June 16, 2012

The ins and outs of writing

When you write a novel, there are a lot of new things to learn. You bump into problems you never thought about before and in the end, you have to learn new tricks. One of them concerns dialogue.

I think I write dialogue fairly well. It's easy for me to become someone else, so I find it simple to speak in a character's voice. My problem concerned the "he said" and "she replied" end of things. It took ages to get a handle on this. I would come to an understanding and I'd go through the whole book and change everything to suit my latest light-bulb moment. But then I'd have a different take on it and have to go through and change everything again. This happened many times until I ironed it out.

Along with this comes the "said Keith" and "Jimmy said" issue. If you say a character's name too often the text sounds clunky. There doesn't seem to be a hard and fast rule about this. It's just a matter of sound and feel. I think I've learned how to handle it but I'm also sure I'll produce better dialogue three years from now. What you're looking for as a writer, of course, is a way to present dialogue so the reader doesn't even notice she's reading. It has to flow without interruption. Those "said Keith" moments will cut into the flow if you don't keep an eye on them. Trust me on this: it's not the easiest thing to pull off. Try it some time.

Hey, I've got ten chapters done and they sound great. Only two more chapters to review and then it's time to publish Xmas Carol. I was beginning to wonder if I'd ever get to this point. Maybe one more week and it'll be done. Phew.

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