"But Can You Write Dialogue?" She Asked.

It's a busy time for me. Last week, I was able to announce the exciting news about my book, SKINNY, being sold to EgmontUK. This time of year, I'm also totally immersed in trying to get university classes up and running smoothly for my day job as a college administrator at Colorado State University. Best of all, I'm preparing for a Colorado writing retreat this weekend with the YAMuses. The weather here is gorgeous and I can't wait for them all to arrive this Friday to show off the beauty of the Rockies in the fall. We'll stay up at the YMCA of the Rockies (check out the webcam) in Estes Park and write and read and write some more.

In the midst of all this, I'm also working feverishly on a deadline to complete edits for SKINNY (Scholastic, US) by September 26th. Although the work is going well, and I'm very pleased with the outcome, I can't help but notice one thing that always seems to jump out at me as I re-read and revise - DIALOGUE!

Here's what I'm learning from this draft:

1) "ADVERBS SHOULD BE FEW AND FAR BETWEEN," SHE SAID, SERIOUSLY. Stephen King gives this advice in his book On Writing: "Spend adverbs sparingly, like they were $100 bills." Using too many adverbs is one of the biggest mistakes I see in my earlier writing. Now, I'm challenging myself to describe the character through their actions during the dialogue without just using a "telling" word as a tag.

2) SHE TURNED TO GLANCE OVER AT HIM. "CORECT PUNCTUATION IS CRITICALLY IMPORTANT WHEN WRITING DIALOGUE," SHE SAID, THEN WALKED OUT THE DOOR. It doesn't matter how many degrees I have, I still have trouble remembering punctuation rules for dialogue. It's probably laziness, or maybe a mental block, but I'm always making mistakes about where the comma goes or when to capitalize the next word. I keep a resource handy and constantly try to remind myself of the correct usage. I still make mistakes.


Leaving off the tags on dialogue punches up the pace. It's often evident who is speaking by the punctuation and the content of the conversation. Putting a name to every statement makes the narrative drag. My editorial challenge is to see if I can read and understand who is speaking with as few tags as possible.

So all kidding aside, let's see how it's going. Here's a snippet from SKINNY. Please forgive the strange formating issues. I'll blame those on blogger this time :)

“There’s something I’ve always wanted to say, Dad.”
He leans in and pats the top of my plastic-covered head. “What, Peanut?”
I should be worried about something, but I’m not. I feel fine. Better than fine.
“Dad,” I say. My mouth is dry. I lick my lips and try again louder. “Dad.”
“I’m right here.”
“There’s this fairy thing that sits on my shoulder and whispers in my ear. Bad things.”
He thinks you’re crazy talking.”
Another giant, blue robed figure comes around the curtain. “You ready to go?” he asks.
“I have to tell my dad something.”
“Tell him quick. The operating room is waiting.” He unlocks the brakes on the hospital bed.
My dad clears his throat. “I love you, Ever,” he says, and kisses me on the cheek.
“I can hear her, Dad. In my ear.”
He nods and smiles down at me.
He thinks it’s the drugs.”
More people come into the room. I try to focus on my dad, but they start to roll the bed out from behind the curtains and down the hall.
“I’ll be here when you get back.” He waves at me until the big doors swing shut behind my rolling feet, and he’s gone.
“I need to tell him,” I mumble.
The operating room is freezing. I know it, but I don’t really feel it. People move all around me. Some talk to me. Others don’t. They count to three and pull me over onto a flat table. Lying on my back, I squint up at the big lights.
Someone behind my head says, “I’m going to put this mask over your face now, okay?”
I guess I say okay because the mask comes down over my nose and mouth.
“Now count backward from one-hundred.” The voice behind my head continues.
Obediently I start to count. One-hundred…ninety-nine…ninety-eight…
“Her name is Skinny,” I say. Then everything goes black.


The retreat sounds so wonderful! Happy writing to you all--especially the writing of: Dialogue! (I think the snippet from your book flows beautifully)

Yay for selling SKINNY to Egmont! *throws confetti* Great point about dialogue. This is something I'm still working on. :)

"Those are always good reminders," she said. "And so well-put."


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