The Journal, Wednesday, 8/5

The Day

Back on schedule, rolled out about 2:45. Actually, staying on schedule wasn’t difficult. Although every other state in the vicinity (north/south) was intelligent enough to stay on Central Time, Indiana’s legislature voted several years ago to put most of the state on Eastern Time (Doh!).

But it worked out well for me personally. I went to bed around 10 p.m. local time (7 my time) and got up around 5 or 6 a.m. local time (2 or 3 my time), so no real adjustment. (grin)

High hopes yesterday to get back to writing today, and I will, but as I write this it’s mid morning. Before sunup I spent time with my beautiful little daughter and did some waking up things, then updated several websites, cleaned up my inbox, etc. I also began doing some research that I might need for a novel someday.

With first light, I opened the back of my pickup and camper shell and began unloading the stuff we brought back from Indiana. Seems to me it’s roughly twice what we hauled up there to our boys, but that might just be me and my grouch levels after the eleven day trip. Probably that’s it.

So unloading finished, put most of it away (at least temporarily) I did some more research on the same topic. A little while later I noticed the yard needed to be mowed. Like many in Arizona, I do not have a “lawn,” but I do have an extensive yard. Out came the mower, overfilled it with gasoline per usual, started it and away I went. Now that’s finished.

It’s always struck me as ironic that I’m living in southeast Arizona, loving the “wild” look of it, and mowing the yard. If the place was mine, I’d do the whole thing over in rock. Large rock. Massive rock. One big huge massive gargantuan rock with a house on top. That’s what I’d do.

Okay, gonna chill a bit, then get a shower, then see what comes and hope it’s the story. Back in a bit.

Well after the shower, remembered I had to replenish groceries here in the house, so went shopping, then back here for lunch. Still exhausted from the trip. I might end up taking a nap today. If I do it’ll be the first since about first grade. (grin)

No nap, but I decided this has to be another non-writing day. Just too tired. Cleaning up from the trip, plus the trip itself took a toll. Onward to tomorrow.

Topic of the Night: Life Happens, or Letting Life Happen

There’s nothing we can do about it anyway, and sometimes life just happens and we have to let it.

That’s the case with me for the last eleven days and now today. I could have written while I was gone. I could have just carved out some time and written. The people I was around (most of them) would have understood and a few would even have envied me. They probably wouldn’t even have interrupted me with noise or otherwise.

But I didn’t write. I didn’t even try to carve out the time because I didn’t want to run the risk of being interrupted. When I’m writing, I want to write. I don’t want the TV to come on. I don’t want someone in the next room to laugh at something cute or stupid someone else did or said. I don’t want the house to be on fire and someone to come rushing into the room to order me out, as if the burning house is more important than the fact that I’m right in the middle of a scene.

When I’m writing, I want to write. If I don’t feel I can guarantee that, then I’d rather just not write until it’s time.

I think that’s what I did again today, albeit subconsciously. As much as I wanted to write, my subconscious knew better. It shut down. And just before it shut down, it sent me a series of commands on all frequencies:

Rest up from the trip. Unload the truck. Do that research you need to do. Check the oil. Clean off the weird red mark some moron in Hatch scrawled on your passenger window. Do some more research. Mow the yard. No, the whole yard. Put away the stuff from the truck. Stare at your story if you want, but I’m tellin’ you, you ain’t writin’ today.

Okay, go write the daily journal if it’ll make you feel better.

And here I am. So still no Day 20 of writing. Tomorrow probably. Tomorrow almost certainly.

See you then.

Today’s Writing
Fiction words: XXXX

Writing of The Battle of Tres Caballos (Book 8)
Day 1…… 4125 words. Total words to date…… 4125
Day 2…… 2624 words. Total words to date…… 6749
Day 3…… 2766 words. Total words to date…… 9515
Day 4…… 1412 words. Total words to date…… 10927
Day 5…… 3441 words. Total words to date…… 14368
Day 6…… 1052 words. Total words to date…… 15420
Day 7…… 2486 words. Total words to date…… 17906
Day 8…… 3201 words. Total words to date…… 21107
Day 9…… 3186 words. Total words to date…… 24293
Day 10… 1585 words. Total words to date…… 25878
Day 11… 2178 words. Total words to date…… 28056
Day 12… 1730 words. Total words to date…… 29786
Day 13… 1083 words. Total words to date…… 30869
Day 14… 1784 words. Total words to date…… 32653
Day 15… 4018 words. Total words to date…… 36671
Day 16… 3116 words. Total words to date…… 39787
Day 17… 1678 words. Total words to date…… 41469
Day 18… 1805 words. Total words to date…… 43274
Day 19… 2713 words. Total words to date…… 45987
Day 20… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month…………… 0000
Total fiction words for the year……………… 442400

The Journal, Tuesday, 8/4

The Day

After roughly 6 months of driving around the country, I’m back. Okay, it was only 11 days, inclusive, but I drove on both the first and last day, so “inclusive” is also true. Ugh. And yes, it seems like every bit of six months.

ANYway, I’m back. Cleaning up email, running updates, issuing a refund to a guy who bought my computer and changed his mind, etc.

Today, I am happy to report, will be the last day of the worst streak I’ve ever endured: eleven straight days without writing so much as a word of fiction. I would literally rather be beaten than go through that again. Well, I WON’T go through that again, not voluntarily.

If you haven’t visited Dean’s website lately, I urge you to do so, and read back over the past several days for the Topic of the Night.

The Writing

First, I finished up the month of July with only 36717 words. Absolutely terrible, but it will get better. After all, the monthly goal resets every month. (grin)

Tomorrow morning, I will begin writing the climax and the ending. To do that, I will read back over maybe the last ten pages or so. Then I’ll put my fingers on the keys and type whatever comes.

I expect to finish the book within a few days, and then I’ll be on to something new. Or Book 9. Much depends on Wes.

To set a restarting point, below I’ve put in the numbers thus far for The Battle of Tres Caballos.

Today’s Writing
Fiction words: XXXX

Writing of The Battle of Tres Caballos (Book 8)
Day 1…… 4125 words. Total words to date…… 4125
Day 2…… 2624 words. Total words to date…… 6749
Day 3…… 2766 words. Total words to date…… 9515
Day 4…… 1412 words. Total words to date…… 10927
Day 5…… 3441 words. Total words to date…… 14368
Day 6…… 1052 words. Total words to date…… 15420
Day 7…… 2486 words. Total words to date…… 17906
Day 8…… 3201 words. Total words to date…… 21107
Day 9…… 3186 words. Total words to date…… 24293
Day 10… 1585 words. Total words to date…… 25878
Day 11… 2178 words. Total words to date…… 28056
Day 12… 1730 words. Total words to date…… 29786
Day 13… 1083 words. Total words to date…… 30869
Day 14… 1784 words. Total words to date…… 32653
Day 15… 4018 words. Total words to date…… 36671
Day 16… 3116 words. Total words to date…… 39787
Day 17… 1678 words. Total words to date…… 41469
Day 18… 1805 words. Total words to date…… 43274
Day 19… 2713 words. Total words to date…… 45987
Day 20… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month…………… 0000
Total fiction words for the year……………… 442400

 

More Real Dialogue Tips

Hi Folks,

In the previous post I mentioned the nuances of the stuff between the quotation marks. Here’s a second installment on dialogue tips. This is all about the nuances. If you have questions about any of these, please ask in the comments section. Thanks!

Well-written dialogue should

  • be colorful, especially the dialogue of flat or secondary characters, and even more especially if the flat or secondary character is used to foreshadow a later event. Strive to write each line of dialogue so well that the reader will remember it.
    • why? because flat or secondary characters, if they’re in a story at all, are there to serve a specific purpose, like foreshadowing for example. They or what they say should be memorable.
  • differentiate the characters from each other and enable the reader to identify the same characters in different situations. (A character will act and speak differently in different situations.)
  • have the rhythms, the immediate give and take, of real speech. Also, the use of contractions is important, just as it is in everyday speech, unless your character is a librarian who Speaks. Very. Succinctly. And. Precisely. With. No. Contractions.
    • I don’t recommend having a character like that. If you do, I recommend letting her hang around only as long as is essential to the story.
  • be emotion-laden, both on and beneath the surface.
  • reveal the character’s relationship to the various people with whom he or she talks.
  • give the reader a sense of time and place.
  • reveal the character’s reaction to his surroundings and to the other characters with whom he shares the scene.

General dialogue techniques

  • Use dialogue to reveal the character of the character — who the character really is, how he feels about a particular situation or another character — not always with what is said, but with how it is said, and often with what is not said.
    • “You lied to me! You said you were going for a drive.”
    • “C’mon, Baby. I didn’t say I was going alone.”
  • Allow characters to interrupt each other. This keeps the reader involved in the conversation, as if she’s eavesdropping. (To form an em dash to show interrupted dialogue, use either two unspaced hyphens — like this — or an em dash — like this. Do not use an elipsis… unless dialogue trails off or a character’s speech is halting. See examples above.)
  • Allow characters to answer a question with a question. This technique is excellent for subtly setting up, or hinting at, a conflict.
    • “If you knew she’d be there, why did you go?”
    • “What difference does it make who was there?”
  • Use ragged, non-linear dialogue. Use sentence fragments. The most common is the sentence with the implied you or I as the subject.
    • “Stop!” “Don’t even think about it!” “C’mon, give me the gun.”
  •  Avoid using substitutes for “said” in tag lines. (You’ve heard this before, yes?) “He said” or “She said” is usually the best choice except when the tag line can be eliminated in short passages. (The definition of “short passage” is left to the discretion of the writer.) Sometimes eliminating the tag lines will cause the reader to pay closer attention to the story. (Witness Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants.”)

Next time we’ll discuss the use of verbs, especially action verbs. They are essential to the wellbeing of your story.

Harvey

Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, Thanks! If you can’t make a monetary donation, please at least consider forwarding this post to a friend or several. Again, thank you.

The Journal, Monday, 7/27

Hey folks, just a note to update everyone and hope you’re hangin’ in there.

Arrived at our destination today. I was thinking (wrongly, not at all unusual for me) that we’d be on the road three days, then here three days, then on the road again three days. Kind of a weird symmetry in that.

But no.

Actually, not counting today, we’ll be here four full days. The current intention is to head back early on Saturday morning. So there’s that.

Not sure how much writing I’ll get done while I’m on the road at all. I truly am jonesing to 1) finish The Battle of Tres Caballos and 2) get started on either another novel in a different world or Book 9 of the Crowley saga. And I’ve also been jonesing lately to write more short fiction.

I have a feeling if I am able to carve out some writing time while I’m on the road it will be for short stories.

This is all very weird for me. I spent years traveling around the country speaking at writers’ conferences and conventions. But at those places, I was alone and not visiting relatives or friends. All of that translates that whenever I wasn’t entertaining new friends in the local bar, I was up in my room WRITING.

Whole different deal here. So we’ll see.

Not sure even when I’ll post again, so until then, please keep writing and enjoying yourself. Just have fun!

Harvey

Oh! Over at Dean’s website, he’s putting up some good stuff recently. So go look already.

 

The Journal, Friday, 7/24

The Day

Rolled out about 3. Checked email and did some other waking-up stuff.

Good rain last night so no walk today. Not sure I can even get out of my driveway. (grin)

No matter how the writing turns out today, more than likely I’ll be going on hiatus from this blog for a few days. I might post and I might not. I’ll be driving about 11 hours per day, so I don’t need the unnecessary added pressure of hoping I can get this out before 5 p.m. each day, especially when I won’t be able to write while I’m driving.

Now I understand I could just pre-post a “placeholder” post or something like that, but that just seems kind’a silly. I DO have a streak going with this, but using an occasional placeholder post seems like cheating to me. Plus I wasn’t really trying to get a streak going with this. It just kind’a worked out that way.

I started this back in mid-October to give other writers and would-be writers a glimpse at my life since I’ve started writing fiction full time as a profession. I guess taking an occasional hiatus is part of the writing life too, right? (grin)

I have posts pre-published and ready to go on my other two blogs, the Pro Writers series and the Free Short Story of the Week, so those will continue. But this is a daily post of what I did that day, and probably all I’m gonna be doing is driving and sleeping.

If I see anything interesting that has to do with writing or the writing life along the way I’ll certainly report it. In fact, I might well take a few notes at the end of each day and then report those when I have time.

Topic of the Night: Starting and Restarting

First, if you’re an aspiring writer and you haven’t started that novel or short story, it’s time. And by “started” I don’t mean you thought about it or researched it or told all your friends you were gonna do it. By “started” I mean you sat down at the keyboard and actually put words on the page.

If you haven’t started yet, and if you’re having trouble with that, chances are you’re the victim of an unreasonable fear.

If you write something and it’s great, absolutely nothing will happen. And if you write something and it sucks canal water from all 50 states, well, nothing will happen then either. So sit down and Just Write.

To get better, you have to practice. And to practice, you have to start.

So you’re ready and willing, and the question now is, What do I do next?

Sit down at the keyboard, put your fingers on the keys, and type whatever comes. Just type whatever comes.

You’re not writing a story or a novel. You’re just writing a sentence.

Then write the next sentence. Then write the next sentence. Keep doing that, and before you know it, you will have written a scene.

Once you write that first sentence, DON’T stop and critique it. DON’T stop and edit it. DON’T wonder how it’s gonna fit with whatever’s coming in the future.

Just write the next sentence.

If you want to start, that’s how you start.

And if you need to restart, that’s pretty much how you restart too.

More than likely I won’t be writing for awhile. Probably at least three days, and maybe the whole ten days.

And of course, I’m nearing the end of a WIP, unless I finish it today, which is doubtful.
So I’ll be restarting when I get back.

For restarting, the best method I’ve found is to cycle back and read some of what I’ve written. With some stories I might start at the beginning and read all the way through, allowing myself to touch the manuscript here and there.

Caution: if you do this, DON’T look for “too many” instances of a particular word or “too many” uses of a particular sentence structure. Your subconscious knew what it wanted when it wrote that segment the first time. But if you happen on “moss” and know “lichen” is closer to what you were wanting to convey, by all means change it. So when I say I’ll allow myself to touch the manuscript as I read through it, that’s what I mean.

With this story I’ll probably cycle back about five pages, maybe ten, and read from there. Then when I get to the end of what I’ve written, I’ll just write the next sentence, then write the next sentence.
In other words I’ll give it all over to the higher power: my subconscious: and let it do what it does best. (grin)

By the way, another good blog post over at http://deanwesleysmith.com today. A weird analogy that didn’t really work for me, but I got his point. I think you will too.

Today’s Writing
Fiction words: 2713

Writing of The Battle of Tres Caballos (Book 8)
Day 1…… 4125 words. Total words to date…… 4125
Day 2…… 2624 words. Total words to date…… 6749
Day 3…… 2766 words. Total words to date…… 9515
Day 4…… 1412 words. Total words to date…… 10927
Day 5…… 3441 words. Total words to date…… 14368
Day 6…… 1052 words. Total words to date…… 15420
Day 7…… 2486 words. Total words to date…… 17906
Day 8…… 3201 words. Total words to date…… 21107
Day 9…… 3186 words. Total words to date…… 24293
Day 10… 1585 words. Total words to date…… 25878
Day 11… 2178 words. Total words to date…… 28056
Day 12… 1730 words. Total words to date…… 29786
Day 13… 1083 words. Total words to date…… 30869
Day 14… 1784 words. Total words to date…… 32653
Day 15… 4018 words. Total words to date…… 36671
Day 16… 3116 words. Total words to date…… 39787
Day 17… 1678 words. Total words to date…… 41469
Day 18… 1805 words. Total words to date…… 43274
Day 19… 2713 words. Total words to date…… 45987

Total fiction words for the month…………… 36717
Total fiction words for the year……………… 442400

The Journal, Wednesday, 7/22

The Day
Rolled out about 2:30. No walk again today and maybe no writing. I have to be in Sierra Vista to visit my mechanic at 9 a.m. We’ll see how the day unfolds from there.

I could have written earlier, but I didn’t. Well, I did write, but nothing good. During my waking up time, a comment on Facebook set me off. I spent the next three hours writing some nonfiction spurred by the comment. Ugh.

Sometimes I’m an idiot. What I have to say would have no effect on the comment writer. It would make no difference whatsoever, and it serves only to further frustrate me. So three completely wasted hours there. I can’t believe some of the choices I make sometimes regarding how I spend my time.

And I won’t start writing on Wes now because I don’t want to get deep into a scene and have to interrupt it for my little side trip to SV this morning. It’s looking more and more like I’ll miss my original goal of having this book done and out before July 25. Might have to finish it on the road. But that’s all right. I allowed too many other things to take priority too many times.

Great post over at http://deanwesleysmith.com. He talks about yet another benefit of writing into the dark. Good read.

Sure enough, the gaskets that my truck needed even frustrated the mechanic. He started at about 9 this morning and had to re-do things until around noon when my wife came to pick me up. I’ll go get her at her work at 5, then back to SV (actually Whetstone, just north of Huachuca City) to get the truck.

Valve cover gaskets now look more like O rings than gaskets, for anyone out there who used to replace your own. We used to buy one set of valve cover gaskets and save the box. Then the next set we cut out of the box the first set came in. 🙂 Cereal boxes worked too.

I decided to call this a day off writing. Too much other going on.

Topic of the Night: Setting Priorities
Very briefly, you set your own priorities. You make choices, conscious or otherwise, in practically every moment.

Become aware of those choices. Own them.

If they aren’t what you want, or if the results aren’t what you want, begin changing how you assign priorities.

Basically,

  • you can be a plumber or cop or housewife who Also Writes when other things and people allow you to, or
  • you can BE a writer who also does other life things.

I am a writer who does other things, either when I choose to or when life happens. Today it was mostly life happens and partly kickin’ back. (grin)

What to take from this: It’s all up to you.

Today’s Writing
No writing today. Zero.
Fiction words: XXXX

This really is kind’a strange. I have only 18 writing days on this novel, so not bad, but that’s over 31 calendar days. For me that’s a long time. I don’t think I’ve taken off that many days before while writing a novel. Anyway, this one is closing down on the end so I think the writing will go pretty fast from here on out.

Writing of The Battle of Tres Caballos (Book 8)
Day 1…… 4125 words. Total words to date…… 4125
Day 2…… 2624 words. Total words to date…… 6749
Day 3…… 2766 words. Total words to date…… 9515
Day 4…… 1412 words. Total words to date…… 10927
Day 5…… 3441 words. Total words to date…… 14368
Day 6…… 1052 words. Total words to date…… 15420
Day 7…… 2486 words. Total words to date…… 17906
Day 8…… 3201 words. Total words to date…… 21107
Day 9…… 3186 words. Total words to date…… 24293
Day 10… 1585 words. Total words to date…… 25878
Day 11… 2178 words. Total words to date…… 28056
Day 12… 1730 words. Total words to date…… 29786
Day 13… 1083 words. Total words to date…… 30869
Day 14… 1784 words. Total words to date…… 32653
Day 15… 4018 words. Total words to date…… 36671
Day 16… 3116 words. Total words to date…… 39787
Day 17… 1678 words. Total words to date…… 41469
Day 18… 1805 words. Total words to date…… 43274
Day 19… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month…………… 34004
Total fiction words for the year……………… 439687

The Journal, Tuesday, 7/21

The Day
Rolled out about 2:30 after a rough night babysitting an ulcer. Definitely no walk today.

Books 3 and 7 of the Wes Crowley saga came in from CreateSpace today. I order three or four copies of each major title I put out just to have a few on hand. Here are the covers of those two:

Marshal 150I got some pretty good writing done today, but not fully up to speed. Took a lot more time off to just sit than anything else. Still, advanced the novel. And I’m getting closer to the point where I’ll see the ending.

I did find out today that one of the lesser characters in the previous book is bigger than I first thought. And she’s bigger because she has a personal vendetta against Wes. That was kind’a interesting. Not sure yet why she has a vendetta, but I hope they’ll tell me in the next day or two. (grin)

So I did nothing today other than resting and writing, and all of the writing came in short bits here and there. It’ll be better tomorrow.

Topic of the Night: Writing Off Into the Dark, Part Two To Direct or Not to DirectCrowley 150
In yesterday’s post, I wrote that WOITD is writing without without allowing your conscious mind to “direct” every action of every character and every word that comes out of your characters’ mouths.

True dat.

So that means you have a choice.

Most of us have been taught that we’re supposed to study and plot and do character studies and outlines and Control The Snot out of our characters. Wrong.

How would you like it if someone else were controlling everything you did, everything you said?

Well, your characters feel the same way.

In a good marriage or a good friendship, the parties run through life together. They simply enjoy each other’s company and are there for each other. And as you go through life you get little snapshots and opinions of each other. Later, perhaps in memoir or when talking with another person, you convey your memories of that time.

It’s the same in a story. Exactly the same. Exactly.

The brave writer doesn’t “direct” anything. The brave writer, like the brave friend or lover, runs through life with her characters, exploring and experiencing the same things they do AS THE CHARACTERS experience them. And the writer writes down what the characters say and do.

Notice: The writer doesn’t DIRECT the characters to say and do certain things. The writer merely observes, AS she’s running through the story with the characters, and writes down what they say and do.

If you do this, if you trust your subconscious and write off into the dark, your characters WILL surprise you, I promise.

Practically every day mine do or say things that I had no idea they were going to say or do. Many times, as I’m writing, I stop, sit back from the computer and laugh out loud. And when the characters take me completely by surprise, I know they’ll do the same for the reader.

By the way, there have been some GREAT posts over at http://deanwesleysmith.com over the past few days on the business of writing. I hope you’re following his blog.

Today’s Writing
Fiction words: 1805

Writing of The Battle of Tres Caballos (Book 8)
Day 1…… 4125 words. Total words to date…… 4125
Day 2…… 2624 words. Total words to date…… 6749
Day 3…… 2766 words. Total words to date…… 9515
Day 4…… 1412 words. Total words to date…… 10927
Day 5…… 3441 words. Total words to date…… 14368
Day 6…… 1052 words. Total words to date…… 15420
Day 7…… 2486 words. Total words to date…… 17906
Day 8…… 3201 words. Total words to date…… 21107
Day 9…… 3186 words. Total words to date…… 24293
Day 10… 1585 words. Total words to date…… 25878
Day 11… 2178 words. Total words to date…… 28056
Day 12… 1730 words. Total words to date…… 29786
Day 13… 1083 words. Total words to date…… 30869
Day 14… 1784 words. Total words to date…… 32653
Day 15… 4018 words. Total words to date…… 36671
Day 16… 3116 words. Total words to date…… 39787
Day 17… 1678 words. Total words to date…… 41469
Day 18… 1805 words. Total words to date…… 43274

Total fiction words for the month…………… 34004
Total fiction words for the year……………… 439687

Real Dialogue Tips

Hey Folks,

Because dialogue comes directly from the character’s mouth to the reader’s ear, no other part of your story is more intimate with the reader. No other part of the story will do more to engage the reader directly.

Dialogue dialogue consists of three elements: two parts narrative and one part nuance. The narrative parts are tag lines and brief descriptive narrative. Nuance is composed of the subtleties of implication. What your character says is never more important than how she says it, as dictated by your use of punctuation, word choice, and sentence structure.

Tag Lines

The purpose of tag lines—Tag lines exist ONLY to let the reader know which character is speaking. (Some call these narrative beats.) They do not stand alone. They consist of either the character’s name or the appropriate personal pronoun and a simple intransitive verb that indicates utterance. The best verb to use is “said.”

More exciting tag line verbs—If someone tells you to use more exciting tag line verbs they don’t know what they’re talking about. Always using “he said” or “Susan said” is boring, but that’s a good thing. Tag lines should be very brief and boring so the reader can skip quickly over them and get back to what matters. An “interesting” tag line will pull the reader from the story line.

Reverse constructions—There is never a good reason to use a reverse construction (verb first) in a tag line, said Harvey. Again, that calls attention to the tag line. And again, the tag line exists only to let the reader know which character is talking. It doesn’t set mood, tone, or any of those other literary terms.

Punctuation with tag lines—When the tag line occurs before the sentence, or when it occurs after a sentence that would normally end with a period, the tag line is always attached to the sentence with a comma.

Brief Descriptive Narrative Passages

Descriptive narrative passages sometimes are confused with tag lines, but the key word here is descriptive. Also, BDNs stand alone. They are complete sentences, separate of the line of dialogue. The descriptive narrative passage enables the reader to see a bit of the scene.

Use action verbs in descriptive narrative passages. When you use action verbs, you will automatically use fewer adjectives and adverbs. Any unnecessary adjectives and adverbs will fall away of their own accord.

Because it will set the tone or mood or voice of the dialogue to come, the brief descriptive narrative passage should appear before the dialogue:

An impish smile creased her lips. “Almost finished there?” (This way we see the smile and hear her tone as she speaks.)

Most often, if the BDN appears after the dialogue, the reader will back up and re-read the dialogue with the new information in mind. This is an interruption in the flow of the reading, and every interruption is a chance to stop reading your story or book.

Brief interruptive narrative passages are used in the midst of dialogue to enhance the rhythm or to give the reader a brief glimpse of a changing setting. Dialogue is wonderful but it doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

In this excerpt from “Mama’s Taste in Men,” a short story, you’ll find no tag lines at all and only necessary brief descriptive narratives. Study it to see why the BDNs are where they are:

My fist relaxed and I reached for Joe Ray’s hand. “Mean it or not, you shouldn’t say bad things about my mama.”

He took my hand and I helped him to his feet. “I just said she had bad taste in men,” he said, wiping cow spit off his face with one hand and dusting off his coveralls with his hat. “Besides, it was only a joke.”

“Well, some things you just don’t joke about. Besides, that ain’t exactly what you said. You said if Mama’s taste for men was in her mouth, her breath would smell like dung.”

“That was the joke part.”

“Well, in the future, keep your stupid sense of humor to yourself.” I thumped his chest with my forefinger. “Else you could wind up covered with cow slobber. Besides, Jake’s okay. He just ain’t got no nose holes.”

“Nostrils.”

“What?”

Sam spoke up. “Nostrils. Nose holes are called nostrils.”

“How do you know?’

Lester, who generally knows what everybody knows, put in his two cents. “Everybody knows that, Vernon. Nostrils is short for nose holes.”

I snorted. “That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard.”

“Maybe dumb and maybe not so dumb, but it’s true all the same.”

Lester was tired of arguing, so Sam closed in for the kill. The Broden Brothers Tag Team. “We’ll wait ’til school and ask Miss Durb. She knows all about such things.”

That was my cue to end it. “Fine. We’ll ask Miss Durb. But school ain’t ’til Monday and Mama’s wedding is tomorrow. So we’re on truce ’til Monday.” I stuck out my hand, palm down, offering them the sign of the truce. “Agreed?”

And the nuances of dialogue? That’s just how your character delivers the part within the quotation marks. The voice should be unique from one character to another. It’s whether the character says “Do you want to?” or “Do y’wanna?” or “You wanna?” It’s whether the character speaks tersely or succinctly or vaguely.

The character should always speak the way a REAL person (of the same gender, same race or ethnicity and same education level) from the same area in the same situation would speak. Not complicated at all, is it? (grin)

Use tag lines only when it’s absolutely necessary to let the reader know which character is speaking.

Use brief descriptive narratives (introductory or interruptive) to enhance the scene for the reader.

Follow these brief tips and your dialogue will be miles ahead.

‘Til next time, happy writing!

Harvey

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The Journal, Monday, 7/20

DSC00099bThe Day
Almost 3 when I rolled out this morning. Checked emails and weather. No rain, so I’ll walk this morning.

Had a great walk. Only about 5.5 miles but at a good pace despite shooting a few pics. Got a couple cover pics so it’s all good.

The guy on the left is a baby cotton tail and he was naturally curious. Hopped just off the trail, then stopped and looked while I took pictures. Might be a girl. I see she has a little green bouquet just above her left eye. (grin)

My old Coleman metal cooler is working fine. Just have to slap silicone on one minuscule leak. Woohoo! Older SERIOUSLY is better.

Hmm. Good thing once again I have really flexible hours. (grin)

Had an eye doctor appointment in Willcox (I don’t do SV whenever I can help it), then hung around town for another hour buying some stuff I can’t find within 30 miles of Good Ol’ Benson who’s running everybody out with their Stinkin’ High Taxes.

Anyway, I wrote some this morning, but with the day dwindling (again) and with a massive storm sitting just southwest considering thinking about deciding whether it might possibly move into Saint David, I’m reporting early.

Topic of the Night: Writing Off Into the Dark, Part One
This is writing without an outline, without a plan, without allowing your conscious mind to “direct” every action of every character and every word that comes out of your characters’ mouth.

Look, if someone tells you how a novel ends, do you still want to read it? Most people would say No.

So if you know before you start writing what’s going to happen, why do you want to write it? Isn’t that boring? It is to me.

Bradbury once said (paraphrasing) How can a writer expect to surprise the reader if he doesn’t surprise himself?

And when asked about his process for writing Dandelion Wine, he said he wrote it like he wrote everything else. He got his coffee, he sat down at the typewriter, he put his fingers on the keys, and he wrote whatever came.

So writing off into the dark. Sit down at your writing computer, put your fingers on the keyboard, and write whatever comes.

Trust it. Trust your subconscious to tell the story. It’s been doing that a lot longer than you’ve known the alphabet.

I once wrote that this technique is an offshoot of Heinlein’s Rules. That isn’t really true. You can write off into the dark even if you aren’t following Heinlein’s Rules. But they do go together very nicely.

If there were specific rules for writing off into the dark they would read like this (annotated with an explanation to save space):

  1. Sit down at your writing computer and Just Write. (Just Write: Don’t think about what you want to write. Don’t outline. Don’t strive for a plot; the characters will bring it with them. Don’t plan and force the characters/story to conform to your plan. Don’t do anything else. Let Go and Just Write.)
  2. When you get stuck, Just Write the Next Sentence. Then Write the Next Sentence. Then Write the Next Sentence. (When you get stuck, Just Write the Next Sentence: If there is no next sentence, if nothing comes [Don’t Think!], that scene is probably finished. Just write the next scene. Open it by writing whatever comes into you mind, then write the next sentence. Lather, rinse, repeat.)
  3. Run your spell checker. (Remember, this is done in critical mind. It’s imperative that while you’re doing this, you don’t start reading even small snippets of the story and “fixing” it. Like one little drink for an alcoholic or one cigarette for me, it will lead you to a lifetime of rewriting and polishing instead of submitting and publishing. And you WILL polish the good off your story.)
  4. Send to your first reader, then publish. (If you have a first reader, when it comes back, fix whatever the first reader caught IF YOU AGREE. If you don’t have a first reader, or if you don’t have a good first reader, skip it and just publish.)
  5. Write the next story. Writers Write. (Self-explanatory. Writers Write. Just Write.)

So there you go.  Tomorrow’s topic: Writing Off Into the Dark, Part Two (You do NOT want to miss this. And stop being stingy. Tell your friends!)

Today’s Writing
Fiction words: 1678

Writing of The Battle of Tres Caballos (Book 8)
Day 1…… 4125 words. Total words to date…… 4125
Day 2…… 2624 words. Total words to date…… 6749
Day 3…… 2766 words. Total words to date…… 9515
Day 4…… 1412 words. Total words to date…… 10927
Day 5…… 3441 words. Total words to date…… 14368
Day 6…… 1052 words. Total words to date…… 15420
Day 7…… 2486 words. Total words to date…… 17906
Day 8…… 3201 words. Total words to date…… 21107
Day 9…… 3186 words. Total words to date…… 24293
Day 10… 1585 words. Total words to date…… 25878
Day 11… 2178 words. Total words to date…… 28056
Day 12… 1730 words. Total words to date…… 29786
Day 13… 1083 words. Total words to date…… 30869
Day 14… 1784 words. Total words to date…… 32653
Day 15… 4018 words. Total words to date…… 36671
Day 16… 3116 words. Total words to date…… 39787
Day 17… 1678 words. Total words to date…… 41469

Total fiction words for the month…………… 32199
Total fiction words for the year……………… 437882

The Journal, Sunday, 7/19

The Day
Rolled out at 2:30. Checked emails and weather. No rain, so maybe a walk a bit later.

Messed around waking up, then drove out a little early for a sunrise walk. Got some great perspective pics of the railroad tracks and maybe a couple good cover shots, but the walk was truncated when I kept encountering swarms of flying ants. Even got a video of them, little monsters. (grin)

Back at the house, while it was still cool I mounted the gas struts on the back lift door of the camper shell. So that works now. Yay.

Gave my 30 quart cooler to one of my sons last time he was out here and now I need one so pulled out a really old Coleman metal cooler. We’ll see how long it keeps ice. If it works, I’ll use it. If not, off to Wally World later.

Sat down to chill for a bit, then decided to mow the yard. Normal, everyday stuff. So all of the above plus some other life stuff, and it’s after noon, and now I’m gonna turn to the writing ‘puter.

Life doesn’t stop when you’re a cop or a waiter or a truckdriver, and it doesn’t stop when you’re a writer. Only difference is that I have really flexible hours. (grin) With the day dwindling, I decided to make this a day off. I’ll get back to Wes tomorrow.

Topic of the Night: Heinlein’s Rules, with an addendum, with two addenda
I’ve talked about Heinlien’s Rules before, so this will be brief. This is taken from an article I posted in this journal back in October.

I added a Rule 6 to Heinlein’s Rules. As a refresher, here they are, followed by a bit of discussion:

  1. You must write.
  2. You must finish what you write.
  3. You must not rewrite.
  4. You must publish (or submit).
  5. You must keep your work published (or keep it in the mail, submitted).
  6. If you try to follow these rules, you WILL fall off them at times.
    • That’s okay, and it’s perfectly normal.
    • To succeed as a writer, once you realize you’ve fallen off the rules, you MUST get right back on them again.

Did you get that Rule 6 with its two addenda? Listen, seriously, if you find you have real trouble following these rules, I strongly recommend you visit http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/lecture-series/ and sign up for his Lecture 1: Heinlein’s Rules.

It costs $75, it’s composed of 15 videos, and it will be the best investment you’ve ever made in your writing. I promise.

One warning: During his lectures, Dean will tell you that Every Writer Is Different. It’s his mantra. I suspect he developed it when he was dodging bullets at writers’ conference all those years. It’s a gentle way of saying, “Not everyone can be a professional writer. You ain’t it.”

But don’t let it fool you. Don’t accept the opportunity to cop out. Elsewhere he also says he doesn’t know a single professional writer who isn’t following Heinlein’s Rules. If you can handle the truth, that’s the truth.

Now, when he says that or something similar to describe the difference (for example) betwee his writing process (sprinting) and Kris’ writing process (slow and steady), he means it.

But when he’s saying something like “Following Heinlein’s Rules works for me but every writer is different,” he’s giving you an easy way out if you aren’t disciplined enough to enjoy having fun making up stuff for a living.

Today’s Writing

Fiction words: XXXX

Writing of The Battle of Tres Caballos (Book 8)
Day 1…… 4125 words. Total words to date…… 4125
Day 2…… 2624 words. Total words to date…… 6749
Day 3…… 2766 words. Total words to date…… 9515
Day 4…… 1412 words. Total words to date…… 10927
Day 5…… 3441 words. Total words to date…… 14368
Day 6…… 1052 words. Total words to date…… 15420
Day 7…… 2486 words. Total words to date…… 17906
Day 8…… 3201 words. Total words to date…… 21107
Day 9…… 3186 words. Total words to date…… 24293
Day 10… 1585 words. Total words to date…… 25878
Day 11… 2178 words. Total words to date…… 28056
Day 12… 1730 words. Total words to date…… 29786
Day 13… 1083 words. Total words to date…… 30869
Day 14… 1784 words. Total words to date…… 32653
Day 15… 4018 words. Total words to date…… 36671
Day 16… 3116 words. Total words to date…… 39787
Day 17… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month…………… 30521
Total fiction words for the year……………… 436204