Today, I am handing my blog over to the first editor I ever worked with - Sue Swift (aka Suz deMello). I learned so much from her and now she's been persuaded to share some of her wisdom and expertise in a new book:
Here's the blurb:
Write This Not That! is a snappy, entertaining treatise on writing. If you’re a serious author, it will change your life...your writing life, anyway. Its sections on dialog, info dumps, setting and more are brief but pithy—like good writing. By award-winning, best-selling novelist Suz deMello, with the help of many of her equally gifted friends, this skinny little book packs a powerful punch.
And now, an extract:
A while back I initiated an online
discussion with some other writers about books. My question was: what earns a
book a home in our hearts as opposed to a trip to the shredder? I gathered
comments from various yahoogroups before adding them to the “knowledge”
garnered from a lifetime of reading, sixteen years of fiction writing, and a
mini-career editing for individuals as well as for a variety of publishing
companies. I have authored and edited most kinds of writing from academic
treatises to the sexiest erotica. Although
much of my experience is in romance, the principles in this essay are
applicable to most fiction writing.
Some information surprised me while
other statements struck me as mundane. And I found startling omissions: for
example, many didn’t decry the lack of a happy ending in a few books,
preferring an interesting ending to a predictable one. But many comments
focused on a few well-defined topics: dialog and tags; the despised info dump;
a category I call “respecting the language;” avoiding clichés, both verbal and
situational; characterization errors; plotting missteps and a failure to edit.
The “talking head in the empty room syndrome” is a particular irritant to me,
and, as a former acquiring editor, I have strong opinions regarding synopses.
Many mistakes can and should be
avoided or fixed before anyone, even a critique partner, sees your work in
DIALOG, THE CORE OF YOUR NOVEL
Romances are all about the interactions between
two people. In fact, most novels, unless they’re Hemingway’s The Old Man
and the Sea or similar books, involve the interactions between people,
and most of these interactions are verbal. But dialog can be especially tricky
Here’s what you can do: Listen and cut.
To avoid stilted dialog, listen. Go to different
venues and eavesdrop. Coffee houses, like Starbucks and Peet’s. Bars. Truck
stops and grocery stores. If you write for the young adult market, go to where
teens are. When you take your kid and her friends to a concert or to the
opening of the next hot teen flick, don’t drop them off and leave. Go in.
Listen. Not to the concert but to the kids, not just yours but others.
If you’re fortunate enough to travel, do the same
research wherever you go. Don’t stay in your hotel. Walk a few blocks away to a
local café or dive and listen to the locals chat. Take notes.
Focus on the words people use and the way they
put sentences together. Note slang terms.
Have you ever noticed that in some parts of the
USA people say soda rather than pop? In other American locales, any fizzy drink
is a Coke, whether or not it’s cola. In Georgia, a woman’s handbag is a
pocketbook, even if the satchel can’t fit into her pocket. In California it’s
her purse. Regional differences in speech are numerous and fascinating. Note
them. Use them.
Listen, but cut.
Many of my conversations run something like this:
“Hey, hi, Sue. How’re ya doin’?”
“I’m okay. You?”
“Not much. Tryin’ to stay dry.”
The only variations are seasonal. In January, I’m
trying to stay dry. In July, I’m trying to stay cool.
The conversation doesn’t say much and I’d never
put it in a book, unless I wanted to lull the reader into an unsuspecting
stupor before a vampire sank fangs into a victim or a meteor slammed into our
So the vast majority of realistic interactions
don’t belong in a book. Interactions should have a purpose; in fact, every word
in your book should have a purpose.
What purposes can we define?
If you like what you read, go to http://www.tinyurl.com/suzdemellowritethis
About the author of Write This Not That:
Best-selling, award-winning author Suz deMello, a.k.a Sue Swift, has written over sixteen romance novels in several subgenres, including erotica, comedy, historical, paranormal, mystery and suspense, plus a number of short stories and non-fiction articles on writing. A freelance editor, she’s worked for Total-E-Bound, Ai Press, and Liquid Silver Books. She also takes private clients.
Her books have been favourably reviewed in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus and Booklist, won a contest or two, attained the finals of the RITA and hit several bestseller lists.
A former trial attorney, her passion is world travel. She’s left the US over a dozen times, including lengthy stints working overseas. She’s now writing a vampire tale and planning her next trip.
Find her books at http://www.suzdemello.com
For editing services, email her at email@example.com
Befriend her on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/sueswift
She tweets her reading picks @ReadThis4fun
Her current blog is http://www.fearlessfastpacedfiction.com