Give your characters compelling dialogue. Strong dialogue tells your readers exactly who your characters are within moments of them speaking their first lines. An immense amount of information can be conveyed with dialogue, without even saying anything specific.
Well written dialogue is comprised of something as simple as a character buying groceries. Even in a fantasy novel, we need to be able to relate to the characters and understand who they are on a raw, visceral level, and dialogue is the vehicle for achieving this.
But keep in mind that compelling dialogue doesn’t necessarily mean having lots of dialogue. You may have a character that says very little, which in turn says a lot about them without the use of words. You may have one character that’s speech is filled with slang and another that sounds like a preacher.
Having characters that speak in their own voices in tremendously important, and make sure that each of your characters sounds sound different, having their own voice.
Although it’s very important to have an idea of your story’s structure before actually doing any writing, you also want to allow for the story to unfold organically and naturally, and the only way to do that is to give your characters some breathing room. Rather than forcing your character into an arc and dictating all of their actions, try to let your character make their own decisions that will move your story forward.
As you write any given scene, ask yourself how your character would react to the circumstances they are in. Don’t think about what you would do.
So go into your scenes and story with an open mind, especially in early drafts. Don’t get too hung up on having a perfect character arc in the first draft. Let it unfold naturally, and in later drafts you can go back in and highlight the arc more, once your character has shown you what it really is.
When I send my draft to my editor, her first question is always, “Did you read it out loud?” And I have to sink a little and admit I did not. I just kept thinking, it doesn’t really make a difference if I read it out loud, or to myself. And on my fourth book, I finally gave in and started reading out loud before sending her the next revision.
Wow! What a difference. She was right. It not only helped me catch things that were wrong, that apparently my eyes couldn’t catch, it helped me think of things that fit better. And the revision continued. Better than before. Easier.
Now, I always read out loud!
Have you ever entered a writing contest and wondered what swayed the judges? What are they looking for? How do they choose the winners?
Here are my 20 top tips on submitting your writing with the best chance possible for you to win.
- Read the contest rules. All of them, not just the first few.
- Brainstorm your ideas. Either with your friends, your family, a fellow writer, or even your cat. Talk it through out loud.
- Write your first draft. And know that this is just a DRAFT!
- Title is everything. Make it interesting. Think of newspaper headlines.
- Lead with a good hook. That first sentence should grad a hold of the reader and hang on tight.
- Write characters we care about. Nobody wants to following a boring or bland character.
- Plot – plot – plot. Need I say more?
- Point of view. Be clear on whose point of view the story is written from, and stick to it.
- Beware of cliches. No editor or judge wants to read cliches. So don’t use them.
- Write something different. Don’t use the same common story line that most writers use. Find something unique and different, or write the story from someone else’s perspective to turn it around.
- The editing begins! Now is where the real work starts.
- Stay under he maximum word count. If the contest calls for entries up to 5,000 words. You don’t have to write a full 5,000 words. In fact, the judges will appreciate those who can tell a complete, captivating story in far less.
- Avoid being non-descriptive. The devil’s in the details! Oops! A cliche, but this one is okay. It’s relevant. If you don’t write clearly enough for the reader to SEE and FEEL it, you’ve lost already.
- Endings and resolutions. Make sure that the ending ties everything up. That all questions are answered or dealt with on some level. Don’t leave the reader hanging.
- Get in a critique group. This will be one of the best things you can do for the advancement and improvement of your writing.
- Revise for flow and organization. Go back through, scene by scene. Does it make sense? Is it orderly? Does Tuesday come after Monday?
- Put it aside – break time. Give yourself enough time to put it in the drawer for a week, or more if possible. Then come back to it with fresh eyes. You’ll be amazed at what you catch, that you overlooked the first time.
- Revise your contest entry. Writing is rewriting!
- Proofread, proofread and do it again. Have at least one other person proofread it too. The more eyes the better.
- Read the contest rules one more time before submitting. Trust me, it’s worth it!
Good luck. Contests are a great way to gauge the success of your writing.
Getting feedback from your editor, or critique partners can bring a mixed bag of emotions.
You need the feedback to know what you’re doing right and wrong. What’s good, and what needs to be changed. But sometimes it’s also hard not to take it personal.
Repeat after me “They’re critiquing my writing – not me!”
And just because someone doesn’t like the way you wrote, or didn’t write something, doesn’t mean you have to change it. It’s just their opinion. Remember that too! It’s just their OPINION.
Sift through all the comments, use what you can, and throw out the rest. No one, not even your editor, expects you to make every single change they suggest. Always give yourself time to digest other’s comments. Don’t rush into making changes right away.
And save old drafts, just in case you decide the changes don’t really work.
Sherry Briscoe sherrybriscoe.com
Being a part of a writing group, in my mind, is a crucial part of the creative process. We need feedback and input from other writers. But creating or joining a writing group is not enough.
First, you have to find one that you click with. You need to be benefiting from the group, as well as contributing. If you’re in a group that doesn’t energize and help you – leave it. And you can be a part of one or many writing groups at one time.
One of the most important elements of having a healthy writing group is having consistent, regular meetings that are scheduled at a time that works for most of the writers involved.
You don’t need officers, but you do need someone who organizes the meetings, and facilitates them. This person generally keeps everything on track and can stop the whole group from going too far off topic.
Clear, outlined parameters of what the group does and doesn’t do are important. Go with what works best for the members of your group. Schedule who submits how much and when.
Make sure you are getting valuable feedback from the group. After all, that’s what it’s all about. Getting and giving feedback!
Sherry Briscoe www.sherrybriscoe.com
The Idaho Writers Guild is once again sponsoring their #writing #contest. Each entry is judged by two or more industry professionals. And you receive the judge’s scorecards after the competition is over.
Accepting submissions now through March 5, 2018. Winners will be announced at the May 4/5 IWG Writers #Conference in Boise.
First place winner in each category receives $100. Second place winner in each category receives $50.
Entry fees are $40 for non-members of the Idaho Writers Guild, and $35 for members.
- Short story
- Novel first 10 pages
- memoir first 10 pages
- essay/article – max 2,500 words
Check it out, and get the full guidelines and entry form at www.idahowritersguild.com