Category Archives: Editing

Thirteen Thoughts On Dialogue

Readers love dialogue, or so I’ve read; apparently the white space is less daunting than solid paragraphs. In your novel make sure dialogue is achieving something – plot or character development. The dream is to create a level of naturalism.

  1. frozenInclude interruptions and partial sentences. In real life people often tail off, or leave the other person to fill in the end of their sentence.
  2. Think about how each of your characters would speak.
  3. People’s vocabularies vary with up-bringing, situation, where they live or have lived, level of education etc. Give your characters different vocabularies, though avoid stereotyping.
  4. Related to this, it is worth considering whether they would use different colloquialisms, sayings, cultural references or slang. Evan Kingston is excellent at this.
  5. To create pace with your dialogue and to reflect stress in the characters keep it short and sharp. To create more intrigue and drag things out use longer exchanges.
  6. Sadness or anxiety can be expressed by someone stammering or falling over their words, not quite knowing what to say.
  7. Dialogue is as much about what characters don’t say as what they do. Subtext and mystery will keep your readers intrigued.
  8. Avoid expository dialogue: the dreaded ‘info-dump’. Never let one character lecture another with information just because you want your audience to know it. Make it an exchange of questions and answers. Leave things unsaid or imply them.
  9. Make sure your characters don’t stop or sit down to have conversations. In real life conversation happens while people are doing other things. Please don’t have dialogue meetings.
  10. Use adverbs sparingly when you’re not using tone or accompanying actions to show mood.
  11. To check whether your dialogue flows like real human conversation, read it out loud. Get your friends to join in and make an evening of it. If it doesn’t sound like you intend it to coming from your volunteer thespians, then it probably won’t read right either.
  12. Dialogue should be realistic, but as with everything in novels, it can be more exciting, quicker, wittier and more convenient than real life.
  13. funny-english-men-drinking-teaRelated to the above, do start chapters or sections in the middle of conversations. The start can be dreadfully dull. If books were real life we’d be twelve pages in and still only have established that everyone is fine, weather is happening, and we’d all love a cup of tea, if it’s not too much trouble.

Do you have any further thoughts on dialogue? I would love to see them in the comments. Please do like or share if this has been of any use to you.

If you’d like to have a dialogue with me, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under Editing, Writing, Writing Advice

Ngrams: A Magnificent Editing Tool

Basically, Google Ngrams searches all of the 5.2 million books digitized by Google for whatever word(s) or phrase(s) you want to look for or compare. It then plots them on a graph. This is extremely useful when proofreading as it helps me to choose between variant spellings, particularly if an author has used more than one in their work. 

Have a look at this example:
nerves
Charts like the one below also show which version of a phrase was in common use in a particular era. You can even use it to check whether a word you’re considering using in your period piece was in common usage at that time.

hat

In general, it’s rather interesting to see how words or phrases have risen or fallen in popularity. Here’s the trajectory of ‘twerk’:

twerk

You can also search in many languages, including British or American English, and choose a shorter time span. It can even be used to explore cultural change and the popularity of ideas.

women

It’s a handy and rather interesting tool. Click here to have a go.

What do you think? Have you used it in your editing?

 

3 Comments

Filed under Editing, Proofreading

Description – Don’t Leave it Too Late

Or, Avoiding the Longbottom Paradox

Readers who are invested in your story will begin to imagine the people and the places in it. This is what we want: for them to care about what you’ve created like it’s real. This means that, consciously or not, the reader is creating a picture in their minds. By adding detail too late on you can disrupt their absorption in your world by contradicting their image of it.

For example, if you want the reader to know that the character has an extraordinarily deep voice, or a strong accent, tell us that when they begin speaking. If you only share that after a significant portion of dialogue, the reader may feel as if they have been reading it wrong. Get your essential description in early to avoid reader upset.

Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher: always cut off at the knees so you can't see he's standing on a box.

Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher: always cut off at the knees so you can’t see he’s standing on a box.

It’s the same feeling you get when a film adaptation of a book comes out and the characters look nothing like how the source material describes them. Think of 6’5″ Jack Reacher being played by Tom Cruise. A brief Internet skim reveals that the opinionated masses believe that compared to the books, film Jane Eyre is too pretty; Katniss is too fair-skinned; Neville Longbottom looks too much like a young Clive Owen; and Tyrion Lannister is far too sexy for his (leather) shirt.

It’s fine for the reader to guess details that you don’t mention at all, it’s just when new information is introduced later that it can be annoying. 

That said, you are allowed  to surprise the reader on purpose, for example: ‘Betty swore internally at her alarm clock each morning, dreading another day of work. It was Monday and rain clattered into her windows. She dove further under the duvet; it was dreadfully cold. Well, no one can afford to heat draughty old buildings anymore. Eventually, the sound of her beloved dogs yapping inspired her to drag her weary legs out of bed. I suppose one must persevere, she thought, one is the Queen of England after all.’

What do you think? Has this ever happened to you when you’ve been reading?

1 Comment

Filed under Editing, Writing, Writing Advice

Morphemes

Morphemes, not be be confused with Morph memes.

Morphemes, not be be confused with Morph memes.

Morphemes are the smallest unit of language that can convey meaning; they cannot be broken down any further into meaningful units.

For example, the word unshockable is made up of three morphemes
un-,  shock, and -able.

Shock is a free morpheme because it can be used alone as a complete unit – it is free of other morphemes.

Un- and -able are bound morphemes because they modify a free morpheme. Even though they are not words in their own right, they do have meaning: un- means ‘not’ and -able means ‘able to be’.

Understanding morphemes has been shown to improve spelling – do you remember teachers saying, ‘break it down into chunks’? For example, the suffix
-ian usually refers to a person, so we known that magician is spelt magic
-ian
, rather than magic -ion.

funny-magician-Abra-Kadabra
As a writer you can broaden your vocabulary, or even invent words more cogently, by breaking them down and combining the appropriate morphemes. 
Sometimes, flow can be improved by looking at words that have multiple morphemes and replacing them with a single morpheme. One example would be replacing uncomplicated (three morphemes) with simple (one morpheme). 

Leave a comment

Filed under Editing, Proofreading

Praise from the Magnificent Buzz Malone

Once upon a time on the Internet, I became acquainted with a brilliant author named Buzz Malone. After seeing my work on Chaunce Stanton’s The Blank Slate Boarding House for Creatives, to my delight he chose me to editSilence of Centerville Cover his novel. If you’re interested to know what working with me is like, he’s written the following.

I had personally edited the thing at least thrice, so I thought if she was really intent upon earning her pay, she might be able to find a dozen misplaced commas throughout the work (you know, if she looked really hard).

I have put about ten hours into the thing since I got it back from Eve, and I am about 5% into her corrections and recommendations. At first, I got the feeling this might be some form of masochism, having paid for the privilege of being rebuked time and again. But as I read and correct and edit and correct and edit and read, I am not feeling any of the usual artist’s angst. I’m going with it, and making the changes (all of them), and I’m thinking about things in my writing that I had never considered before (NO, not just grammar and punctuation).

Hiring this young woman to slash red ink all over my work is the singular best thing I have ever done as an author. It’s not simply making the book better (Mom already has fifty copies, so what’s the point besides one more sale when I change the cover again?), but it is making me a better writer and giving me fuller clarity as to the depth and degree of things I need to consider as I write.

 At the risk of repeating myself over and again… I will NEVER release another book that has not been edited. And more specifically, if she will have me, I will endeavour to have all future works edited by Eve.

I must say that Eve has done an amazing job of editing. Even in spite of the fact that I am already a recognized a master of the English language and grammar, Eve managed to find a few (hundred) places where my perfection could be polished somewhat. Apparently, these little thingamajigs ( : ) have uses beyond making smiley faces? Who knew?

Honestly and seriously, I can say with certainty that despite all of my independent bravado, I will NEVER release another manuscript that Eve has not already reviewed. Her services are entirely too beneficial for the work and for me as a writer, AND too affordable, not to employ her.

I must also say that I have found your services to be too affordable, and far too valuable to me as a writer, to go it on my own ever again. And I am saying that most self published authors I know could forgo a few weekends at the pub, or a few bottles of scotch or rum, and reap the benefits of your services.

I do not (for my own future benefit) desire to imply that your services are too cheap, but rather, that I remain surprised at the volume and depth of your critique, comments and edits. And I find reasonably priced, professional services such as yours, to be just as beneficial to emerging independent authors as print on demand services have been. I don’t think that I can overstate enough the value of the services you are providing to my work, and to the movement itself.

Thank you Buzz!

You can imagine how thrilled I was to read that! As soon as the new edition is available, I urge you all to read Silence of Centerville. It’s a beautifully written, moving novel. I really enjoyed working on it.

3 Comments

Filed under books, Editing