I would have thought the fix the minor errors would be the last stage. Not this time. I have to go through and fix the description, senses and emotion that ended up lacking after I took out a bunch of telling bits (like my overuse of the words “felt” and “feels”). I wasn’t sure how to go about it, so I did the minor edit first. However, I think that will be the last edit and I’ll have something I can submit to agents.

But enough about me, back to the discussion on draft numbers, which is more just about my writing… so yeah. Since I started this novel, it might seem like I’ve done tons of drafts for it. That is not quite the case since it took me 2 years to finish the first draft, and I didn’t work on it for most of those 2 years. The second draft also took about 2 years due to distractions and working on other novel projects.

The other question to consider in talking about draft numbers is what to qualify as a draft. First draft is easy cause you go from a blank piece of paper, or that white screen in whatever writing program of your choice, to a whole and very rough novel. Beyond that it gets tricky. Sure, the rewrite from first person to third person, where it gained over 25,000 words, that was a more obvious other draft. However, do I consider the minor edit a whole new draft? Not much has changed, just little rewordings here and there. In fact, I didn’t even make a new folder in Scrivener for this edit. Before the minor, I did an edit where I worked on fixing issues like passive voice, telling and switched things to past tense. That was one I could easily consider a new draft (also increased word count by almost 15,000 with that edit). The minor edit, however, I just fixed up the already existing draft section. According to scrivener, I have 3 drafts and a whole file of edit notes which involved highlighting every chapter with things to fix before draft 3 was created. Three sounds short, yet it feels like so much more.

If I count the minor edits and such, the draft total will end up at 5 (so far). Granted, if picked up for publication there will be more drafts. Not picked up could mean later, if continuing with the novel & series, then another draft or two would be needed. Even with self-publishing, which I have no intention to do at this given time, would require another edit/draft. So 5 is the midpoint for this particular project. Not all will be the same.  I have one NaNoWriMo project that I know needs a complete rewrite. However, I have another novel that is at 90k right now and I will be skipping the major rewrite stage for that one and editing instead. So, for me, like most, the answer so far to the question of how many drafts it takes to get a send-able story is: it varies.

Roughly how many drafts do you do before submitting?
What do you consider a draft?

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Balance Act

Also known as Priorities and Finding Time for it All

Life can be chaos. Between work, school, friends, family, chores, sleep, hobbies, and such, it's hard to find the time each day to get everything done. One has to figure out priorities, putting some items before others each day. I’m not the best at balancing thing, I have to admit. I can focus on one activity in particular while the others fall to the side for that time. Then the next month, my focus changes. But I keep trying to get a better balance.

For fun, I’m calling this a tri-balance, as it’s the balance of three important tasks for a writer: writing, reading and editing. All three are important aspects that a writer needs to work on, no matter the stage or commitment level of the writer. Writing is the obvious one since that is what a writer does. Reading and editing are related though, both very important to the process. Combined, they are a trifecta.

Trouble is how to get them all done.

I'm not good at balance. Over a whole year I can get some stuff done, but each month I tend to focus on just one or two tasks. November, of course, is writing. I take part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) each year, focusing on novel writing. I have succeeded the last few years (100k or more), but I have to admit that I get no reading done and definitely no editing. In April, this year, I took part in the A to Z blog challenge using my book review blog. I had to read books in order to have something to review, though thankfully I didn’t have to do all 26 of them. I managed to read 8 books, which is almost as many books as I read all of last year. (Sad, I know.) And I have done at least one month where my focus rested on editing, like getting the edit notes for my novel together some time last year.

Now, I'm trying to find a balance again. It's not an easy task. Part of what helps for me is making goals. I have a writing group that was inspired by NaNoWriMo. While it's not the most active group, I can use my own forum to make goals geared towards all three in order to achieve a tri-balance. I try, at least, even if I don’t always achieve what I set out to do each month.

It doesn't have to be goals, though. Lists, plans, challenges, accountability, the trick is finding something that will work for you because not every writer is the same. Maybe you can't do all three at the same time. That's okay too if looking at the bigger picture. Maybe each month needs a different focus. Or maybe you don't like balance at all. Some work best with chaos and can't deny that either. Do whatever works for you.

Me? I'm still trying to get a tri-balance with the exception of certain months, like November. But other months, I’m trying to get more of a balance going for reading, writing and editing. It’s a work in progress.

How do you balance writing, editing and reading?
Do you focus on 1 each month, or have another method?

Friday, May 2, 2014

Five Years and Still Blogging

Wow. I've had this blog for 5 years. That is crazy.

My first blog post ever, as this was my first official blog, was on May 1, 2009.

Followed soon after (on the 2nd) by this post:

My first month blogging, I put up 9 posts. I started off slow though for the rest of the year with a couple months where I only managed to get up 1 post. 2010 made up for it. That was probably one of my most active blogging years and it's also when I was active on Twitter. I don't post on twitter much anymore so I'll have to work on that one too in the near future.

May 2010:

From reading topics, goals to what do I plan to write, it was quite the month. I had a reading goal week, which to be honest, I don't even remember attempting.  Some success happened and some failure. I had a list of authors to seek out to interview but I'll be honest, I didn't even try. I got distracted by other things, then forgot. A list of books to read, of which in the last 4 years I have read two out of nine. I don't even recognize some of the titles...  This is also the year that I started my other blog, now titled Fiction & Fitness, that is more focused on my life in general along with my personal writing (while I use this one to talk about writing in general).

May 2011:

Some activity in 2011. I attempted an epic giveaway which took me so long to complete in giving away prizes. I learned a lesson that month. As much as I'd like to do great giveaways where I send people stuff, I need to make sure I have the time and money beforehand. Maybe some day in the future I'll be able to do another epic prize giveaway event, alas it won't be any time soon. This is the year I started the book review blog, along with two other readers who were awesome to help me.

May 2012:

I had this one post in May for 2012, after taking part in A to Z challenge. Succeeded in April but I was tired so ended up focusing on other things. Well, that and I moved in June 2012 out to Oregon from Wyoming. Had a lot going on then.

May 2013:

Also a light year after taking part in A to Z challenge the month before. I believe 2013 was the year I took part on this blog and over on my other blog, so I managed to do 52 posts between the two for April, which not surprising leads to smaller posts in May. Last year I started talking about Beta readers and since then, I have had 2 people read my novel and give me some advice. I'm working on final edits and hop to be sending that novel query to agents soon.

Now it's May 2014. And even though the past couple years have been light on content. May not be published yet, or even submitting to agents, but I can definitely say I'm closer. And I have so much more I want to write no matter what happens. And as for blogging, who would have thought I'd still be posting here in 5 years. But I'm still here. Not bad.

And I look forward to another 5 years of blogging.