Nancy: Who said that?

In the past couple of months, I have been out in the writing wilds, reviewing multiple manuscripts. I return to you now with disturbing news: someone has absconded with all the dialogue tags.

Or so I thought, when three of the last four manuscripts I reviewed had long passages of dialogue with no attributions. None of those innocuous “he said” “she said” phrases. No bodies in motion in the same paragraph to show who must have said it. Not even the slightly more annoying scene blocking some of us (ahem, are those three fingers pointing back at me?) tend to use, at least in early drafts, for variation. This lack of tags occurred in scenes with two people talking. And three characters. And even five! Yes, I read a scene with five people in a conversation, with no way to discern, from the words on the page, who was saying what.

I got a sinking feeling.

When a trend appears across manuscripts of writers who do not know each other (and therefore probably haven’t come up with a new technique themselves), I smell “advice” emanating from “professionals”. When I asked one of the writers about the lack of tags, she confirmed my fear. She had cut most of the dialogue tags from her manuscript after her writing group (that’s a whole other blog post, isn’t it?) told her she should stop using them. WHAT?!!! I wondered out loud where they had learned this…ok, I’m struggling not to use profanity, so imagine some nicer word for BS. According to my writer, they got the advice from agents. More precisely, from agents ranting on Twitter.

That loud thwack heard ’round the world was my head hitting my desk. Continue reading

Nancy: What Gets You Out of Bed in the Morning?

Years ago, when I was in my previous life and profession and was using a white board for something other than character arcs and plot progressions, I kept a question on my board at work. It was, “What keeps you up at night?” This is a question used in sales in marketing to remind sellers to think about what the customer wants/needs/stresses about, NOT about the widget or service we want to sell.

Then about five years ago, I read an article that argued (rather convincingly) that we should stop asking what keeps our customers up at night, and start asking, “What gets you out of bed in the morning?” Do you see the shift from negative to positive? I brought that to the teams I managed with the goal of writing our business proposals with a different spin. We still needed to write about knowing the customer’s pain and how to solve it. But I started pestering my teams (and the business development execs who interacted with the customers) to learn about customer’s bigger-picture visions. I wanted to expand our message to say, “We support solutions, but also aspirations.”

By now you’re wondering, WTH does this have to do with fiction writing? I’m so glad you asked! Continue reading

Jeanne: The Chunky Writing Method

Chunky candy barThis weekend my RWA chapter, Central Ohio Fiction Writers, hosted Allie Pleiter, inventor of the Chunky Writing Method. The Chunky Method is a way of scheduling your writing time to make yourself more productive, based on how you naturally write–in big chunks or small chunks.

The size of your natural chunk can be determined by how many words you can write on a normal day before you run out of energy/creativity. In the absence of writer’s block or incomplete research, which will stop any writer from moving forward, each writer will still hit a point where they just run out of steam.

Big chunk writers, according to Ms. Pleiter, can write thousands of words before that happens. Small chunk writers run dry after only a few hundred words–or even less.

But, she says, don’t despair. By figuring out which kind of writer you are, you can adjust your writing schedule to make the most of the way you write. Continue reading

Nancy: Just 20 Pages

As regular readers here know, several months ago, I finally gave up my high-stress, pressure-filled, deadline-driven corporate consulting job and set up my own high-stress, pressure-filled, deadline-driven writing and publishing plan. It’s a much better gig! However, one good thing about a corporate job is the structure. (That, and cake. People randomly bringing in cake. Why do my new office mates, aka the cats, never bring me cake? But I digress).

When you enter the full-time writer world, your time is suddenly your own, even with a very firm stake planted in the ground somewhere out there in Future Land. When it comes to publishing schedules, suddenly you’re thinking in terms of months or even years. Gone are the daily and weekly due dates, the guide rails that keep you plodding along on the straight and narrow. Take the girl out of the corporate world and chaos follows. At least, that’s what happened to schedule- and spreadsheet- and calendar-loving me. Continue reading