Let’s Open it up to the Group

Hello Insecure Writer’s Support Group Members:

Last month I found myself writing a lot of short stories.  I guess I was warming up for JuNoWriMo, which I am 6 days in and happy to say on goal, so far.  Out of all this actual fiction writing, a few issues and questions have come up that I would love to have my fellow writers advice and input on. I mean, who better to tell you what you are doing wrong, then your friends.  We are friend, right?

Let’s Open it up to the Group: 

  1. Is there such thing as to much dialogue in an a story?  I am concerned my WIP is starting to look more like a screenplay instead of a novel? How do you determine the right balance between dialogue and description?
  2. How do you express someone laughing or crying or cringing without coming right out and saying that “Emilynn laughed”?  or Is it ok to say what type of physical reaction your character is having?
  3. Yesterday I found myself writing a scene in my WIP and when I went back to read what I wrote, I literally did not remember writing it.  It was really good though, so I didn’t panic to much.  What is your “in the zone” writing experience like?
  4. In the last month, I have written a few reality short stories, two scenes from a scary (not quite horror) stories, and my WIP which is an international/romantic/comedy/drama.  When my goal is to become a better writer, is it ok to write in all these different genres or am I spreading my creative mind to thin?  Should I just stick with getting good at one?
Thanks again to Alex Cavanaugh for creating this forum for me to share my insecurity’s in a calm and supportive environment.  I really look forward to hearing everyones feedback.  
New Lotus design. What do you think?

19 thoughts on “Let’s Open it up to the Group

  1. Hi Sydney!
    Well first, I think the dialogue depends on the story and you have to find the balance that works for each individual one. As for expressing one’s emotions…Example for crying you could say, The tears rolled down her cheeks as she watched him walk away. But you can say the words too. He cringed at the sight of the spider hanging above his head. Glad to hear you are on task with your writing and I like the new Lotus design. Do you want it included with your interview?

    1. Hi Karen,
      Thanks for the advice on the character emotions. I am going to play with it a bit and see what fits best with the story. The lotus is pretty cool, right? Just go ahead and use the one I sent for right now. I can’t wait to see the interview and thank you for that opportunity as well.

  2. That’s quite a lot of questions you’ve got there. Let’s try to unpick them.
    1. ratio of dialogue to text – there are lots of discussions on this theme. If you’re worried about it, you could simply google it and find out. I would advise to let your story flow. there’s no better way to carry a story through, than dialogue. Well known authors have written whole chapters of nothing but dialogue and that didn’t stop them selling their books to a wide readership.
    2. the crudest way to convey a physical reaction is to simply tell the reader what your character is doing. There are lots of other ways. Use that dialogue you were worried about. “Why are you laughing?” someone may ask. Or “Jesus Christ, I never meant to make you cry!” – you see the potential? And also description of your character’s mood leading to the moment when their reaction becomes extreme – that, to me, is far more important than a lot of other features of my book. How a character handles emotion may endear them to the reader or leave them completely cold and uninterested. You want to engage the reader, provoke a reaction, so your characters are of utmost importance – give them a lot of attention. And then, there is always the ‘read, read, read’ option, where you read some good books and see how others have dealt with this same problem, what tricks do they employ?
    3. My ‘in the zone’ happens with a lot of work. First, I put down what I want to achieve with my next scene. For example: Rachel finds out Andy is an idiot and she shouldn’t have wasted her life on him. I then spend a little time working out how I might be able to convey that message, and then just write and cut and re-write and edit and so on, until I can’t improve it anymore. At this point I go back and read the previous chapter and make sure the scene fits well and the writing style and rhythm match. This might happen several times in the course of writing a novel, and often the scene just doesn’t make my final cut, but it is definitely worth the effort. When in that ‘zone’, especially if you can recognize the quality of your writing as something special, try not to stop for anything and anyone. Just keep going until the very last word was squeezed out.
    4. The more you write, the better you get at it. I worried about genres, at the beginning. First, I didn’t believe that I would ever be able to write a novel, so I wrote short stories. Then I decided one of my characters could be strong enough to move up in the world, so I gave him the chance to grow in a fantasy book. After that, bending to the onslaught of ideas, I wrote a thriller. Next I will write a non-fiction and a paranormal. Every piece of my writing is better than the next. I’ve had the same reviewer review both the fantasy and thriller books, and the feedback was brilliant for both.
    Speaking from the heart, the more you learn, the better you will become. And who’s to say you’ve found your best genre yet, especially since you haven’t tried them all? Personally, I would want to know, so I would keep trying those gloves on my fingers. I’m sure I’ll be able to recognize the perfect fit.

    1. Thanks so much Ella. Great advice. I especially like you thoughts on #2 and #4. I forgot that there is another character in the scenes that could help the reader see what I want them to see. Great idea. In regards to #4, I think I will continue to just write what I feel for now. I have enjoyed it all, but I kind of live in the minds of my current novel’s characters and there is something very natural and organic about writing about them. I think it is where my natural fit it, but I am not going to limit myself at this point. I am too new to it all.
      I love that you think of your characters like that “one of your characters could be strong enough to move up in the world.” I appreciate you taking the time to let me know your thoughts. Anytime I can get advice straight from the people who are doing it, too and not just from googling it, it is so valuable to me. Thanks again.

  3. 1. Is there such thing as to much dialogue in an a story? …How do you determine the right balance between dialogue and description?

    I don’t think it’s an issue of amount so much as how it’s handled. Dialogue has to be balanced with narrative (action beats, backstory, etc.), and it can’t be a dump. It shouldn’t sound stilted either. It needs to sound like real speech and be plausible–things the characters would actually say to each other. And it needs to have enough descriptive lines mixed in that they don’t seem like ‘talking heads.’

    You can see your story in your mind like a movie. You’re reader, on the other hand, relies on you to give them clues and help them visualize the scenes. Some of those clues will come from good dialogue alone, but not all. Bottom line, it’s something you get a feel for over time. Reading good fiction can help hone that talent. Having good crit partners will help, too.

    2. How do you express someone laughing or crying…

    Sometimes a simple ‘Emily laughed.’ works, but you need to mix it up. Part of being a good fiction writer (so they tell me) is coming up with creative and original ways to describe things. Lines like, ‘Emily’s eyes twinkled as a stifled chuckle turned into a full-out laugh.” sometimes give a better visual of the character’s reaction. (That line was off the cuff. Sorry if it’s lame. LOL)

    3. …What is your “in the zone” writing experience like?

    My ‘in the zone’ writing is when inspiration is flowing so well that my typing fingers can hardly keep up with my brain. 🙂

    4. …When my goal is to become a better writer, is it ok to write in all these different genres or am I spreading my creative mind to thin? Should I just stick with getting good at one?

    I think that’s a question only you can answer for yourself. Personally, I like to stick to my novels in progress. Writing things like poetry, short stories, even flash fiction for the most part doesn’t interest me, because I feel like it takes what precious time I have away from my main goal. (I’m a very focused, obsessive, task-oriented person, so no surprise there. LOL) That said, lots of writers say practicing on smaller projects, writing a little something every day-no matter what it is, helps them. Who am I to judge?

    Great post! I enjoyed visiting your blog, and I hope you find my answers helpful. 🙂

    1. Hi Melissa. Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions in such detail. I really appreciate it. 1. You are absolutely right, each detail of each scene is so clear in my head, but readers don’t live in my head. Conveying that with description as well as dialogue will help them visualize it.
      2. You attempted was great. Emily totally does that, can I steal it? HAHA.
      3. I have experienced it a couple times. I am learning to just go with it.
      4. I think at this point, I just need to write and write and write. My style and genre will emerge.

      Thanks again.

  4. Wow, Ella did a great job answering your questions!

    I think what you need to do is keep writing. When you’ve finished your first draft, then you can go back and tweak it as needed. Need more exposition? Turn some of that dialogue into moments of internal conflict or crank up the tension by cutting some of the dialogue. Mind you, I totally kickass in dialogue, so that’s where my comfort zone is so I’m constantly challenging myself to write more narrative or exposition.

    The other thing I’m learning ~ whatever rules that are in place and we’re supposed to follow get broken all the time. Write the book YOU want to read. Worry about genre, rules, etc later, if at all.

    As for writing in the zone, oh, I love it when that happens. Although, it’s hard to get out of the zone and do things like make dinner or have an intelligent conversation that doesn’t involve my characters. 😉

    Keep writing. Trust your gut and let those inner voices guide you, but not force you down a path you don’t want to go.

    1. Tameri, Awesome advice as usually. Ella and now Melissa really did a great job. I agree. The best advice though is that I just need to writing. My style and genre will emerge eventually.
      I am with you. I love writing dialogue. I just love the exchange between two characters. A couple having a fight is my favorite. It is so much fun. HAHA.

  5. Gosh, Sydney, everyone really did a great job of answering all your questions already, and since I’m just another insecure writer, all I can tell you is what I know. I struggle with description, so I need to add more. Don’t worry about tags for right now. Just write. When you get all done with your novel/short story, whatever you are writing, sit down and read it aloud. Then you will know if you need to change some things, if it sounds too forced, if you need more descriptive words rather than “she laughed.” As far as the zone, I don’t get into until after I sit down and just discipline myself to write. Write or Die helps sometimes. I can feel pieces of myself fall away bits at a time . . . this dental appt here, that person’s woes there, another deadline over that way. You know? I think if we just keep at it . . . we’ll be okay. One step at a time, one word at a time, one paragraph at a time. 🙂 You go, girl!

    1. Hi Chrissy and welcome. Thanks so much for following my blog. I really appreciate the support. You are right, I got some great advice already, but always open for more. You and Tameri said it best, I just need to keep on writing. The rest will work itself out.
      I think the zone happens for me as a result of the preparation I put into my current project. It really has been to write like that. Just finding the time to give my brain the opportunity to get in the mode is the key. We will get it.

      Thanks again.

  6. Hi Syd,

    Congratulations on reaching your writing goal for the challenge so far.

    I love to write and read a lot of dialogue, so for me it’s hard to have too much.

    My editor often encourages me to write the physical reaction instead of the word. For example, “Her face flushed with heat” is better than “She was embarrassed.” But I think it’s okay to say “He laughed” instead of trying to come up with a zillion different descriptions for laughter, similar to how “he said” is often better than “he pondered” or some other substitution.

    1. Thanks so much Jennifer. I like that idea as well. To describe the physical reaction. I will work that into my WIP. I think I have used the world laughed, chuckled, giggled, snickered and cracked up. I am tapped out of words for laugh. HAHA. HAHA isn’t appropriate in a novel, is it?

  7. Hi Sydney,

    You have a lot of great advice here already, so I won’t pretend that I can add anything that hasn’t already been said.

    I will say, though, that as far as my ‘in the zone’ experiences go, they’re a lot like yours. I do that quite often and, sometimes, it’s like having a fresh pair of eyes on the story.

    Best wishes and keep writing!

    1. Hi Mark. I appreciate you stopping by. I have always heard of being in the zone in regards to sports. Since I am never going to be able to dunk a basketball, I was pleasantly surprised to have that feeling as a writer. Now, if I can just get someone to pay me a million dollars to be “in the zone” I will be golden.

  8. Wow, you’ve had some great advice there 🙂

    All that remains is for me to say….well done with Nano so far and regarding becoming a better writer, you know what they say about practice! 😉


  9. I won’t bother echoing advice that’s already been stated, but I’ll add that the best answers to questions like these can also be found in the pages of your favorite books. Get a feel for how some of the best of the best handle these issues and you can really learn a lot. Sometimes I’ll read a book that I love twice, the first time for enjoyment and the second with my writer’s eye, to analyze what’s going down on the page.

    Good luck!

    1. Thanks J.W. I have heard that writers need to read. Especially from my writing guru Mr. Stephen King. I think yo have got the answer though. I need to be reading books that I love twice. First time, I am way into the story to even pay attention to what the writer is actually doing. I guess if you are a good writer, that is how you want the book to be read. I am going to revisit some of my favorites and see what else I can get out of them.

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