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Posts tagged ‘James Scott Bell’

Dialogue tips: the fastest way to improve any manuscript

In this 30-minute video below, author Joanna Penn interviews author and writing teacher James Scott Bell about his book on dialogue, “How to Write Dazzling Dialogue: The Fastest Way to Improve Any Manuscript.”

Bell gives some great tips to make your dialogue sing and catch the eye of an agent, publisher and reader:

  1. Characters shouldn’t be feeding each other information they already know. Example: Brother to sister: “Look sis, our mom, Linda who is a school teacher is home.”
  2. Don’t hide exposition or backstory in dialogue. Readers are savvy, will pick up on it, and won’t be happy. Bell says if you must convey the information, try turning the exchange into a confrontation. More information tends to be exchanged when people are confrontational.
  3. How do you differentiate dialogue between characters? Bell suggests keeping a voice journal for each main character. For more on this, see my earlier post, “Use a voice journal to capture your character’s original voice.”
  4. When using an action beat instead of the dialogue tag “she said or he said,” make sure the action is integral to the story — otherwise you’ll wear out the reader over the course of a novel.
  5. Read your dialogue out loud. Make it snappy and vital. Make it sing. Also read dialogue out loud from other novels and screenplays.
  6. Think subtext—what are the characters really saying underneath the words they speak?

For many more great tips on using dialogue to quickly improve your manuscript, watch the video here:

For you Nanowrimo peeps, try this exercise to increase your word count: Dive deep and write some dialogue runs between characters down the page without any tags or actions. Just straight dialogue. See if you can get into a rhythm and keep going. You can clean it up and add actions and attributions later.

Make your characters come alive with a character journal

I’ve been working on my fantasy novel lately and feeling as if I need to get closer to my protagonist. Scenes have been clicking along but I was starting to feel that some of my protagonist’s feelings and reactions to what is happening around her need to come out more.

Expanding on an idea I first heard about from author James Scott Bell, I decided to start a daily journal from the point of view of Caitlin, my protagonist.

My plan is that when I’m done writing a scene or a segment of a scene, I’ll take five minutes and write in her journal about how she feels about what just happened. Read more

How to write surprise endings

In his book Plot & Structure,James Scott Bell has a great chapter on story endings. He writes about the different types of endings, including the twist or surprise ending.

In a way, all of our endings should incorporate surprise or the unexpected. We don’t want our stories to be so transparent that the reader can guess what comes next, eventually becoming bored with our story.

So how do authors come up with great twist endings? Bell admits he doesn’t know exactly as it’s not something that can be boiled down to a formula. But he does offer tips for helping us brainstorm possibilities. Read more

How to plot a novel: recommended resources

In my last post, “Plotting a story is like solving a puzzle,” I mentioned that I read several books to help me demystify that four-letter word “plot.”

Below are resources and books I highly recommend adding to your craft collection or checking out at the library:

Blockbuster Plots: Pure & Simple by Martha Alderson. She has another book called The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master, which is also very helpful, but Blockbuster Plots really does a great job of breaking it all down. Learn about structure, scenes, character development and everything a good story needs.

I love Alderson’s youtube channel because it’s full of fantastic short clips about the craft of writing and plotting that I play in the background when I’m cooking, doing dishes, or when I need a short break. Read more

More writing nuggets from James Scott Bell: First steps to revise your manuscript

If you’ve just finished NaNoWriMo, you’ve taken a deep breath and are now ready to dive into revisions. In a webinar Tuesday sponsored by Writer’s Digest, bestselling author James Scott Bell revealed his strategy for revising manuscripts. Here are some highlights from his presentation.

First, let your manuscript cool off. He lets his draft sit for several weeks, then he prints a hard copy. While you can read it on your computer, Bell says he likes to recreate the feeling the average reader will have when they pick up the book. It’s also easy to make notes on the pages as he goes. Read more

Four writing nuggets from best-selling author James Scott Bell

In a webinar Tuesday, James Scott Bell shared some writing best practices. For now, here are four tidbits of writing wisdom. Watch for more words of writing writing wisdom in my next post.

1. Write – It’s pretty obvious, but how many people do you know who “want to write a book someday,” but never seem to do it? Probably because they don’t just write. It’s the first step.

2.Don’t bore the reader – Whatever you do, if you want to write a gripping book, you can’t be boring. Keep this idea in the back of your mind as you write. Read more

A little inspiration for NaNoWriMo

Today is day nineteen of National Novel Writing Month—the month where crazy people the world over take the challenge to write a 50,000-word novel in a month. Besides fighting off a cold (I WILL win) and being slightly behind on my word count, I’m doing pretty good.

Going into the final ten days of the challenge, I have a definite plan: write 3,000 words per day for the next four days (Thanksgiving included) to get caught up with my word count and then continue my daily writing routine into the home stretch. This will be the first time I’ll have completed the challenge and I’m psyched! Read more