I recently began a collaboration with a wonderful pro editor to look over my manuscript in hopes of improving it for submissions. Her feedback was incredibly helpful and, if you are in querying hell right now and not seeing results, I definitely encourage you to seek out the insight of a pro editor. There are so many talented editors who freelance through their own blogs or websites. If you are looking for a big pool of editors to pick from (who are all talented and already vetted), check out the list of editors who participated in PitchtoPub. So . . . much . . . talent!
So, what did my editor have to say about my manuscript? Lots of tweaks and fresh ideas for making it even better, but one that really hit me once I started editing was the dialogue. Oh my gosh, the dialogue. I’d written most of the conversation scenes like my characters were competing for some High School Speech & Debate trophy–nothing about them was natural. And then I hit my head to my desk wondering how I couldn’t have seen something so obvious, despite all of my wave of edits on my own? That’s why you need an editor.
There I was, totally recognizing that my dialogue needed work. Next step was figuring out how to fix it and, boy, that was an entirely different journey. I like to think I am a fairly competent conversationalist–at least my friends and family seem to enjoy talking with me and once or twice I’ve even been called witty (not Jane Austen-level wit–think more garden variety pun-making). But trying to translate that into my characters’ dialogue was evading me. How do you take something most of us do so naturally and write it out such that it advances the story, evolves and fleshes out our characters, and is also just entertaining on its own?
Luckily, there is a treasure trove of help in our boundless online writing community. A few suggestions to get started include:
1) Nanowrimo’s helpful worksheet
2) Have you seen this?!? Writing tips from the masters in easy-to-digest lists (many of them mentioning dialogue tips). I read P.D. James’ list and it made me love her even more.
“Now get to it,” she said.