Your writing questions answered, part II

Dana Jean asks:

How do you write such smooth dialogue? Dialogue can flow or it can be so stiff, it can ruin an otherwise good story.

Practice is what makes for writing good dialogue. And reading lots of good and bad dialogue in books. And knowing that good dialogue isn’t a transcript of conversation, but a semblance of it — with all the boring bits taken out. Good dialogue is full of sentence fragments and broken bits of speech, and it is written to generate tension, conflict, or humor, unlike our normal day-to-day conversation.

Also, when writing dialogue I have months and months to rewrite it so that a character has just the right cutting response on the tip of his tongue at exactly the moment it’s called for.

Todd asks:

What software do you use when you write?

Until the day when designers develop a jack that plugs directly into my brain and downloads my thoughts as a fully formed novel, I will probably stick with Microsoft Word for Mac.

4 responses to “Your writing questions answered, part II

  1. As a fledgling writer I use Mac “pages” which is a very stripped down ‘Word’ and storymill for the outline. I can always export to word from ‘pages’ and I like the ease of dropping images into ‘pages’ and keep typing around them. Like a pair of shoes, one pair will be more comfortable than another, its really personal preference for me. Cameron

  2. Dialogue is difficult, for sure. But I agree about reading and identifying what works or doesn’t work, in books we enjoy.
    I have been using “WriteItNow” (PC) and I like it because I can use it for notes as well as writing. And if I want to write uninterrupted, that’s when I use Word … thank goodness for Copy and Paste! 🙂

  3. I used Word for Mac for years, but about 6 months ago I tried Scrivener for a trial period. I now use it all the time. It allows you to outline the story and then shuffle scenes/chapters in whatever order you prefer. It also allows you to write notes as you go, and it also provides character and location ‘sketches’, as well as a really cool name generator that you can specify different ethnic backgrounds in the filter section.

    So far, I am enjoying it. I was always a ‘pantser’ (writing by the seat of my pants) and then I would go back and try to make sense of what I had written. This was an organic way to write, but it was also very time-consuming. It took me forever to edit down to a first draft. I would also have to wade through all of the story offshoots that I would go on. So for me, Scrivener is helping me get my story organized and it also lets me focus on just writing the bit I need to write.

    As for dialogue, I try to read Elmore Leonard’s books. The undisputed King of writing dialogue.

    ~ todd

  4. Thanks!

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