Writing

7 Reasons Every Author Needs to Be on Twitter (And A New Busy Writer’s Guide)

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

I’m thrilled to announce that the next book in my Busy Writer’s Guides series is now available!

Twitter for Authors

Building a thriving social media platform doesn’t have to steal all your precious writing time or cut into your time with your family.Twitter for Authors is about building a successful Twitter platform that’s sustainable for busy people.

Twitter often gets a bad reputation from people who don’t understand it or don’t know how to use it to its full potential to build an author platform. When used correctly, Twitter can be one of the best tools for increasing traffic to your blog and gaining new readers for your books. And it’s fun!

In Twitter for Authors, you’ll learn…

  • essential Twitter terminology,
  • how to set up your account,
  • the differences between TweetDeck and Hootsuite,
  • techniques for staying safe on Twitter,
  • how to build columns and lists and use them to find readers,
  • the value of link shorteners and hashtags,
  • what to tweet about,
  • the most common mistakes writers make on Twitter,
  • how to run a successful Twitter event,
  • how to manage your social media time,
  • and much more!

Twitter for Authors contains helpful advice for both Twitter newbies and long-time Twitter users who want to take their platform to the next level.

Due to popular demand, I’ve made Twitter for Authors available in both print and ebook form.

You can buy Twitter for Authors at Amazon.com, at Kobo, or at Smashwords. More sites will be coming soon! The ebook is priced at $2.99 at Amazon.com and the print version costs $12.99.

I’d appreciate it if you’d share this post on Facebook, Google+, or wherever you hang out. And remember to add your favorite writing hashtag when you tweet! (Suggestions: #amwriting #amediting #writetip #MyWANA)

For those of you who aren’t convinced about the importance of Twitter yet, how about this…

7 Reasons Every Writer Needs to Be on Twitter

Twitter often gets a bad rap by people who don’t understand it, misunderstand it as full of spam and celebrity stalkers, or don’t know how to use it to its full potential to build an author platform. When used correctly, though, Twitter can be one of the best tools for meeting new readers and increasing traffic to your blog. Not to mention it’s fun!

Don’t believe me? Well, let me prove it to you then. I have seven reasons why I think every writer should be using Twitter.

Reason #1 – Twitter has over 100 million active accounts and growing.

Whether you’re seeking traditional publication or plan to self-publish, whether you’re a non-fiction author, a novelist, a poet, or a short story writer, you need a platform to sell your work. Your readers are on Twitter. You just need to know how to meet them.

This is true even if you write children’s books or YA. If you write for kids, your readers might not be on Twitter, but their parents and aunts and uncles and even grandparents are, and your books might just be the perfect gift they’re looking for.

Reason #2 – Twitter allows you to build a following faster than any other social networking site.

People who find you on Facebook usually already know you. People who find you on Twitter are more likely to be complete strangers (at first) because of the ability to participate in conversations through hashtags.

Reason #3 – Twitter makes you a better writer.

Twitter gives you 140 characters to work with. Not 140 letters or 140 words, but 140 characters. Spaces count, and so does punctuation. Links count as well.

Working within those constraints forces you to write tighter. No purple prose allowed. No weak verbs modified by adjectives. You need to figure out exactly what you’re trying to say. Those skills translate directly into better writing elsewhere.

Reason #4 – Twitter brings you the news faster than any news site can.

Twitter is real time, which means that while reporters are putting together their stories and getting approval from their editors, normal people on site are tweeting. In August 2011, Twitter lit up like a firefly on crack about the 5.8 earthquake in Virginia before the news stations could catch their balance. My husband and I were able to call my mother-in-law right away to make sure she and the rest of the family there were safe.

In the plague of tornadoes that rolled through Texas in April 2012, Twitter might have even saved lives. So many tornadoes hit the Dallas area at once that meteorologists couldn’t keep up, even if people still had electricity and the ability to check their television, use their computer, or tune in on the radio. But what everyone could still do was tweet using their phones. People banded together to warn others and report sightings, keeping all involved safer than they could have been alone.

Reason #5 – Twitter allows you to keep your finger on the pulse of the publishing industry.

Twitter is like a writer’s mecca because you can quickly find out about interesting and informative new blog posts (already vetted by others), get tips on writing and publishing from agents, editors, and bestselling authors, and keep up on industry trends and new releases. No searching involved. It comes to you in a bite-sized 140 character nugget. If you decide you want more, you click the link.

Reason #6 – Twitter helps you research.

In her bestselling book We Are Not Alone: A Writer’s Guide to Social Media, Kristen tells the story of how she needed information on bounty hunters for her novel. Rather than wasting hours trying to sort through results on Google and still not coming up with what she needed, she tweeted about it and received replies from actual bounty hunters willing to answer her questions.

But it’s not only facts you can research on Twitter. If you’re not sure your main character’s name is a good fit for his personality and job, ask. If you want to know what writing software other writers actually trust, ask. (I did and fell in love with Scrivener.)

In my co-written novel with Facebook expert Lisa Hall-Wilson, we mentioned Sodom and Gomorrah, and we debated whether enough people would know what we meant. So I asked, and we ended up leaving it in the book.

Reason #7 – Twitter gives you a support network of friends.

I’ve left this to last because, to me, it’s the most important. Writing is solitary. We sit at our computers and play with our imaginary friends. Which is great, but also leaves us without the support network we need if we want to make writing a long-term career.

On Twitter, you’ll find someone to talk you down off the ledge when one too many rejections or poor reviews leave you wanting to quit writing altogether. On Twitter, you can make writers friends who’ll run word sprints with you to help you keep on track. On Twitter, you can make reader friends who’ll be excited to go out and buy your book and tell everyone about it.

Twitter is like the workplace water cooler. Come, chat, and get back to work. It doesn’t take all day to make Twitter a valuable place to be!

If you’re not on Twitter yet, what’s holding you back? If you are on Twitter, what do you struggle with?

And if you’re on Twitter, make sure to leave your username in the comments so we can all follow each other!

You can buy Twitter for Authors at Amazon.com, at Kobo, or at Smashwords.

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Choosing the Right Social Media Site for You and Your Readers

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

When it comes to how to spread the word about your book, you’ll hear widely divergent opinions. Don’t bother with promotion. Promote in every possible way. Do real life events—forget about social media. Don’t bother with real life events—stick to blogging and social media. Buy ads. Don’t buy ads.

The one thing everyone can agree on is that indie writers need a way to let potential readers know their books exist. We don’t have access to a publisher’s ready-made audience. My experience (backed up by discussions I’ve had with other authors who’ve used the same methods) is that social media does help build your audience.

Thanks to social media, I’ve grown my blog and newsletter, moved my books into the top ranks of their respective lists when they released, and have grown my business to the point where I work full-time as a writer, editor, and writing instructor. I wasn’t able to achieve those things by networking in real life. My reach was too small.

But social media can also be a giant waste of time. The key to social media is to choose the right site for you and then learn how to use that site in a time-effective way that builds relationships. Spam never works.

The first step to using social media effectively is to figure out what site is best for you and for meeting up with your potential readers. So today I want to give you a quick overview of some of the major social media sites, how they’re different, and who they’re best for.

To read the rest of this post, head over to Janice Hardy’s Fiction University!

Interested in more ways to improve your writing? Grammar for Fiction Writers, is now available from Amazon, Kobo, or Smashwords. (You might also be interested in checking out Mastering Showing and Telling in Your Fiction.)

Both books are available in print and ebook forms.

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How to Use Traps to Create Suspense in Fiction

 

Image Credit: Sigurd Decroos (via sxc.hu)

Image Credit: Sigurd Decroos (via sxc.hu)

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

It doesn’t matter what genre you’re writing, you need suspense to keep readers turning pages. Adding a trap can increase suspense because not only will your reader worry about whether or not your character will fall into the trap, they’ll also worry about how (and if) your character will escape. Will they escape unscathed or irreparably damaged? What will they have to sacrifice to get away?

You need to be a bit diabolical to write a great trap. For those of you who don’t find this comes naturally, I’ve put together a list of four ways to set a fantastic trap.

#1 – Use their greatest weakness or their greatest strength against them.

Say you have a character who’s terrified of the dark. If your villain knows this, and he knocks out the streetlights on the path she normally takes home, she’ll be redirected to the path he wants her to take.

Or you have a character whose strength is how patient and altruistic they are when it comes to the elderly, who maybe even works in a senior’s residence. Lure them using a senior in need.

The important thing with using your character’s greatest strength or weakness against them is to establish that quality well in advance of springing the trap. Anything that’s going to be important to the plot should be shown two or three times before it becomes a central plot element.

#2 – Find a plausible way to remove all the reasons your character would avoid the trap or realize it’s a trap before it’s too late.

Unfortunately, traps are difficult to do well because you don’t want your readers to feel that your main character is too stupid to live. (Come on, admit it. We’ve all been annoyed because a character did something incredibly stupid that no sane human would do, like chasing after the bad guy in the dark, unarmed and alone.)

A good example of removing the reasons your character might avoid the trap is found in Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones. When Susie meets her neighbor walking home after dark, you’re screaming at her to run. But, of course, she doesn’t.

If she’s uncomfortable with adults and cold, why doesn’t she leave?

The natural authority of his age, and the added fact that he was a neighbor and talked to my father about fertilizer, rooted me to the spot.

As an excuse to leave, she tells him her mom likes her home before dark.

“It’s after dark, Susie,” he said.

He tells her that it will only take a minute to show her the “hiding place” he’s built in the cornfield. Why, though, does she go into the underground structure he’d built when he’s been looking at her lustfully?

“What is it?” I asked. I was no longer cold or weirded out by the look he’d given me. I was like I was in science class: I was curious.

Susie enjoys science and the underground structure he’s built is fascinating enough to a teen who loves science that her curiosity overcomes her fear. (This is also a good example of using a strength to set the trap. Susie loves science and her neighbor uses that against her.)

And once she was in, there was no way out.

By having Susie make the objections the reader might be making, and then dismantling them one by one, Sebold makes sure we find the trap believable.

#3 – Let the reader know about the trap a few chapters before it’s sprung.

A trap works best when the reader knows about it and the character doesn’t because it gives the reader the chance to worry longer and wonder whether each choice your protagonist makes will be the one that throws her into the trap or saves her from it.

If you’ve chosen to include scenes from your antagonist’s POV, cluing your reader in prior to springing the trap is easy. If you haven’t, you can also create a trap where your reader doesn’t consciously know ahead of time, but when it happens, they still feel like they should have seen it coming. To do this, you need to layer in hints—with a light hand—using symbolism, atmosphere, and other little details.

#4 – Don’t let your character out of the trap on their first attempt.

Seeing a character succeed at almost anything the first time is boring. The reader wants them to succeed eventually, but you can’t make it too easy for them. This is where the try-fail cycle comes in. As a general guideline, your character should fail twice before you allow them to succeed.

There are two ways for your character to “fail” at their escape. You’re asking the question, “Will my character escape?” You want to create one (or both) of these two answers initially.

YES, BUT…

Yes, they escape, but it actually makes their situation worse than it was before.

Your character escapes out of the window only to break their arm on the fall down.

Or your character escapes…but finds out that they’re now in the middle of nowhere, in a blizzard, in their underwear. It might have been bad to be in the villain’s clutches, but now they’re facing hypothermia, starvation, and being eaten by a polar bear.

NO, AND…

Not only does your character not manage to escape, but their attempt makes it worse.

They try to make it out the window, but the noise they make alerts their captor to their escape attempt and now their hands are tied behind their back.

If you put these four elements into practice, you’ll be able to create a great trap and increase the suspense in your fiction, regardless of what genre you’re writing.

What are you favorite examples of well-set traps in fiction? Or have you set traps for your characters in your own writing?

Interested in more ways to improve your writing? Grammar for Fiction Writers, is now available from Amazon, Kobo, or Smashwords. (You might also be interested in checking out Mastering Showing and Telling in Your Fiction.)

Both books are available in print and ebook forms.

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Does Genre Matter?

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

I was interviewed by Julie Duffy of Flash Fiction Chronicles for her ongoing series of practical articles about genre. Let me give you just a taste of how the article starts.

No longer simply a genre of heaving bosoms and discreetly closing doors, Romance burst into the digital age as one of the broadest, most forward-looking—and profitable—genres in the publishing business. Romance titles represented $1bn in sales last year, or 13% of the adult fiction market. There couldn’t be a better time to be writing Romance, so whether you’ve ever hidden a Harlequin between the covers of the latest Pulitzer Prize winner, or if you have no idea what all the fuss is about, prepare for a brief encounter…with Romance.

Julie goes on to cover the importance of the central love story, whether or not you need an optimistic ending, and much more. I hope you’ll swing by and read “Does Genre Matter: Romance.”

Interested in more ways to improve your writing? Grammar for Fiction Writers, is now available from Amazon, Kobo, or Smashwords. (You might also be interested in checking out Mastering Showing and Telling in Your Fiction.)

Both books are available in print and ebook forms.

I’d love to have you sign up to receive my posts by email. All you need to do is enter your email address below and hit the “Follow” botton.

Enter your email address to follow this blog:

How to Save Money on Editing Your Book

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Self-publishing your work means all the profits are yours, but it also means all the costs are yours. The two universally accepted areas where you shouldn’t skimp on quality are your cover and editing.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t keep your costs to a minimum when it comes to editing without sacrificing quality. Today, in my guest post at Janice Hardy’s Fiction University, I’m going give you tips that can help you save money no matter what level or levels of editing you need.

Click here to read the rest of How to Save Money on Editing Your Book.

Interested in more ways to improve your writing? Grammar for Fiction Writers, is now available from Amazon, Kobo, or Smashwords. (You might also be interested in checking out Mastering Showing and Telling in Your Fiction.)

Both books are available in print and ebook forms.

I’d love to have you sign up to receive my posts by email. All you need to do is enter your email address below and hit the “Follow” botton.

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Kiss Your “As” Goodbye: A Simple Grammar Trick for Better Fiction

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

A good grade in a high school or college English class doesn’t necessarily translate into the ability to write great fiction, so it’s easy for us to mistakenly think understanding grammar isn’t important for fiction writing at all. Isn’t that what a copy editor is for? Won’t they fix all your mistakes?

A copy editor will fix our actual errors, but some of the rules we were taught in English class will actually hurt our fiction writing, not help it. And some easy grammatical tricks that our copy editor won’t do for us can improve our fiction.

In my work as an editor, one of the most common mistakes I see made by fiction writers is the reversal of the necessary order of cause coming before effect, action coming before reaction.

When we reverse the two so that the effect comes first or comes at the same time as the cause, our readers will feel thrown off-balance and disconnected from our writing, even if they can’t always explain why. In real life, cause always comes before effect. The effect can’t come before what caused it. They expect the same in fiction (unless we’re writing a science fiction story with a temporal paradox, of course).

If you’d like to read the rest of this post, please join me at Kristen Lamb’s Warrior Writers blog.

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Five Words That Weaken Your Writing

Weak Words

Image Credit: Andrzej Pobiedziski (freeimage.com)

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Last week, I released my newest Busy Writer’s Guide, Grammar for Fiction Writers, so today I wanted to give you a taste of what you can find inside. This is a section from “Chapter Nine: Weak Words.” I’m going to share five unspecific words that weaken your writing.

Weak words are words that don’t pull their own weight in a sentence. Most of the time, they’re useless. So useless, in fact, that, by taking them out, you make the sentence stronger.

At first this might seem like a strange chapter to include in a grammar book. Technically speaking, there’s nothing wrong with weak words. But this is a book on grammar for fiction writers, and so one of the things we have to look at in terms of grammar is tightening up our writing and bringing it to life by removing useless words from our sentences.

Both weasel words and helping and state-of-being verbs could have been included under unspecific words because of how they tend to tell rather than show, but I broke them up because of the slight differences between them. In this section, I want to focus on five words that are weak specifically because of how vague and generic they are.

Got/Get

Get (and its forms) isn’t always wrong, but you want to be careful because it can lead to confusion. It means “to receive,” “to take possession,” or “to obtain.” However, some people also use it in place of have.

Let me show you how this becomes a problem.

I got five dollars.

Does this mean “I have five dollars,” as in “I currently possess five dollars”? Or does it mean “someone gave me five dollars”?

To avoid vagueness like this, you should rewrite your sentence.

Grandpa gave me five dollars.

I have only five dollars to my name right now.

As you go through your writing, don’t assume that your got sentences are clear. Make sure they are.

Things

Like got, things isn’t wrong, but we often use it as the lazy way to escape putting in the work to define what we mean by things. Things could stand in for problems or reasons, which are two very different things.

When your character says, “I have things to do,” what does she mean? Does she mean she has errands to run? A house to clean? A doctor’s appointment? The only time you should have a character saying they have “things to do” is if they’re being intentionally vague, such as if they don’t want their girlfriend to know that they’re planning a surprise proposal. But even then, why not have them give a more specific excuse?

Moved/Took/Looked

How many times have you written something like this?

He moved across the room.

Grammatically, there’s nothing wrong with this sentence. The problem comes from its vagueness. It doesn’t give the reader a clear picture of the way your character is moving.

Look at these three possible types of movement.

He shuffled across the room.

He stalked across the room.

He sauntered across the room.

In each sentence, we have him moving across the room, but they’re extremely different types of movement. Don’t leave your reader guessing.

Both took and looked fall into the same category as moved.

She took the letter from him.

This doesn’t show us what’s happening.

She snatched the letter from him.

She delicately plucked the letter from him using only her thumb and forefinger, as if she were afraid contact with it would contaminate her.

Two different emotions are behind those ways of taking the letter.

Here’s the one I see most often in my editing work.

She looked at him.

But how did she look at him? Was it a furtive glance from the corner of her eyes as if she didn’t want to be caught? Was she glaring? Was she giving him an I-dare-you-to-try-it look?

None of these unspecific words are technically wrong, but you’re shortchanging your reader and yourself.

For more of Grammar for Fiction Writers, please pick up a copy from Amazon, Kobo, or Smashwords. (You might also be interested in checking out Mastering Showing and Telling in Your Fiction.)

Both books are available in print and ebook forms.

I’d love to have you sign up to receive my posts by email. All you need to do is enter your email address below and hit the “Follow” botton.

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Have You Committed Word Crimes?

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

My next Busy Writer’s Guide is now out, and to celebrate, here’s some Weird Al Yankovic!

Now, if you’re wondering why I’m playing a song about word crimes to celebrate the release of my newest book, it’s because the book is Grammar for Fiction Writers

Grammar for Fiction Writers

It’s not your same old boring grammar guide! This book is fun, fast, and focused on writing amazing fiction.

The world of grammar is huge, but fiction writers don’t need to know all the nuances to write well. In fact, some of the rules you were taught in English class will actually hurt your fiction writing, not help it.

Grammar for Fiction Writers won’t teach you things you don’t need to know. It’s all about the grammar that’s relevant to you as you write your novels and short stories.

Here’s what you’ll find inside:
Punctuation Basics including the special uses of dashes and ellipses in fiction, common comma problems, how to format your dialogue, and untangling possessives and contractions.
Knowing What Your Words Mean and What They Don’t including commonly confused words, imaginary words and phrases, how to catch and strengthen weak words, and using connotation and denotation to add powerful subtext to your writing.
Grammar Rules Every Writer Needs to Know and Follow such as maintaining an active voice and making the best use of all the tenses for fast-paced writing that feels immediate and draws the reader in.
Special Challenges for Fiction Writers like reversing cause and effect, characters who are unintentionally doing the impossible, and orphaned dialogue and pronouns.
Grammar “Rules” You Can Safely Ignore When Writing Fiction

Due to popular demand, I’ve made Grammar for Fiction Writers available in both print and ebook form.

You can buy Grammar for Fiction Writers at Amazon.com, at the Amazon site for your own country, at Kobo, or at Smashwords. More sites will be coming soon! Like all the full-length books in my Busy Writer’s Guides series, it’s priced at $2.99 at Amazon.com. If you’d like to buy it at Smashwords for $2.99, use the coupon code FB64J. (That coupon code is good until the end of September.)

I’d appreciate it if you’d share this post on Facebook, Google+, or wherever you hang out. And remember to add your favorite writing hashtag when you tweet! (Suggestions: #amwriting #amediting #writetip #MyWANA)

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5 Guidelines for Approaching Book Review Bloggers

 

Image Credit: Michael Leach (freeimages.com)

Image Credit: Michael Leach (freeimages.com)

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Last month I talked about self-published book awards as one means to help build word of mouth and credibility for your book. Today I want to talk about another important method for letting readers know our book exists and (hopefully) that they’ll enjoy it—blog reviews.

I know blog tours have become a debated topic of late. Are they worth it? Aren’t they worth it?

In this post, I’m not talking about you running a blog tour where you do interviews and guest posts. I’m talking about approaching book review blogs to have them review your book.

If you follow these guidelines, you’ll increase both your chances of a review and your chances of a good review.

Join me today at Janice Hardy’s Fiction University for the 5 Guidelines for Approaching Book Review Bloggers!

I hope you’ll check out the books in my Busy Writer’s Guides series, including Mastering Showing and Telling in Your Fiction and How to Write Dialogue.

I’d love to have you sign up to receive my posts by email. All you need to do is enter your email address below and hit the “Follow” botton.

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Have You Orphaned Your Dialogue?

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Image Credit: Debbie Schiel (www.freeimages.com)

Image Credit: Debbie Schiel (www.freeimages.com)

Have you orphaned your dialogue?

You might think the question is odd, but orphaned dialogue is dialogue where the reader isn’t sure whose speaking, and it happens more than you might think. As the writer, we know exactly who’s speaking. We forget the reader can read only our words, not our minds.

Today I’m going to explain three ways we orphan our dialogue and how we can make sure it doesn’t happen. But first, some reminders.

If you’ve already read my How to Write Dialogue: A Busy Writer’s Guide, then you’ll remember that every time you have a new speaker, you need a new paragraph, even if the dialogue is only one word long.

I hope you’ll also recall that I recommended you usually place your beat (the action) before your dialogue or at the first natural pause in the dialogue. If you choose to break this rule, I advised you to make sure you had a good reason for it.

These aren’t arbitrary guidelines. They’re recommended because they make your writing flow better and sound more natural, but also because they help you avoid orphaned dialogue. As we walk through the different ways dialogue can become orphaned, and you’ll quickly be able to see in some of the examples how following these guidelines could have avoided the problem.

So without further delay, here’s how we orphan our dialogue.

#1 – Too Many Lines of Unattributed Dialogue

We can have a speaker “claim” their dialogue using either a tag (like said or asked) or through an action beat.

Action Beat: My brother patted Luna’s head. “You dog looks like an alien.”

Tag: “Your dog looks like an alien,” my brother said.

However, not every line of dialogue needs a tag or a beat to identify the speaker. If you have only two speakers in a scene, you can leave up to three or four lines unattributed.

Frank tossed the apple to Mary. “An apple a day and all that.”

“I don’t like apples.”

“Everyone likes apples.”

“Not me. They crunch. I don’t like fruit that crunches.”

Frank held up a hand. “Give it here, then. No sense letting it go to waste.”

Orphaned dialogue can happen when we leave dialogue unattributed for more than three or four lines. Three or four lines is the most people can easily keep track of. Once you go beyond that, you risk the reader needing to count backward through the dialogue to figure out who’s speaking. (Three is a guideline, not a rule. Occasionally you can have more, but you need to be very careful that it’s not confusing.)

#2 – Scenes With Multiple Speakers

Scenes with multiple speakers are especially problematic because we need to be certain it’s clear who each line of dialogue belongs to. An unattributed line of dialogue could belong to anyone present. Let me give you an example to show you what this might look like and how following the two guidelines of a single speaker per paragraph and placing the beat before the dialogue makes sure we’re not leaving our dialogue orphaned.

In this example, we have three characters. Dorene, Dorene’s son Edgar, and the nun (Sister Mary Martha) who has come to speak to Dorene about Edgar’s behavior in school.

Dorene sighed and shuffled over to her stove. She fished around in the cupboards above.

“Do you mind if I have a cup of tea while we talk?”

She glanced at Sister Mary Martha.

“Would you like one?”

Sister Mary Clarence shook her head. Dorene fumbled with the lid on the kettle.

“I would like one.”

Edgar peeked hopefully at Dorene. Dorene scowled.

“I didn’t ask you.”

It’s almost impossible at times to know for sure who’s speaking. We can guess, but it’s not clear, and as soon as something isn’t clear, you risk losing the reader. Here’s how it should have been written.

Dorene sighed and shuffled over to her stove. She fished around in the cupboards above. “Do you mind if I have a cup of tea while we talk?” She glanced at Sister Mary Martha. “Would you like one?”

Sister Mary Clarence shook her head. Dorene fumbled with the lid on the kettle.

Edgar peeked hopefully at Dorene. “I would like one.”

Dorene scowled. “I didn’t ask you.”

I didn’t change any of the wording. All I did to make sure our dialogue wasn’t orphaned was follow the guidelines about beats and paragraphing. Now, even though we have multiple characters in this scene, it’s absolutely clear who is speaking what.

#3 – Writing About Two Characters in the Same Paragraph

But the sneakiest of the forms of orphaned dialogue is when we write about two characters in the same paragraph and then tack on a line of dialogue at the end.

Ellen waved her arm above her head, and Frank sprinted towards her. “I’ve missed you.”

Who said “I’ve missed you”? It could be Frank or it could be Ellen, and the reader has no way to tell which one it really is.

Ellen waved her arm above her head.

Frank sprinted towards her. “I’ve missed you.”

Now we know that it’s Frank who says “I missed you.”

When it comes to avoiding orphaned dialogue, always ask yourself, “If I hadn’t written it, would I know who was speaking?

Do you have any tips you’d like to share for avoiding orphaned dialogue? Is this something you struggle with?

Want more help with dialogue? Check out my book How to Write Dialogue: A Busy Writer’s Guide. In it you’ll learn how to format your dialogue, how to add variety to your dialogue so it’s not always “on the nose,” when you should use dialogue and when you shouldn’t, how to convey information through dialogue without falling prey to As-You-Know-Bob Syndrome, how to write dialogue unique to each of your characters, how to add tension to your dialogue, whether it’s ever okay to start a chapter with dialogue, ways to handle contractions (or the lack thereof) in science fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction, and much more!

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