Category Archives: writing

Crafting Realistic Dialog

I’ve never set out to instruct other writers on their craft. I worked as a writing tutor in university, helping other students become better writers (or just craft better essays), and through that experience, I learned that teaching was not for me.

But recently, I’ve been trying to find new ways to make writing a consistent thing which I can use to pay some bills and it seems like sharing my tools and tricks–and, I hesitate to say, expertise–with the masses of aspiring authors is a valid path toward that goal.

To that end, I offer you my thoughts on dialog.

I hate writing dialog. Let’s get that out of the way before we go any further. I love writing action scenes–fight scenes, sex scenes, doesn’t matter as long as it’s moving–but dialog bores me to tears.

Dialog is also one of the things about my writing on which I receive the most compliments. That it is so realistic and believable. That it is engaging and entertaining.

So, in order to share how I write dialog that elicits that kind of praise, I have to take a step back and figure out what really goes into a conversation.

Perhaps it stems from my own real life experiences.

I am not a small talk kind of girl. As an NFJ personality type with ADHD, I am far more interested in the mysteries of the universe than the mundanity of idle chit-chat. Got a story to tell? Jump in with both feet. Preface with, “Girrrrrrrl, you won’t BELIEVE what happened to me today,” and swim for the bottom.

And that comes through in my writing as well.

One of the most common bits of advice given on the topic of writing dialog is to skip the pleasantries. Yes, ten minutes of hello, hello, how are you, I am well, how are you is real life but it’s B O R I N G. Just typing it out was boring, imagine finding it within the pages of what should be a riveting page-turner.*

Instead, start conversations in the middle.

Seeing the caller ID name flash on my screen, I slid the green dot to the right and lifted the phone to my ear.
Sam started talking, almost before the call had fully connected. “I’m going to kill him. I’m going to pull his still-beating heart out through his nose with a coat hanger.”
“I gather the conversation went well?”

Another aspect of my dialog is I don’t always give readers what they are expecting. The expected answer to “how are you today?” is “fine, thank you.” So? Don’t do that.

Sheila rounded the corner of the island counter to find Jamie seated on the floor, legs crossed beneath his body, licking peanut butter from a spoon. “What are you doing?” she asked.
“Have you ever considered the ramifications regarding the size differences between gummy bears and gummy worms? The gummy universe must be a terrifying place.”
“For the bears, anyway,” Sheila replied, grabbing a spoon of her own and joining Jamie on the floor.

Answering a question with a question is a good way to draw out the conversation without drawing out the conversation. Answering a question with a question means neither person is going to get an answer to their own question, at least, not right away.

There is probably a lot more I could say but the truth is, I don’t really know how to tell you to write dialog the way I write dialog. Like I said before, it is one of my least favorite things about writing. But I think my best advice is grab a couple of close friends and a bottle of cheap wine and go sit under the stars. Then pay attention to how you talk to each other when you don’t have to muck around with niceties and small talk. Because I honestly think that’s where a lot of this comes from.


As always, if you enjoy my content here, please consider supporting me through Patreon or Ko-Fi.

Award-Winning Author

I am an award-winning author.

What does that really mean, though? How long can I milk it? Does it have a shelf-life?

I earned the title, the first time, in 1992. I was 12 years old when I won my first poetry contest. It was sponsored by the D.A.R.E. program and open to middle school students in three states. And out of some ten thousand students, I came out on top. I got four tickets to a Colorado Rockies game of my choice and a suite at the Marriot in downtown Denver.

As a senior in high school, it was mandatory for everyone on the newspaper staff to enter a story in a contest run by the local college newspaper. I earned first place for a sports writing story.

The anthology that introduced the world to Fia Drake won first prize in the Feathered Quill Book Awards for 2019.

My publisher, the same publisher responsible for that anthology, wants to be able to add accolades to all of the titles under their umbrella. So they are encouraging me to enter Fia in other contests.

The thing is, I don’t care.

I care that they want that to be part of their reputation but I don’t care enough to do it myself. It is part of my contract that they will pay the entry fees for two contests; all others are at my cost.

I’m looking, casually, at awards contests where I think I could be successful but only casually because it is important to my publisher. And as a result, I have come up with a kind of wishlist for contests.

  • Voted on by readers (read also: would someone please enter me in the Goodreads award)
  • Favor given to indie or small press authors
  • Low entry fee or entry fee that goes toward prizes

Actually, that’s really it. But even with that being the extent of my list, I am struggling to find anything that meets my criteria. I don’t even care if it hits all three, but I would prefer it be voted on by readers instead of a panel of judgey judges.

Anyway, I guess this is all to say, if you find a contest that fits what I’m looking for, drop it in the comments. I’m hitting a wall here.

Starving Artists

Some days I feel like those singers they used to feature on American Idol. The ones who had been told their whole lives they had the “voice of an angel,” but when the angel sang it sounded like a wounded cat.

Except with writing instead of singing.

I read through these elegantly-crafted blogs and even just social media posts and I question whether I am capable of conveying emotions and meaning in the same way. I have been writing, professionally, for twenty years, casually for thirty-five. But there are still moments when I feel like I no longer control the words in my mind. I can no longer guide them to the page in the ways I once did.

I have never wanted anything more than to entertain people with my work, to give them an escape from the mundanity of their everyday lives. But then I hear people talking about books they have read, emoting over the prose, choking back tears at the beauty of the story, the tragedy of the characters, and I don’t believe I am capable of eliciting such a response.

I see other authors gushing their gratitude over the number of books they have sold solely to their Booktok community or their Bookstagram community and I doubt the potential for that to be me. Because I am not writing books that touch people’s souls or change their lives. I never wanted to. But is that the reason I feel like I am back in the third, fourth, fifth grades, listening to my teachers tell my parents, “She’s just not living up to her full potential.”

But, is this my potential? Am I only meant to watch from the outside while others succeed at the dreams I have had, both consciously and unconsciously, from before I even started school?

Without even knowing what was happening, I grew up in a generation compelled to create. Previous generations have all given birth to creative compulsives, this is not new. But somehow the Xennial/Millennial generation has reared ourselves flying a bold middle finger at convention. We saw futures as starving artists and said yes, please. We are bringing back the concept of “patron of the arts,” in the form of crowdfunding, pay what you want models, and subscription services. We are figuring out ways to forge our paths while bucking convention. We have chosen to be hungry and homeless in favor of creation, in hopes of one day “making it” with our Etsy shops and our Bandcamps.

And for some, it’s working.

Just not for me.

Bored

What do you do when you can’t even figure out what content to produce to keep yourself entertained?

I have lamented this on here before (which is part of the problem) but I don’t know what to share with people. I have no interest in producing MORE writing tips or editing tips; the internet is saturated with them.

I don’t feel like I get any engagement from behind the scenes content–research bits, character sketches, that sort of thing–and lack of engagement is the quickest way to reinforce my belief that I am a boring human.

I think that’s it, ultimately. I am boring. People tell me that I’m interesting, that I have a lot to say, but when I ask them for guidance, they just repeat themselves. “You’re not boring!” Okay, but I think I am so tell me what it is about me that makes you think I’m not boring? Maybe the thing that you find interesting would be interesting to other people. I might still think it’s dumb but at least having someone say it’s interesting to them gives me hope that I just think I’m boring because I have to spend all day every day listening to the same stupid stories.

I know that those same stupid stories are new to other people and I can’t accurately gauge their entertainment value. But in this case, no news is not good news. No engagement IS engagement. No engagement is rejection of my offerings from the vox populi.

Sometimes it’s an algorithm thing. But my anxiety doesn’t understand that word. My anxiety says, “No one liked this, that means it was terrible. Whatever you do, do NOT repeat this.”

If I post too many more of these, this is going to be my brand. At least in this arena. WordPress is going to start marketing me as the Debbie Downer who has nothing valid to say. Because I keep presenting myself in that light.

I have things to say. I have A LOT of things to say. I’m just not sure if anyone wants to hear them.


If you enjoy my content (TELL ME!), please visit my Patreon.

Overwhelm and Too Many Irons

I set up this blog because I have previous experience with WordPress blogs being pretty discoverable. The free ones. The paid ones are not and I am still striving for passive organic growth. I need platforms I can just water occasionally and let them grow on their own while I focus on everything else.

I close out every one of these with a link to my Patreon and I’m pretty sure that’s getting me nowhere. I’m a pretty realistic person and I understand that supporting a Patreon, even at the rate of $3/month is not something you enter into lightly. Reading a free blog is one thing. Subscribing to a free blog is one thing. Giving money to someone every month is a whole other ballgame entirely.

So I get it.

What I don’t get is what I’m supposed to be posting.

I have yet to find a groove with this free platform that will bring in the traffic my previous attempts brought in while also engaging people enough that they will want to go off campus to check out something else. And I have a lot of free content on my Patreon.

I don’t produce enough fiction to be able to spread it around like peanut butter. I would love to. I really would. I would love to have some kind of serial work running on every platform. Something here, something on Patreon. Something on Radish, Kindle Unlimited, Wattpad. While also finishing novels on the side.

What I want is to be able to produce the amount of text that my fingers are able to type. Which would be the equivalent of two full manuscripts each and every five-day work week.

HA!

I know that’s not realistic. Danielle Steel does it but she’s a machine and has been doing it longer than I have been alive. Stephen King is probably close.* But the rest of us have to also work day jobs and . . . sleep.

I actually don’t need that much sleep. And a lot of the time I need sleep because of my day job.

Ideally, I would love to have enough content and support to cut back on my day job. I can’t give it up entirely. I am an extrovert. I need people to stay healthy. But if I could work three days a week in a salon then write the rest of the time, that would be an enormous step in a different direction toward “full-time author.”

I just need to figure out what people want from me. What kinds of content am I supposed to be sharing in each place to get the people to follow me?

Until I figure that out, I guess continue watching me fumble along in the dark.


* Danielle Steel writes up to 20 hours a day on a manual typewriter. The woman is a machine. I don’t have the same statistics for Stephen King (I got the Danielle Steel stats from Jeopardy!) but I do know he’s a pantser like me which is both encouraging and DIScouraging at the same time.


If you enjoy my content, please visit my Patreon.

Ideas!

My overactive brain has recently decided it wants to put together things to help other authors connect with readers. Organize blog tours, set up a convention with opportunities for panel discussions… Ideas for DAYS!

The problem is that I am that person who gets EXTREMELY disappointed when I organize something and no one participates. Like, deeply, in my bones disappointed. I go through a whole myriad emotions–sad, angry, frustrated, defeated. It’s enough to make me dread trying again.

But try again, I will because I am a planner, an organizer, a social creature. I can’t help but try to bring people together. It’s who I am as a type A extroverted empath. I just want to assemble the masses. That’s why fostering a community has been one of the keystones of building my platform as an author since the beginning.

I’m just a single, individual, very smol person and it takes a lot more than just me to get things done on the scale I want them done.

But, don’t, for a second, think that’s going to stop me.


If you like my content, please consider joining my Patreon or even just buy me a Ko-Fi. Every little bit helps!

More on the Subject of Patreon

A common discussion among the Patreon creators community is what a successful Patreon campaign looks like and what it could mean for each of us.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about this question.

A lot.

And what I’ve come up with is something maybe a little off script.

See, my current day job is in a corporate mall hair salon. I enjoy it, most of the time, but it comes with a fair share of headaches. One of the things I enjoy most is the people. As an extroverted personality type, I need people to function properly. I spent a lot of time in isolation before getting this job and my creativity suffered for it.

But now, I feel like the place where I am doing the job has become a drain.

That is due, in part, to the state of the world at the moment and especially now that the governor of Colorado has eliminated the risk dial and turned restrictions and mandates over to individual cities and counties. The county where I live has put into effect what they are calling “Free to decide,” which has and will continue to create holy chaos as everyone starts making their own choices.

Corporations are still going to require the strictest policies, opting for national regulations over local.

The State of Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies that is in charge of licensure for people like me in the personal services industries is still abiding by CDC recommendations meaning everyone with a DORA license must (should) also follow those regulations.

And us poor schmucks with the licenses get caught in the crossfire. Maybe literally given our Congressional representation *eyeroll*

But all of that is only part of it.

The other part is I work with nine other women. We are split 60-40 liberal to conservative, which shouldn’t be a problem except that nothing in our lives is done without political slant anymore. Wear a mask, you’re a liberal. Carry a gun, you’re a conservative.

Support basic human rights? Liberal.

And that’s the clencher right there.

The four “conservatives” I work with: openly and regularly refer to trans people as “it;” constantly malign Black Lives Matter; refuse to believe in white privilege; and decry the science behind the mRNA vaccines; believe liberals are lazy and entitled for wanting “free stuff,” among a laundry list of other things I am forced to listen to every day I work with them (which is every day I work). They refuse to keep their “political”—and I use that term ironically—conversations within their sphere. You are welcome to discuss whatever you want with your clients but don’t share those conversations with me or my clients, thirty and forty feet away.

Inside voices!

So, I feel like all of that negativity and—yes, I’ll say it—hate is draining all of the energy from my creativity. To that end, I would love to make a steady, reliable $500/month from Patreon to pay for rent on a studio salon. I could work the hours I want and write when I want. I could even write in my studio between clients. I’m still not sure I have the clientele to make this work but if I could, I think getting out of the toxic environment I find myself in currently would be a game changer. And I’d still be putting their patronage toward my writing, just in a round-about kind of way.


If you enjoy my content and would like to help me be able to create more, join me on Patreon or buy me a Ko-Fi.

Subscription support Platforms

Why do independent artists sound like they’re begging you for money all the time?

The answer? Because we probably are.

The thing is the creation and promotion of art, in any medium—be it paint, sculpture, music, writing—is costly for the artist. And even a represented artist ends up spending a lot of their own money to fund their dreams.

I can skim over the costs of being a professional musician, having known several of them over the years. But obviously, my knowledge is in the costs of being a writer.

So

Let’s talk about that.

First, let me begin by saying, obviously, there are ways to do it for free. It’s like trying to get to China in a rowboat, but it can be done.

However, if any artist—writer, musician, painter—wants to make a real living out of their art, they can’t skate by on free. At least not all the time.

Sure, you can recruit a trusted, honest, sympathetic group of writers to serve as beta readers and forego a developmental editor.

You can use the spelling and grammar checker in MS Word or Google Docs and forego the copy editor (warning, the grammar bot doesn’t catch everything!).

I have enough experience with graphic design that I can comfortably make my own covers. I am learning to sculpt in Blender so that I can make my own covers without using stock photography. And Creative Commons is free, but you can’t always find what you want there.

You can go to Pexels or Pixabay and download videos for trailers or teasers, but the really good stuff is only available with a free account.

The point is for everything we can do for free, there is a paid version that is going to offer a little more. There are sites like Bookfunnel or AllAuthor that send out newsletters with new releases, but you have to pay to be part of them. AllAuthor offers instant book cover mockups but maybe four or five layouts for free. If you want more, you have to sign up for the pro account.

Wix is an incredible website design and hosting platform. But if you want your own dot com, you have to pay for that. If you want your own contact@you.com email, you have to pay for that. If you want to sell your books directly from your site . . . yep, you guessed it. A paid add-on.

And most of these things are cheap. Five to ten dollars per month or maybe $100 for a year. Not much if that’s all you need. But when you need ten things that are $100 per year . . .

So, we sign up for Patreon or Ko-Fi or similar because—especially in the beginning—it’s hard to make the kind of money we need from book sales alone. Maybe you sell 1000 copies the first week or the first month but then you sell five or ten the next month and three the month after that. But with subscription services like Patreon, all you need is 100 people who appreciate your work enough to give you $5/month and BOOM! Your website is paid for, your advertising budget is secured, maybe your registration for a con or two. And all each person had to invest is the cost of one (or two, in my case) cup of luxury brand coffee each month.

That’s why you find these video game players on Twitch who are making a couple thousand dollars a month. Because 1000 people pledge $1 to see their content. That’s the breakdown. It really is that easy and that hard, all at the same time. The support subscription model really is pretty awesome.

Providing you have the kind of content people want to pay for. And that’s where the real work starts.


Patreon
Ko-Fi

Venting Frustrations

I want to be completely honest and transparent here for a moment.

Motivation is becoming more and more difficult for me to find. For anything. Lack of reviews on my book make it hard to want to finish the trilogy. Lack of participation in my Facebook group makes me not want to post there. Lack of participation on my Patreon makes me not want to post anything there.

And dealing with negative conversations and attitudes in my day job makes me dread going there every day.

I am normally a positive, people-person but I just want to tuck myself away and not see or talk to anyone. Because seeing people and talking to people, right now, makes me frustrated and angry.

I saw a conversation a few days ago between an author and a reader (who were also friends). The reader wanted to know when the author would be releasing the next book in one of her series. She called him to the mat and said sales on the first one were dismal and it had literally ZERO reviews so she was focusing on the series that had been successful. His response was to tell her he didn’t understand why no one reviewed it; it was soooo gooooood.

He didn’t even see the irony of his statement.

If it has literally zero reviews, that includes you, pal.

And part of the reason this conversation caught my attention is this same reader has told me the same thing about my series. It’s so good!

Okay? So? Don’t tell me, tell other people.

Sign up for (and read and share) newsletters.

Get involved with Patreon campaigns.

Buy books for friends.

Join reader groups and tell people there.

And for the love of everything good and green on this Earth, LEAVE A REVIEW!

Building Something Unique

I have set a goal for myself to promote my work to readers. I understand that writers are also readers but readers who are not writers, I feel, are less likely to be interested in things like editing tips and tips for developing characters or writing good dialog.

Not to mention, it seems like every other writer thinks this is the way to go with their platform building. Cater to other writers. Share your tips with other writers. So doing that makes me feel like just another bark in the kennel.

But I don’t know what to do—outside of sharing stories—to cater to readers instead of writers, or to cater to the reader side of other writers.

Obviously, sharing stories is important but I also don’t feel like I have the mojo to do that consistently.

I’ve been mining my old work, finding anything I think is worth sharing again. But I’m also quickly running out of old work to share.

Ideally, I would just write, all the time. But I need the connection of being around other human beings in order to keep my creativity flowing. And lately, that connection has been a source of nothing but frustration and irritation. Which is not nurturing. Not at all.

I don’t know the answer. I just want to stand out, be different and original, not blend in with what all the other writers are doing, while still doing things that will resonate with the people I need them to resonate with.

If you are interested in finding out more about what I AM working on, find me on Patreon, Instagram, and TikTok.