He Said, She Said: Dialogue Tags Are Killers


So I finally worked up the nerve to have the first 3000 words of my WIP read out loud and critiqued at a writing conference.


Yeah, I know, but there I was, in the crowd, waiting for my page to be drawn and read out loud by an actual publishing person, and then judged by other prominent publishers, writers, and agents. And I’m talking about a couple of heavy hitters in the room, recognizable by face as well as name. When I heard my working title read, I tensed, trying to not look too guilty of being the creator of this passage, even though I may have noticeably readied myself a bit more for taking notes. I’ve hesitated to do this in the past, but after revising it a few times based on other classes and advice I had gotten from reading and researching, I felt pretty good about letting this one be judged. Hey, we need to get used to being judged in public settings anyway, right? Why not here, where the learning, and the help, is readily available?

The instructions from the reader to the panel were to listen and read along, and raise their hands when running across anything that would make them stop reading, things like poor flow, bad grammar or vocabulary choice, a boring scene, non believable actions or situations, etc. If during the read, the panel showed three raised hands, the reading was stopped and then discussed. If the reading was allowed to finish, the panelists all took turns critiquing the work, both for what they enjoyed and where the improvements could be made.


My words were read out loud, and I could feel myself silently reciting the chapter with the reader. One hand went up. My eyes caught the motion of a hand being raised. I hoped for an instant that they just had an itch on their head, but no such luck. I panicked a little and started scanning the panel and hoping that there would be no more. The judges remained looking down at their copies of the transcript, intently reading along. No hands seemed ready to bolt up, and as the read was completed, they all seemed intent to listen to more. A big sigh escaped my chest.


Something wasn’t right. While having someone else read my words out loud, I noticed it. So did the judges, by the way, who were all in agreement. Dialogue tags. Too many dialogue tags. The story was good, and the setting built the level of suspense that I had hoped. But the story read choppy, because of all the “he said, she saids” I had inserted. They were killing my pacing while adding extra, unnecessary words to the chapter. I had two people conversing in the entire scene, so there was no need to keep telling the reader who said what. I can achieve that through voice and proper dialogue, which I was glad to discover and learn in a separately offered class within this same conference.

But if it wasn’t for hearing a professional in the writing industry read my words for a set of equally professional judges and experts, I may not have caught this fault until further down the path in my WIP, and that wouldn’t have been good news for writer or reader.

He said it, she said it, they all said it. And I listened.

Good writing!


Want To Move Forward? Just Look Back


You’ve heard it many times. We all have.

Don’t look back.

Never look back, they may be gaining on you.

Keep your eyes forward: What’s in the past is the past.

Honestly, I think that’s about the biggest pile of bull byproduct that I’ve ever heard. I mean, c’mon, are we supposed to forget about everything we’ve just done or gone through. Should I forget that I just typed this sentence? Should I forget that I just typed this sentence? Should I forget that I just typed this sentence?

Hehe, just having a little moment there, but you get the drift. If we refuse to look back, we may repeat things we don’t necessarily want to repeat.

If you refer to that picture up top, you’ll see one of the most powerful forces among us, water. Oh it’s beautiful, no doubt, and very relaxing with the waves and the sounds of the water hitting the beach. It also possesses the force to cut through mountains of rock, wipe out cities, and take lives, but does the water only move forward? Of course not. It reaches a point, then retreats and regroups, gathering the strength to come again, many times faster, harder, and longer. Then it goes back again. And again. And again.

Why shouldn’t we be like the water, going back just a bit to regroup while striving to be better and stronger the next time?

As writers, I believe its essential to look back, so that we see what has worked for us and what hasn’t. We need to see where the opportunities for more success are located, and where we have become stagnant. The only way to do this is by looking back and recognizing not only our successes, but our failures.

So go ahead and look back, adjust, regroup, and then move forward with a clearer vision, hitting it harder and more successful than the last time. Over a length of time, just as the ocean waves do, you will see a continuous rise in production and progress.

Good Writing!

After Just One Writing Conference, I Was Hooked

All Write Now Conference
Brian Klems – Writer’s Digest

Yep, I’m hooked.

And now I wish I would’ve gone to them a long time ago.

It took me several years to finally get the courage and confidence to get myself to a writing conference. Oh, I heard about all the benefits. Over and over again, I was told how it would be a great place to make contacts and spend time with like-minded people. I also was reminded though, how pricey some conferences can be, and that fact alone sometimes kept me from pushing that button and buying my ticket.

Until this year.

I finally made my way to the Missouri Writers Guild annual conference. I didn’t really know what I would experience on this weekend long event, and frankly, I was a little apprehensive at first. But let me tell ya, I was immediately converted, and never looked back. So much so, that I signed up and attended 2 more conferences through this year.

It’s not just about the classes folks, although those are pretty darned informative. It was nice to hear firsthand from editors and agents about what they actually want, are interested in, and looking for in a manuscript. It was helpful to be able to ask a question specific to my work-in-process and hear thoughts from professionals and peers about a possible solution. And it’s nice to interact and exchange contact and social media information with those same professionals and peers. Friendships are forged with like-minded people and all of a sudden you have the makings of a great support group, consisting of authors, writers, editors, agents, and publishers. What’s not to like about that?

And those stories about the after hours conversations and meet ups in the hotel bar, lobby, or common areas just happen to be true. When the formal classes end, don’t hibernate in your room. Instead, get out and mingle with the folks you follow and read on social media. Sharing writing related conversation over a drink or appetizer is priceless.

Ask questions. All of them. All those questions you’ve had in the back of your mind for months, or years. The writing community is extremely supportive, and everyone I’ve encountered is interested in helping as much as being helped.

There’s nothing quite like informally talking to an editor, agent, or publisher face to face with no agenda. The information, guidance, direction, and renewed motivation you’ll gain can make all the difference between just wanting to be a writer and getting your posterior in the chair and being a writer.

And the friendships made are pretty cool too!