This week I'm continuing with the list of writing tips I discovered in an old notebook. It was such a treat to find them and remind myself to not forget the basics. So here we go with Writing Tips – Part Two
1. Tighten dialog, make it minic real speech, but within reason. If we wrote it EXACTLY as people sometimes speak, it would be atrocious to read.
2. Stagger your paragraph and sentence lengths so it flows better. Make sure they don't start with the same word.
3. If you have a sentence or a word you want to draw attention to, give it it's own line, but be careful not to overuse the technique, or it will become ineffective and an intrusion rather than an enhancement.
4. Break up dialog with white space. It makes easier reading, so the reader doesn't feel like they're wading through the story.
5. Avoid too many dialog tags. An action beat is better. It feels more natural and can showcase the character better. It's like showing vs. telling, but with dialog tags. But as with all rules, use your judgment, sometimes the sentence just flows better to say "he said" instead of a super duper action tag. And many times we don't need any kind of tag if only two people are speaking. Just throw in a dialog tag or action beat every few lines to clarify who is speaking.
6. Tighten sentences. Watch out for qualifiers. (Almost, just, nearly, really) Sometimes they're necessary, but most often, they aren't. I'm terrible about this. I have to go on a search and destroy mission for qualifiers after a book is finished.
7. Adverbs are not the devil, but if you don't limit them, they will damn your story. In some cases they help, but like qualifiers, they shouldn't be used too often. Only use them when necessary or if it fits the character's speech pattern.
8. Make the dialog match the tone of the scene. Use banter between characters when appropriate. This creates white space, makes the story move quickly, and gives the characters and story authenticity. When things get tense, use shorter sentences, punchier. Make it real.
9. Make scenes do triple the work. Move the story forward, showcase something about the character, and introduce a new question or idea to tempt the reader.
10. Use ellipses to show trailing off dialog. Use em dashes to show an interruption of dialog.
That's it for Part Two. I'm having fun with this. It's making me stop and think about those basics that I assume are embedded in my brain. I'm going to continue next week with Part Three. I'm curious, do you stick to the rules or take joy in breaking them? I'm a little of both. There are a few things I'm set in stone on, but for the most part, I consider rules guidelines and have no qualms about breaking them if it suits the story.