23 September 2014

A Writing Exercise (Part 2)

Last week I posted about the writing exercise I'm doing: typing up an entire book, namely Noggin by John Corey Whaley.

I'm about a third of the way done, and I've learned a lot. Some of it relates to my own story and how I'm telling it, but some is more general: observations about writing that should be obvious but aren't until they're quantified. I'm going to share some of those.

1. Dialogue. You can get away with a lot fewer dialogue tags than you think you need. Based on my own writing, I can probably use 30-50% less and still be fine. Normal humans can track dialogue just fine with only a few tags, especially if one speaker includes the name of the person they're speaking to in their dialogue. For example:

"Adib, you twit!"

If Adib and John Doe are the only ones in that scene, then it stands to reason John Doe is the one who said it. Unless, of course, Adib is prone to talking to himself or speaking in the third person in general.

Which, technically, he is. So they tell him.

2. Overused Words. My overused words are just and suddenly. I didn't realize it until I put my manuscript in a word cloud. After finding that out, I went through and got rid of almost ever instance of those words. But you know what? People use those words in every day life. Leaving some of them in adds verisimilitude. We're not all so precise that we can avoid using them. So I am going to relax a little and try to be more natural.

That's it for now. Everything else is much too personal to share. But I hope to have more gleanings in the future.