“Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader—not the fact that
it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.”
– E.L. Doctorow
Word of the Week: Debellate. This word means to conquer through battle. Just to switch things up I will plead the fifth on whether this word makes an appearance in a work of mine, fantasy or otherwise. 🙂 While this one may be a bit of a head-scratcher, I think varying your word choice is preferable to always overusing the simplest terms.
Tip of the Week: Dialogue! Most writers, especially fledgling ones, have looked at countless tips and videos on how to write realistic, flowy dialogue. Why is it, then, that there are still so many stories and books being published with alarmingly unnatural dialogue? It probably stumps you equally as it does me. Here are three solid ways of improving your dialogue:
• Listen. Don’t be creepy about it, but when you’re in a public place – I find restaurants to be the best for this – listen to the mechanics of conversations going on around you. Does the couple at the next table use their partner’s name with each sentence? Probably not. Do they always wait for their partner to finish their sentences before they start talking, or do they occasionally interrupt them? Are there pauses while one or both collect their thoughts? Mimic these conversational mannerisms!
• Speak and Think. I am not suggesting you check out of important conversations to analyze the way you speak and how your own thoughts interject themselves quietly into your conversations—but you can ask someone to carry on a conversation with you with the purpose of paying attention to these things. (Yes, I have done this.) This may not feel natural at first, but it is natural to have unexpressed thoughts during a conversation. Explore that, and see if this might fit into some of your dialogue.
• Read Aloud. This isn’t exactly the same as the above point. After you have written your passages of dialogue simply read it aloud. You will hear mistakes your eye will never see. You can do this alone or employ friends or family to read a part for you. Personally, I have read my entire novel from beginning to end this way for this reason, but at the very least I suggest you do this for dialogue.
Resource of the Week:Recently I took a poll on Twitter, fairly certain how the results would play out, and I was correct:
Which is the worst #AmWriting scenario?—
Aila Stephens (@AilaStephens) May 19, 2016
Enter Dropbox! Wouldn’t you agree it is counterintuitive to spend your precious time and energy outlining, researching, writing, proofing, editing, rewriting and rewriting and rewri…you get the idea… only to find your computer has malfunctioned in the way computers do from time to time and a portion or, egads, your entire novel has just vanished? There are many ways to back up your files – but I use Dropbox. It’s easy to use and allows you to access your work from pretty much everywhere. It’s a two-for-one: get peace of mind and the ability to work whenever, wherever. Are you collaborating with someone? Dropbox is absolutely perfect for that.
Here is where I would normally have the Spotlight of the Week, but I got really busy and sort of forgot to ask anyone to let me interview them. Oops. [Let the Bad Blogger Flagellation begin.] So instead, let’s have a D Week special:
My Dos and Don’ts of building an audience for emerging writers:
Do reach out. You are unknown at this point, and people need to get to know you. This doesn’t mean that you have to have a blog, or a vlog, or Snapchat with hundreds of strangers… sure you can have those things, but do what is natural for you. For instance, Facebook is wildly popular but it isn’t my favorite social media platform, therefore, I do not use it. I may at some point, but right now I feel balancing Twitter and my blog while trying to produce a novel is more than sufficient. Pick what works for you and use them well.
Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Imagine it like this: You are browsing Twitter and see an account with a massive following, you scroll through their material and see they’re that popular because they post really funny tweets. Humor works! But, their brand of humor is vastly different from your own, so should you try to force the funny? Worse yet, should you steal their tweet ideas? NO! You’re a writer—plagiarism is a sin punishable by eternity in the twelfth circle of hell. (That’s the one where there is no coffee, tea, or alcohol, keyboards have no keys and Chumbawumba’s Tubthumping is playing on repeat, but in a minor key.) Be you. Phoniness is easy to sniff out, and people are not drawn to that.
Do support other writers! You want people to support you, so you must support them. Consider buying an indie book instead of the one by [insert best-seller here]. And REVIEW THEIR BOOKS. Not just on Amazon, but on platforms such as GoodReads. Follow blogs. Interact. If you ask someone to proof something for you, be kind and return the favor. Join discussions, answer questions, ask questions: the writing community is vast and wonderful. Be a part of it.
Don’t constantly push your new book. This touches on another point: don’t scam with automated DMs on Twitter. People hate those. Seriously, it is safe to say the writing community is excited when someone publishes their first novel. (Or second, or third, or eighth…) But don’t let that be all you ever put out there. Yes, you must sell… but if that is all you try to do, people will be turned off and much less likely to purchase anything from you.
Do take this seriously. Being a writer isn’t physically demanding, but it requires effort. Don’t query your first draft and then bash the profession when agents aren’t banging down your door. Don’t upload your first draft to Amazon and complain when you get bad reviews or poor sales. That is horribly unprofessional and the people you want to take you seriously will not give you the time of day.
That’s it for this week, thanks for stopping in. Come back next week for a D-lightful time!