Tag Archives: guest post

Why Writers Should Blog on the Side (Guest Post)

As writers, most of us have heard the advice that blogging is a great way to help build our author platform, but today’s guest blogger, Debra Johnson, offers some other good reasons why writers should blog.

Why Writers Should Blog On the Side

Whether you are writing the next big novel or writing a column for work, all writers should have a personal blog that they write for on a weekly basis.It sounds like a lot of work to be writing more but there are many benefits to writing a blog on the side:

  1. Practice makes perfect: The more you write the better your professional writing gets. Just like the old age saying ‘practice makes perfect’ still rings true through your adulthood and creative career. When you write a blog, your readers and their comments are a wonderful way to gauge your writing process. Not only do positive comments propel you to continue down the correct writing path but negative comments are beneficial. Don’t allow negative comments get you down;they are wonderful constructive criticism for you to edit and mold your work into something better. Personal blogging can help you learn from your mistakes and grow from them, as well as find the good in your writing and further improve it.
  2. Helps with future ideas and creativity: Keeping a personal blog is a key to your future writing career. So many ideas, phrases and themes from your personal blog can be used in your professional work. When we write personal blogs the pressure is off and the creativity is on. There are no boundaries and rules when writing a personal blog; therefor your ideas are unhindered and inhibited. When you are working on your professional piece, look back through your blog posts and archives to gather ideas.
  3. Stress relief and writers block: Being a writer you know that you have your off days and your on days. It seems that more often than enough, you tend have to several off days more than your on days. Writing on a personal level can help you get through your professional and paid project. Keeping those creative juices flowing by writing on the side will help decrease that worry and frustration that come with writers block. Writers block hits us when we least expect it and the only way around it is to charge it full on with blog writing.

Writing a personal blog is healthy for your creativity in your personal and professional writing career. It’s a win-win for all, first you help your writing, entertain others and your career is heightened. So head to your nearest online blog spot and start blogging today! Happy blogging!

About the Author:

 This guest post is contributed by Debra Johnson, blogger and editor of nanny payroll.

She welcomes your comments at her email Id: – jdebra84 @ gmail.com.

Tuesday 12 x 12

If you pop over to Julie Hedlund’s blog, I’ve done a guest post on why I decided to join 12 x 12 in 2012 and what I’ve got out of it so far. Julie Hedlund is the super-awesome founder of 12 x 12 in 2012 and it was a pleasure guest posting in her 12 x 12 series.
Speaking of guest posting, I have a new guest post lined up to post in the coming days on why writers should blog. You’ll notice things have been a bit slow around here lately. I was having some issues with my blog (all resolved now) and my family got hit by an extremely nasty ‘flu (all better now fingers crossed).

Storytelling Secrets to Make Your Novel Unforgettable (Guest Post)

Freelance writer Lucy Faraday is back guest posting again today with a post on secrets for an unforgettable novel (you may remember her recent guest post on Poor Man’s Copyright).

Storytelling Secrets to Make Your Novel Unforgettable

If you’re an author you’ve likely been given countless tips and techniques to make your stories really shine. The reality is that there are (unfortunately) no magic wands that you can simply wave to create the next Harry Potter or A Song of Ice and Fire series. There are, however, a few well-kept secrets that many authors already employ without some people even realising it. These concepts, ideas, and tips help to keep a story not only going along at a lightning pace, but also keep the readers glued to the pages, eager to know what happens next. The aim is to keep your readers laid back and glued to their seat desperate to continue reading simply by creating characters and situations that really bring your story to life. And it’s probably much easier than you think. So without further ado, here are the storytelling secrets you need to make your next novel truly unforgettable.

Collect interesting names

One of the biggest challenges facing authors is naming their characters. Some writers are able to simply pluck them out of the air and have them sound great first time, but others need to take a little more time over it. Many famous novels feature unforgettable character names (examples include Albus Dumbledore, Jon Gatsby, Tyrion Lannister, and so on). If you have a hard time generating memorable character names on the spot, here’s a handy tip: keep a notepad (or your smartphone) handy, and whenever you come across a good name in your day-to-day life, jot it down. Then, when you come to name your creations, you’ll never be at a loss for words.

Give your characters a signature

In order to leave a lasting impact on readers, writers need to make the characters as memorable as possible. Not just in terms of name as we discussed above, but also in their mannerisms and the way they talk. To make your characters really stand out, one good idea is to give each of them a signature of some kind. This could be a limp, an eye patch, a noticeable scar, a vocal tick – the list goes on. The aim is to make the reader feel like they really know a character and could recognise them anywhere. That way, your book will be much more memorable.

Give your readers mental landmarks

In much the same way as you’ll want to make characters recognisable, you may also do the same with setting and environment. For example, if you were writing a yarn about pirates and two of the characters were having a swashbuckling sword fight, would you simply place them on a ‘sandy beach’? If you do, your reader doesn’t have much to go on. But put them instead on the edge of a cliff teetering above a rock formation that resembles a human skull and you’ve created an instantly memorable mental landmark. It’s things like this that turn a good book into a great one. Mental landmarks work anywhere, not just during action sequences. They allow readers to truly build the world in their mind, and their immersion in the story gets a boost at the same time.

As Faulkner said, “Kill your darlings”

William Faulkner was one of the proponents of the great American novel, and he was also a font for writing knowledge. One of his most famous quotes is “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” – but what does this mean for modern authors? Well, simply put, it means that you mustn’t become too heavily attached to characters. If you do, your story runs the risk of becoming stale. By building up a character and really falling for them, then dealing them a fatal blow, you’ll throw a spanner in the works and create tense moments that will remain with your readers forever. If you need any tips on how best to eliminate characters that you may have spent hundreds of pages creating, take a leaf out of George RR Martin’s book. In A Song of Ice and Fire, he kills more main characters than we can count!

So there you have it: just a handful of ways you can make your next book unforgettable. The same rules apply whether you’re writing a 1000-page tome or a short story, so don’t feel like you have to write a novel to try these out. With a little work, and a little effort, you’ll find your writing (and the immersion it offers readers) will only grow in time.

How Not to Write an Author Business Plan (Guest Post)

Fellow writer and blogger, Carrie Bailey of the Peevish Penman is guest posting today (for long time followers of my blog, you may recall her blog shares its birthday with mine). Hopefully her post will get you really thinking about where you want to go with your writing and the best way to strive for those goals. (P.S. She’s currently seeking submissions for the second The Handbook of the Writer Secret Society anthology. You can find a link to the submissions page in her bio at the end of this post.)

How Not to Write an Author Business Plan

by Carrie Bailey

Can an author survive without a business plan? Yes, of course, they can and do every day, but they miss the opportunity to learn about, explore and refine their own business strategy through the very thing they love best. Writing.

I’ve written business plans for libraries and helped small business owners in a range of fields, from automotive to health food products to do the same. I’m not an expert at what makes them successful. People ask for my help because they believe I’m good with words. But while struggling to help great visionaries articulate how they’re going to change the world with their product or service, I have gained some insight into what prevents people from growing their business.

Here’s how not to write a business plan:

Ignore the context

If you don’t like the changes in the publishing industry and the impact of new technologies, just ignore them. They don’t matter. eBooks are just a fad.

It’s the same with genres. Just because readers in their later teens often make a beeline straight to the bookcase labeled YA in their favorite bookstore or local library, you don’t have to factor that into your business plan. Readers will just instinctively know how to find your book.

Maybe everyone has written about werewolves that moonlight as detectives this year or no-one is reading one hundred thousand word epic poems about the suicidal ruminations of massage therapists who lost a loved one in the apocalypse, but you don’t have to pay attention to trends. A true artist sets the trends.

Don’t plan strategically

Only heartless capitalist thugs use strategic planning. They start by defining what they offer in terms of their strengths, weaknesses and the threats to their business. Then, they identify their opportunities. For them, it’s about knowing where you are, where you want to go and then choosing what tactics you need to get there.

That’s evil. Don’t do it.

And don’t define what success means to you. Accept what your hair stylist believes: a successful author is mega-wealthy and a New York Times Bestseller. Like duh, she knows what she’s talking about. Do not set measurable short-term goals. If it’s not a multimillion-dollar book deal from a top publisher, it’s not worth your time.

Hate all publishers, agents, other writers or readers who deserve it

You deserve respect and you don’t have put up with people with their opinions. When you write your business plan, write anyone you don’t like out. It’s all about you and your book. Besides publishers and agents only want what the public will buy, right? And we all know people have no taste. Forget about them. Business plans are not about buying and selling. They’re about something else. Something indefinable.

Besides, everyone should want to read your work whether or not you respect him or her. It is that profound and they need it to change their lives and to make them better people. Don’t bother targeting a specific audience. No matter what age they are, where they live, what their background is or what language they speak, they should want to read your book.

Maintain absolute control

It’s also crucial that you never let anyone see your business plan, because they are going to steal your ideas. Don’t accept feedback from anyone either. That will disrupt the purity of your own artistic vision for your work.

And finally,

Never change your business plan

Just because the times change and the business of writing changes, doesn’t mean that your business plan should. Chisel it in stone. Adaptation is for losers who didn’t do it right the first time, right?

You would think that the people who held ideas similar to these-the real people I’ve met and worked with-would not be in business, but they had shops, clients, employees, products and services. They made ends meet, but they weren’t growing. They believed they couldn’t articulate their business plan effectively, because they lacked writing skills. I disagree. They simply could not articulate their business plans, because they were poorly formed in areas.

I used to spend hours having conversations that went like this:


“So, what threats to your business can you identify?”

Small business owner:

“There aren’t really any, except that sometimes I run out of money at the end of the month and I every time I train someone they leave and go into business for themselves and I can’t find anyone to do the accounts right. I think the accountant I hired is overcharging me.”


“Okay, so additional competition is one threat?”

Small business owner:

“Oh no! My product is completely different and unique to everything else available and no one else could possibly compete with it…”

Two hours later, I would often still not have identified one threat and I would have nothing written down for them, but they weren’t hopeless. Years later some have grown and developed from barely five figured enterprises to healthy six figured ones. They had passion.

I don’t try to write business plans for people anymore. Edit? Yes. Write? I can’t. Writing a business plan forces you to think through important questions about what you’re trying to achieve and how you’re trying to do it. The writing process itself is a vital learning tool. My sister, Winonah Drake, the co-editor at Peevish Penman, recently shared a Winston Churchill quote with me that I believe sums it up, “Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential.”

Carrie Bailey has been writing her debut YA fantasy novel for the past two years while attending graduate school for library science. She is currently seeking submissions for the second edition of The Handbook of the Writer Secret Society, an anthology.

How to Deal with Writer Burnout (Guest Post)

Before I introduce the next guest poster to the Graceful Doe’s blog, I just want to let everyone know I haven’t forgotten about April’s Helpful Writing Sites post. I will be doing another combined post at the end of May. I would also like to thank everyone who has voted for my blog so far for the 2012 Best Australian Blogs People’s Choice award. There are just 5 days left to vote! If you would like to vote for my blog, just click the ‘vote for me’ link in the sidebar; my blog ‘The Graceful Doe’ is on page five of the voting form.

Now onto the next post in my guest post series. Freelance writer Jenny Ellis has some tips for dealing with something most writers face at some point: Writer burnout.

How to Deal with Burning Out on Writing

People have this common misconception that writer’s lead these whimsical lives where they sit in coffee shops and drink coffee all day while pondering life and staring intently at their laptops. The truth though? Writing for a living is no small feat. It’s hard to churn out content day in and day out and have each and every article come out worthy of being published. As a writer I can tell you that my life is less than whimsical and I spend an equal amount of time stressed out as I do drinking coffee and staring at my laptop (because let’s be honest, the coffee and laptop scenario does happen too). In fact, after weeks of writing day in and day out sometimes I get a little burned out and it becomes rather difficult to even think about writing another article or chapter or whatever I’m working on at the time. And while I think that burning out is nearly inevitable from time to time, I have found some tools for dealing with it:

  1. Switch to editing – Sometimes it’s the mere act of coming up with new content that has become a chore, and shifting gears and doing something else related to writing can be exactly the jolt that you need. Often times I find when I’m editing a piece that I’ve let sit for a while that once I start re-reading it I’m flooded with new ideas for how to change the piece into something better. Before I know it I’m re-writing entire sections with gusto instead of dreading penning any more words.
  2. Do something different – As writers I think we all tend to get wrapped up in projects and we become slaves to our laptops. I know I can spend hours staring at my laptop with unblinking eyes as I pore over new material, old material, and proof-reading. It’s usually when I start feeling burned out that I realize that I haven’t taken a genuine break from writing in a while. So I take a walk, I get outside, I call a friend, I just take a break to let my mind recharge a little. Allowing yourself to rejuvenate can do wonders.
  3. Write for fun – Amidst projects and deadlines it’s easy to get a little flustered and just shut down. You likely started writing because you love it, right? So take a break from everything that you’re getting paid to do and write something that you feel like writing. Maybe it’s a journal or personal blog entry, maybe it’s poetry, maybe it’s a song… whatever it is let yourself take a break and have some fun with it!
  4. Bounce ideas off a colleague – If you’ve hit a wall and you’re feeling burned out it could just be that you’re only allowing yourself to view a piece in one way. Let a trusted friend or colleague read what you’re writing and be open to constructive criticism. Toss ideas around with one another. Finding a good idea or a new twist could be just what you need to ignite the passion that writing requires.
  5. Don’t stress too much – When you write for a living and you’ve suddenly reached a period of burnout it’s easy to start stressing out about getting things done on time and wondering if you’ll ever get out of this rut. However stressing is just going to make it even harder to get back into writing, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Decompress a bit and allow yourself to recognize that you’re burned out. Your writing mojo will come back sooner when you’re relaxed and receptive.

Burning out is one of those annoying things that come with any profession, though it can be especially hard to deal with as a writer because you’re so used to the creative juices running freely. Your writing will be its best when you’re happily letting the words roll onto the page, not when you’re forcing them, so don’t be too down on yourself if you end up a little burned out every now and then. Allow your creativity to return and then the words will flow.

Jenny Ellis is a freelance writer, and a regular contributor for aupair care. She welcomes your comments at: ellisjenny728 @ gmail.com.

Image by PocketAces via stock.xchng

Learning How to Plan for Your Dreams (Guest Post)

The next guest poster I’d like to welcome to the blog is poet and short story writer Lissa Clouser, whom I met through the 12 x 12 challenge. When I first read her post, I found it really struck a chord with me. She offers some great advice on striving for that writing dream.

Learning How to Plan for your Dreams

As writers we want to be trendsetters, not goal-setters. We want the right-now success while only doing maybe-later work. But there’s been a breakthrough! We have it all backwards.

The truth of it is that we’ve trained ourselves to spend all of our time dreaming. We dream up our characters, their stories, and the worlds in which they live them out. Chances are it’s the dream of the adventurous life of writing that’s led us to be more than journal keepers in the first place.

Somewhere in the middle of all that wistful dreaming however, most of us have forgotten to take the time and effort to make a plan. Plans don’t have to be complicated, but I’ve come to believe they are a necessary foundation for future success.

1)      Start by taking just one step back. Not too far from the dream, but just enough to see the big picture. I did this with my own writing life about 8 months ago. Where am I going? What do I want to accomplish? Why do I want to accomplish it? If you don’t feel like answering all of these questions yet that’s okay. But now that you’ve stepped back, how far are you from your dream?

2)      DON’T GET DISCOURAGED. I know you just stepped back and took a good long look at how far away your dream might be, but whatever you do, discouragement is not allowed! No matter how far away you think you are, it’s still accessible. Believe and plan.

3)      We’ve dreamt. We’ve hyperventilated. Now what do we do? Evaluate. Where are you right now? Right this very minute? This is very important knowledge because if you don’t take the time to evaluate this, how do you know where to go? Don’t be ashamed if you’re just starting. We all start somewhere. Just know where to put the push pin on your mental map of the big-picture journey. You can look back and gawk at how far you’ve come later.

4)      Plot your next step. Do you have a first draft of a novel you love completed? Excellent. Revise. Maybe you’ve polished a picture book manuscript 40 times and you’re confident it shines. Fantastic. Learn how to write a query letter. Learn how to research agents who might be interested in you. Are you at the very beginning, still just grasping at the fluffy clouds of what-if? That’s awesome! The whole world stretches before you. Don’t let a story overwhelm you. Start small with poetry, short stories, or even learning how to free write ideas. Practice will not only teach you what you love about writing, it will teach you what you need to work on, help you find and shape your voice, and lead you to your next step.

5)      If you haven’t already, find your niche. This isn’t prison; you aren’t confined to it by any means, but like it or not we all have one or maybe a few areas in which we shine. I thought I wanted to be a novelist. (And deep down I still do.) But I’m finding that the more I write, the more I realize poetry is probably my strongest point. When I do write short stories I like dark themes. I love to use psychological twists and turns to mess with the reader. But what do you like? Answering this question will help to give you direction and a brand with which to market yourself. Me? I want to be a novelist, but for now I’m a poet.

6)      DON’T GET DISCOURAGED. I feel like repeating this again. Writing is a hard road, filled with lots of rejection for most of us, rejection that comes from ourselves and the big bad world of publishing. Just remember, if you get rejected from an agent, publisher, or contest that means you tried in the first place. I’m already proud of you for that alone. So don’t get discouraged. Seriously.

7)      Create a marketing plan, but don’t be shocked if it changes. It probably will. But having a marketing plan in the first place will steer you in a positive direction. Decide what it is you want to market. Decide where you want to market it. What are the steps to reach that market? Is it something you can already be researching in your down time from writing? My current project is a poetry anthology, and it’s still at least a year from being print-worthy. But when I’m not working on the poetry itself and I’m not blogging, I’m trying to learn my market. What small publishers fit my work? Do I want to try self-publishing? Where and how am I going to market my book? These are all questions going through my mind. As the time for publication gets closer, my marketing plan will get better, tighter. But just like your writing, having a rough draft for marketing can only improve the final concept.

8)      Write! You have it in you. I believe in you. We’re on this journey together!

Your plan for this wild ride is not going to look like mine. It’s not going to look like anyone else’s. But hopefully I’ve given you the confidence to know that planning does not have to be the ball and chain holding down your dreams. Let your plans and your dreams work together and they can take you far.

Lissa Clouser is a poet and occasional short story writer. She is currently working on two poetry anthologies. You can learn more about her and join in on the writing conversation on her blog http://quidforquill.wordpress.com.

Encouraging Children to Write (Guest Post)

Today’s guest post is a timely post for the school holidays. If you’re looking for a way to encourage your children to get into writing or you are looking for an activity for them to do while you write, Melissa Khalinsky (a fellow 12×12 participant) has some great advice.

Encouraging Children to Write

I have been a writer almost as long as I’ve been a reader, at least, it feels that way. Recently I discovered some stories I wrote when I was in primary school, and my love of writing has never left me.

Now I am the mother of two boys, both of whom are avid readers, however, writing is another thing altogether. Neither of them have been bitten by the writing bug, at least not yet. I’ve tried to get them interested in writing stories and diaries and anything else I can think of, but it just hasn’t happened, until recently.

Last year, I read a book of letters and it raised the question about whether or not modern kids would write letters and, if they wrote them, if people would reply, and started writing a fictional story. I couldn’t come up with an answer to whether or not people would reply, so the fictional story stalled.

My 8 year old, Mr Z is left handed and struggles with handwriting, and finds those handwriting books boring, writing letter after letter. So, at the start of this year, I set my children a challenge – to write a letter to someone every week during term time.

The challenge has been hit and miss, however, it has got my boys interested in writing. It’s got their creative juices flowing. While they are having fun writing letters, they haven’t quite got to stories…. yet!

Things I’ve learned about getting children interested in writing:

  • Make it fun – writing shouldn’t be a chore
  • Turn it in to a competition – my children are incredibly competitive, especially with each other, so having a challenge to achieve is helping keep them interested
  • Make it regular – my children are now writing every week as their challenge is to write weekly. This means they practice regularly and I can already see an improvement in their writing, even after such a short time
  • Reward them for efforts – rewards can be saying “well done” or a gift of some sort. After every few letters written, my boys get a small reward, such as stickers
  • Keep copies – quite apart from the fact that it’s fun to look back on the work that I did as a child, I’m enjoying reading back the first letters the boys have written, and am looking forward to comparing them at the end of the year
  • Have fun – I can’t say this enough. Writing is fun, so find a way to make writing fun for your children. For us, it’s writing letters, your kids may enjoy writing reviews or stories about their soft toys, or keeping a diary

Writing isn’t just about writing stories, it’s much more than that. With children, find something they are interested in writing, something that inspires them. Currently, letters are what are inspiring my children to write. What inspires your children?

Melissa Khalinsky is a pre-published author and the mother of two boys, aged 8 and 10. She challenged the boys to write a letter a week during term time – you can read all about the challenge at www.letterwritingchallenge.com.au

A note from Jo:

Don’t forget April is Aussie Author Month. Australian author John Marsden’s book Letters from the Inside is a great read and may just inspire you to try a letter writing challenge for yourself or your teenager. If you’re looking for a holiday read for a younger child, try Greetings from Sandy Beach by Australian Children’s author Bob Graham.

How to Find Inspiration for Personal Writing (Guest Post)

I’m excited to be returning to my blog after a month hiatus. (For those wondering: baby is doing well, though we had a bit of a scare when she went into hospital with an infection a couple of weeks ago.) While I continue my ‘maternity leave’, I will be hosting a series of guest posts over the next two months. Today’s guest post comes from freelance writer Amanda Tradwick. She looks at how to find inspiration for personal writing when you work as a professional writer, but her advice can equally apply to those of us who work in any industry–it’s all about being able to switch from business mode to creative mode.

How to Find Inspiration for Personal Writing When You Work as a Professional Writer

Many aspiring writers find work as professional writers for another content area. For example, maybe you want to write romantic fiction, but you work as a newspaper reporter. Or maybe you want to write dystopian fantasy stories, but you work as a professional blogger. When you spend the majority of your day writing in a professional capacity, it can be difficult to then come home and spend the time and energy writing your own stories. You have been staring at a computer screen all day stringing together words in a purely functional capacity — how do you then switch modes to rediscover your love of joining words for the magic of creating a new world? Here are a few ways that you can stay inspired and keep working on your personal writing, even when you’ve had a full day of writing for pay:

Create a Separate Space

Much of the writing process is intuitive, based on our thoughts and our emotions. Often, we just need to change the way we think or feel to help us get in the mood to write. Creating a separate writing space for your personal projects can help you do this. If you do your professional work in a home office, go to another room to do your personal work. Create a special place to do your personal writing, setting it up with all the things that you like and that you put you into the frame of mind for doing your personal work. Outfit it with your favorite pens, a comfortable chair, pictures of your favorite authors, books that inspire you, or other special objects like pictures or sentimental items that inspire you to write.

Take a Break

Another way to help you create some mental distance between your professional and your personal work is to take a break between these sessions and do something enjoyable. Clear your mind by doing something that is not related to work or to writing. Watch a movie. Spend time with friends or family. Go for a walk. Any activity that does not require you to use a considerable amount of mental effort can help you to feel more refreshed and ready to work when you sit down to do your personal writing.

Set a Schedule

When you get into the groove of writing, it can become easy to lose track of time and to spend hours upon hours working on a project. If you let this happen with your professional writing, it can easily lead to burn out. Don’t allow yourself to spend an excessive amount of time on your “work” writing. Set a schedule for yourself that gives you an appropriate amount of time each day to complete work tasks, to take a short break, and then to work on personal writing. Your personal writing time can be as little as a half an hour or an hour. By scheduling in this time, you ensure that you don’t allow yourself to devote all your time to work and that you have the time for personal projects. Scheduling in personal writing time also ensures that you will spend time working on it, rather than pushing it off in favor of other projects.

Take Small Steps

Starting a project can be overwhelming. There is so much to sort out: character, plot, outline, and more. Instead of allowing yourself to procrastinate because you’re overwhelmed, give yourself permission to take small steps toward your goal. Start by just writing a sentence — good or bad. Or you can just write down a few notes about character, even just a character name. The next day, write another sentence or short note about story or character. Over time, you can begin to add more sentences or more time spent on the project.

Review Your Goals

Why do you want to be a writer? Why do you want to write novels, or children’s books, or other works of fiction? Asking yourself these questions from time to time and reflecting on the answers will help you remember why you are doing what you’re doing, and it will help you find your inspiration. Remember what made you want to start writing  in the first place and reconnect with that feeling.

Writing everyday for pay can lead to burn out and make you feel uninspired to do any other writing at the end of the day. Finding ways to stay inspired is important to your progress as a writer. Setting a schedule, reviewing your goals, and creating a separate space in which to do your writing can help. What other ways have you found to stay inspired to write, even when you spend your days writing for others? Tell us about them in the comments!

About the author:

Amanda Tradwick is a grant researcher and writer for CollegeGrants.org. She has a Bachelor’s degrees from the University of Delaware, and has recently finished research on scholarships and grants for college students and colorado scholarships and grants.

10 Tips for Writing Dialogue (Guest Post)

As some of you may have heard through Twitter or Facebook, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl over a week ago. Needless to say it has been a busy and exhausting time and my blog has been rather quiet. I had a post planned just after Valentine’s Day, but didn’t quite get to finish writing it before going into labour, so it has been put on hold for now. In the meantime, I was lucky enough to have freelance blogger and writer Heather Smith offer to write a guest post for me. Here are her top 10 tips for writing dialogue.

10 Tips for Writing Dialogue

1. Start – Getting underway is the toughest part. You have to compose dialogue over and over again to get good at it. You have to practice. The more you write, the better it gets.

2. Eavesdrop – Listen to actual people talking. They don’t use proper grammar. They don’t speak in full sentences. Sometimes they chat over each other. Write dialogue like it actually sounds. Dialogue is rich in its own way- the silences, the crosstalk, the things omitted are just as vital as what’s actually said. 

3. Speak it – Read what you wrote audibly. You’ll hear where it sounds stale or stilted. You’ll hear where it doesn’t flow and where it does flow. If you read quickly enough, your brain will unavoidably correct what you’ve done wrong, so listen to your words as you read aloud. You’ll acquire a lot from this simple exercise. 

4. Chill out– Don’t stress about making your dialogue flawless. Let your characters speak. They may say things that you never imagined. If you know your characters inside and out, let them express themselves through you. You’ll wind up with a much more realistic story. 

5. Wander – Feel free to ramble on. People infrequently get right to the point in a discussion. Unless your character is a police officer or doctor giving a report, don’t presume that they’ll give just the facts. People go off-topic; it’s a part of life. Let your character ramble and they’ll end up much profounder and genuine. 

6. Keep it unpretentious – Don’t make your characters say everything they know. No one does that. Reduce your dialogue to the bare bones. A ‘yep’ or ‘nope’ can speak volumes about a character. They don’t always have to reply to others, and they don’t constantly have to finish a thought. Let your readers fill in some gaps. Letting the readers fill in the blanks adds strata to your story that even you, the writer, might have otherwise overlooked. 

7. Slang – What we speak is a living language. It changes. Let your characters’ verbiage show who they are and where they come from. If they want to say ain’t, then let them. It’s not your job to be the grammar police for your characters.  People speak badly. They dangle participles, they use fragments, and they curse. Remember that it’s not you that’s talking- it is your character. They have their own personalities, so let them be who they are.

8. Less is More– Don’t go too far with accents. Tell the reader what pronunciation a character has and then give clues in the dialogue. No one wants to read a page of apostrophes and deliberately misspelled words. A ya’ll or a gotta once in a while will prompt readers of who’s talking, without the annoyance factor.

9. Intelligibility – Make sure your readers can follow who is talking. A he said, she said will do wonders for a dialogue-heavy piece. If you have more than four quotes without stating who is talking, you might want to toss that in. It doesn’t have to be difficult. ‘He yelled’ works just as well as ‘he shrieked, crying to the skies as his thundering call resonated off the walls’. 

10. Exhibit it– Remember that people are reading your dialogue, not speaking it (unless you’re a screenwriter). If you want a character to pause, take a breath, or even stutter, you’ll have to write it down. Breaking up a quote is a simple way to visuallydisplay a pause. ‘It’s like this,’ he said, ‘I’m leaving.’ Because of that disruption, the reader sees the pause without being told it’s there. Unless you have a character doing something unique with the time between words, make it visual but not explicit. 

Heather Smith is an ex-nanny. Passionate about thought leadership and writing, Heather regularly contributes to various career, social media, public relations, branding, and parenting blogs/websites. She also provides value to nanny service by giving advice on site design as well as the features and functionality to provide more and more value to nannies and families across the U.S. and Canada. She can be available at H.smith7295 [at] gmail.com.

13 Helpful Tips for Revising Your NaNoWriMo Novel (Guest Post)

Hopefully you’ve been letting your novel sit since you finished it to give you some distance from it before you start revising. When the time does come to start your revisions my guest poster today, Brittany Lyons, has some great tips to keep in mind to ensure your novel becomes perfectly polished.

13 Helpful Tips for Revising Your NaNoWriMo Novel

You’ve taken the National Novel Writing Month challenge and after a month of writing feverishly, you now are left with something less than perfect. Yet although you want to get your novel into shape, the task may be so daunting it seems like you are completing one of the world’s toughest PhD programs instead. Don’t despair. Here are some simple, self-editing tips that can help you polish your piece.

1) Make sure your book opens with a sentence or paragraph that grabs the reader’s attention and keeps them reading the next sentence, and the next, and the next.

2) By the end of chapter one, there are a few things that should be revealed to the reader:

  • The genre and time-period in which the story is taking place.
  • The main character, or at least one of them.
  • The main conflict(s) the character(s) are facing, or a foreshadowing of what they are going to face or what is keeping them from attaining their primary goal in life.
  • The setting – the reader must have a sense of where the characters are at all times. Descriptions of rooms and awareness of space and flow are important. Drop these images in naturally so readers understand the “blueprints” to buildings.

3) Make sure you haven’t created perfect characters. Real people are riddled with faults, so a character who has nothing wrong with them in any way is not believable. Without credible characters, your story won’t be interesting. Likewise, avoid describing the character in a paragraph or two. Instead, drop in tidbits about them organically throughout the story.

4) Examine whether your dialogue advances the story – are beats and tag lines relevant to the scene? It’s best to not overuse these, and make everything count.

5) Look for overused, unnecessary, and pet words and phrases. These are the biggest offenders:

  • “That,” “however,” “because,” “of course” and “after all.”
  • While it is okay to use conjunctions like “but,” “and,” “for”, “then,” and “well” to start sentences, don’t begin too many of them that way.
  • “Just” and “very”.
  • Avoid using “begin” and “start.” The moment someone begins or starts to do something, they are actually doing it. These are empty words.
  • Repeating adjectives won’t make something more intense. Watch out for describing something with “very, very” and similar repetitions.
  • Worn out clichés and trite phrases.
  • Don’t begin consecutive sentences with the same word or phrase, unless for effect or to heighten intensity of a scene.

6) Beware of over-explanations that insult the reader. Assume that most of your readers will be able to figure things out for themselves. Example: “I don’t understand why you said that to me,” Margie said, confused. The dialogue already shows Margie’s confusion, so there is no need for further explanation.

7) The most popular point of view (POV) today is third person past tense. When using this tense, write each scene from only one character’s POV. That means you can only describe the scene from what that particular character can see, feel, hear, taste and know.

8 ) Check your work for “information dumps.” It is common for authors to want to explain technical or historical information to the reader. Don’t dump it all in one spot, but rather drizzle it into the story in smaller tidbits so you don’t overwhelm the reader.

9) End each chapter with either a cliffhanger or in the middle of an unresolved scene. The idea is to entice readers to keep reading because they can’t put the book down.

10) Beware of state-of-being verbs that render your sentences passive. If you can rewrite a sentence to get rid of “was” and other forms of “to be,” your work will be more active and interesting.

11) Eliminate adverbs ending in “ly” whenever possible. They are considered “telling.” It is more desirable to “show” the scene. Instead of writing that a character said something excitedly, rewrite it to show us what “excited” looks like for that character.

12) Make sure that when you write “the end,” the story has a satisfying ending. Conclusion to your novel doesn’t have to be happily-ever-after, but all major conflicts must have been resolved, and the reader needs to feel content when they close the book.

13) Lastly, do a final run-through to check for punctuation, usage and grammar errors.

Editing can be a lot of work, but implementing these tips will tighten your writing and give it focus, taking it from blah to ah! The more polished your manuscript, the better chance it has of catching an agent’s or editor’s eye.

Brittany Lyons aspires to be a psychology professor, but decided to take some time off from grad school to help people learn to navigate the academic lifestyle. She currently lives in Spokane, Washington, where she spends her time reading science fiction and walking her dog.