More From DragonCon: What Do You Want To Know?

Here are some more gems of wisdom from the experts at the Writer’s Track.

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Nancy Knight: Never start a sentence with a semicolon.

Georgia McBride: This business runs on new material – we need it and we want it – but the submission guidelines are there for a reason.

Claire Eddy: If you have five editors, you have seven opinions.

Anthony Francis: My first advice is to write. Don’t think about it, don’t look for a market or an agent – just keep writing until you’re finished.

John Hartness: The Book of Your Heart – that Great Project you’ve been working on since high school – finish the piece of shit and shove it into a drawer. This is a business.

Debra Dixon: You’ve got to get some rejections or you have nothing to talk about at the bar.

Nancy Knight: There are two things you need – storytelling and technical ability.

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There are even more great panels scheduled for today, too!

Don’t Quit Your Day Job: Advice from DragonCon

Some really good advice from Kevin J. Anderson and his wife, Rebecca Moesta. The panel was entitled “Things I Wish Some Pro Had Told Me.”

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Here are some of the highlights:

  • Always be professional. Dress professionally whenever you appear as your author-self. Act in a professional manner at all times – especially when you are online. It’s easy to forget that “The internet is forever” and say or do something unprofessional. An author is a public persona, so prepare to be “on stage” at any time.
  • Always be kind. There is nobody so unimportant that you can afford to be unkind to them. Everyone is a potential reader, a fellow author, an editor or agent or publisher – and you don’t know who is who most of the time, so treat everyone politely. That author you dissed in public or on Facebook might just end up editing an anthology you really want to be part of.
  • Don’t whine. If someone else has better success than you, don’t act like a child and complain about how much better your work is – get back to writing and prove it. Don’t bitch and moan about that short story assignment – turn it in and be grateful you have the opportunity. Nobody likes a whiner.
  • Always do your best. No matter what you write, it’s going to be somebody’s introduction to your work. Make sure it’s a good example.
  • Get used to rejection. Kevin’s first writing award is a trophy he got for having the most rejection slips at a conference. Rejection doesn’t mean you’re a failure – it means that particular editor or agent or publisher, for whatever reason, doesn’t want that particular work at that particular time. You have to put your best work out there until it sells.
  • Don’t quit your day job. Writing is a risky business. Kevin and Rebecca have to write one extra book each year just to pay for health insurance. If you’ve got a job, no matter how little you like it, keep it for the benefits. When you’re regularly making the best-seller lists and have a couple of years’ worth of expenses in the bank, you can think about writing full time. Until then, play it safe.

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Kevin and Rebecca’s website is a great place to read more. It also has a link to their publishing house and the writing seminar they run, called Superstars.

5 Myths About Dialogue

Everybody knows what dialogue is. You read it all the time, in every fiction book you pick up. You hear it on TV and in the movies. It’s obvious … isn’t it?

Not really. Writing dialogue is more involved than most beginning writers think it is. It’s not just a matter of slapping down a few lines of speech. Here are five myths about dialogue — and the truth for each one.

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1. Good dialogue uses plenty of synonyms for “he said.” Many writers believe that they need to come up with a unique dialogue tag for each line, such as “he exclaimed” or “she hissed.” The truth is, good dialogue seldom uses more than the occasional “he said” or “she asked” — and that’s only when clarification is absolutely needed. Readers skim over those familiar words, and read only the spoken lines. When they hit one of those oddball synonyms, they’re jarred right out of the story trying to figure out what the character was doing. Especially jolting are terms like “he smiled” or “she grimaced” — actions you don’t normally associate with speech at all. Just stick to the old stand-by and your readers will thank you.

2. You need a dialogue tag for every line of speech. Your readers are pretty clever people. They know that when two people are talking, they’ll typically take turns speaking, so every other line will be another person. The truth is, you almost never have to write “he said” or “she asked” at all. Start the ball rolling with the primary character doing something, then just slip in their dialogue. The reader will pick it up at that point and understand that the next line belongs to the second person. Show the action, and you can skip the tags. At most, you’ll just have to stick in the odd “Bob said” or “Sally replied” once in a while.

3. Just write the way the average person speaks. Nobody would read past the third line of dialogue if you did this! Dialogue is not just a transcription of normal speech. Most people do a lot of hemming and hawing, with plenty of “ums” and “ers” and “uhs” thrown in. People blather a bit as well, asking about your health and the family and talking about the weather. Nobody wants to read all that! Condense your dialogue to the main information and skip all the small talk.

4. Show dialect phonetically. This seems reasonable on the surface. After all, a character from Ireland will speak a different dialect than one from China. However, phonetic spelling is hard to read, and you end up jolting the reader out of the story again as they try to puzzle out what the character is saying. The best way to handle dialect is to show one — two at the most — examples of phonetic spelling to give the readers the idea. From that point, you need only phrase the speech in the proper manner to remind them. Throw in a few recognizable slang terms, for example, or show the stilted speech of a non-English speaker. Otherwise, use standard spelling and let the reader “translate” into dialect in their own head.

5. Give the whole dialogue. Many writers don’t seem to know when to describe and when to use dialogue. They include the small talk, the greetings and farewells, and all the little boring things people normally include in a conversation. The beauty of writing is that you can skip all the boring stuff and get right into the meat of a dialogue. Show the characters coming together — you don’t need the greetings, the remarks about the local sports team, or the catching-up on the family members. Start the dialogue when the meat of the conversation is reached, and stop as soon as the relevant information is conveyed. The readers can fill in the rest (if they even want to).

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What are some of the worst examples of dialogue you’ve ever read?