Last week I took a great on line writing class titled ‘Editing Dialogue’ taught by Christine Fairchild. The class was packed with information. It was well organized, the lessons clearly written and easily understood even though the subject matter was complex.

Just a few of the things she helped us with were:
Make your story move through speech.
Build tension on every page.
Internal vs. External and Primary vs. Secondary Character Communications.
Reveal Characters’ Hopes, Needs and Fears.
Remember, Dialogue IS action.

There were six lessons, which I immediately printed out and keep with the printed manuscript I’m editing:
1. Reveal Characterization & Delineate Characters
2. Influence Character Development (Primary vs. Secondary)
3. Build *Effective* Subtext & Foreshadowing
4. Drive Pacing
5. Shape Action
6. Build Plot

Ms. Fairchild offered great examples of writing dialogue. She was available for every student, reading our work, commenting on how to improve the dialogue in our stories, and making the class fun and exciting. She showed advanced knowledge of the subject, as she should with her background.

Ms. Fairchild has over 20 years of experience as a writer and editor and has written 2 historical women’s fiction works as well as a Romantic Suspense.

Here are some other classes taught by Ms. Fairchild:
Adventures in Editing
The Hero’s Journey
11 Edits You Must Make To Look Like a Pro

You can get free editing and writing tips at her blog:  http://EditorDevil. blogspot. com

I highly recommend her classes for any author who wants to revise that first draft, or the fiftieth, to make it a hot commodity. I couldn’t believe how much was packed into a one week class.  Please, do yourself a favor, and check out Christine Fairchild. Visit her blog. Goggle her. Read her books. Take her classes. You’ll be a better writer for it.


Here I sit with my manuscript, one-hundred-eight thousand words printed out. This is not the first revision–there have been many–but this will be the most important because this book is already sold and I have to meet the requirements of the editor.

Each chapter is separated with a paper clip. Since each character gets their own chapters, at some point I’ll have to look at all the chapters belonging to each character and make sure that the characterization hasn’t changed in any way I didn’t intend for it to. After I’ve done that, I’ll look at the characterization through the eyes of each of the other characters.

Also, I need to see how the book is proportioned as far as each character’s space. I want the three main characters to have about the same amount of words in each of their points of view. There are several minor characters who need much less time and space.

My hi-liters and pens are gathered: yellow hi-liter for dialogue, green for narrative summary, orange for clues, etc.  By hi-liting every single word, I’ll learn how much dialogue there is, how much narration, back-story, description. And I’ll learn if I have used each one effectively, and in the right proportion.

One of the issues with this script is that I haven’t provided enough description of each character at their first appearance for the reader to really get a good picture of him or her. This should be one of the easiest fixes.

As I work on the first three chapters, I realize I don’t have very much dialogue at all. I hadn’t noticed that before, and had never had a reader comment on it either.  I need to convert a lot of narrative summary into dialogue.

I’ll continue to work on this project, and I’ll return from time to time with updates, lessons learned, and news of my progress.  I hope you will return and see how it all turns out. This is the beginning of a huge revision. But I can see the pot of gold at the end of the tornado–did I tell you I like mixed metaphors?

Researching The Writing Styles of Published Authors

I’ve heard of new writers trying to learn how published authors write. Here is one way to learn: Take apart one of their books. I’ve done this to a point, but never in a big way. Now I’m going to and I hope others learn from what I do and learn.

So, here I go.

I love to read mysteries, suspense, and thrillers. One of my favorite authors is Greg Iles. In some small ways, I tend to write like him–maybe not as good, not yet–but we do have some things in common. We like to pepper action and dialogue with narrative summary about the character’s motivations: back story. And our stories are not so fast paced that the reader is worn out from trying to keep up. They don’t have life or death action and decisions on every page. Instead, we move the readers along at a good pace, fast enough to avoid boredom, but slow enough for readers to get deeply involved in the psychological side of our characters.

I think Greg Iles is a top notch writer. I want to learn more about how he writes. I want to see the proportions of dialogue, action, back story, and description in his writing, and how those parts are dispersed.

I have a copy of True Evil, by Greg Iles, and I have my trusty hi-liters, one color for each category of writing mechanics.

I’m going to read through the book, marking all the dialogue in green, all the narrative summary in orange, etc. It will take several read throughs, at least for me, but when I’m done I’ll have a clear picture of how a really good writer puts a book together. I’ll have a good example of what a modern novel by a strong writer looks like. I’ll be able to see how much back story there is, and where it is used. I’ll see the balance between narrative summary and dialogue, and will be able to see how Mr. Iles gives each character a distinct voice. I’ll see how the description is worked in–in dialogue? narration? character reactions?

This exercise can help any writer. Yes, it’s a lot of work. I have neither the time, nor the money, to get a Masters in English, so this a class. I want to be pubbed and I’m willing to work hard.

I could just write, and write, and re-write, until I figure it all out. Until I improve by osmosis. But I think hard work is probably more productive.

If you decide to use this exercise, make sure to choose an author you admire, and a novel that isn’t so old that the writing style is no longer accepted in the publishing world–gone is the day when you could open a novel with “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” Today, people want immediate gratification. They want everything to be fast, easy, entertaining.

I hope you will return, to see what my class taught me–or better yet, grab one of your favorite books and work along with me, and when you’re finished, let me know how it went.


If you’re ready to enter the mind of someone who hears voices, come on in. I became a writer when characters started telling me their stories. In meeting with other writers I’ve learned I”m not alone. We sometimes argue with the voices and often have to fight so they won’t take over.

Good writing teachers will tell you you’re in charge. They will say it’s your story and your characters. They aren’t real. They have no power.  Well, I’m here to tell you they keep me awake when I want to sleep. They invade my time, waking and sleeping.

Okay, so, the writing teachers are right. Technically. After you’ve been interrupted and you’re exhausted from listening to these people who aren’t real, you can choose to write them right out of the story.  But please, before you do, take the time to consider what they are saying. Sometimes your characters know that they would never be caught dead in that suit, or that they just wouldn’t say what you’re trying to make them say. Characters have to feel real to the reader.  That means they need to feel real to you. All of them. Even the bad ones.

Imagine what it’s like to live with someone who’s always plotting murder! One day, my best friend and I, along with our spouses, were walking in the city park for exercise. They were a few paces ahead of my friend and I and we were discussing a problem with the latest work in progress (WIP). We knew the girl in the story couldn’t get married if her dad was alive because he wouldn’t allow it.

The story was an historical, you see, and the dad was all alone in the world, except for his young daughter. So as we walked along it occurred to us that the old man had to die. When we began to plot his death, other people in the park took notice and our spouses abruptly walked a little faster and both at the same time said, “We’re not with them.”

While you might think writers are terribly strange people who talk to imaginary friends, I submit to you that, at least we have a viable, legal, harmless outlet for our anxieties. Can you say the same?