Writing Natural Dialogue


 We know why we need dialogue. It is more engaging for the reader than pages full of description. It advances the plot. And, used well, it reveals a lot about the characters in our story and their relationships with each other. But the truth is, dialogue just doesn’t come naturally to many writers. Conversations end up feeling unnatural and stilted. What can we do to improve it?

 Firstly, the funny thing about writing natural sounding dialogue is that we actually need to cut out a lot of the dead wood that surrounds real life conversations. For example, imagine you’re in a coffee shop. You’re likely to hear two people greet each other something like this:


‘Oh, Hi Emma.’

‘How are you?’

‘Fine thanks. How are you?’

‘Oh, you know, hanging in there.’

‘Is everything okay?’

 This may be how people actually talk to each other, but do you see a problem? It’s as dull as ditchwater! In your writing, dialogue should be snappy:

‘Hi Emma! How are you?’

‘Oh, you know, hanging in there.’

‘Is everything okay?’

 We’ve cut out the unnecessary stuff and got to the point of the conversation in three lines instead of six. 

 Second, as much as possible, convey emotion with punctuation, instead of adjectives and adverbs. Let’s go back to our coffee shop conversation: 

‘Is everything okay?’

‘I suppose so,’ sighed Emma dejectedly.

‘No it isn’t. What’s wrong? demanded Jill.

 Occasional description after dialogue is fine, but add too much in and your audience will be taken out of the conversation. Let’s try again:

‘Is everything okay?’

‘I suppose so.’

‘No it isn’t! What’s wrong?’

 In this latter example, Jill’s reaction to Emma’s answer tells us everything we need to know about the way Emma said it. And the exclamation point after Jill’s ‘no it isn’t’ reveals Jill’s tone without having to put ‘demanded.’

 Of course, sometimes we need to put little reminders in of who is speaking. But often a lot less than we think we do! Trust your audience. If two people are conversing and the lines alternate between each of them, the reader will automatically follow it. We don’t need to do this:

‘No it isn’t. What’s wrong? demanded Jill.

‘I broke up with Terry today,’ answered Emma.

‘Really? Why?’ asked Jill.

‘I think he’s been having an affair,’ replied Emma.

 Change it to this:

‘No it isn’t! What’s wrong?’

‘I broke up with Terry today,’ 

‘Really? Why?’ 

‘I think he’s been having an affair.’ 

 Are you having any trouble following who’s saying what? Or is it obvious from the layout and from the content of each speech?

 Fourthly, remember to add in some actions. But, when you do, be careful that they are an integral part of the scene. We make gestures, fiddle, fidget etc as we talk, not separately. Avoid this:

‘I think he’s been having an affair.’ 

Jill looked down. ‘Do you know who with?’

‘Not for sure.’ 

‘Could be someone he works with,’ suggested Jill. She began to refold her napkin.

Emma nodded. ‘Possibly.’

 Try this instead:

‘I think he’s been having an affair.’ 

‘Do you know who with?’ asked Jill, looking down at her hands.

‘Not for sure.’ 

Jill started refolding her napkin. ‘Could be someone he works with,’ she suggested.

‘Possibly,’ Emma nodded.

 Do you see how much better that flows? Of course, the actions are also telling us something! Let’s put the story together and see how it ends:

‘Hi Emma! How are you?’

‘Oh, you know, hanging in there.’

’Is everything okay?’

‘I suppose so.’

’No it isn’t! What’s wrong?’

‘I broke up with Terry today,’ 

‘Really? Why?’ 

‘I think he’s been having an affair.’ 

‘Do you know who with?’ asked Jill, looking down at her hands.

‘Not for sure.’ 

Jill started refolding her napkin. ‘Could be someone he works with,’ she suggested.

‘Possibly,’ Emma nodded. ‘I do know one thing though. Whoever it is has long red hair.’ Her eyes rested accusingly on Jill’s ginger locks.

 Whoa, I did not see that coming when I first started this post! I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it! Please feel free to comment any thoughts. You can read more from me by signing up to my newsletter.


8 Things I Learned at the London Book Fair


Hi! And thank you so much for joining me for my first ever guest blog…and thank you Abi for lending me this amazing platform to speak from. I’m Soulla Christodoulou and have written two books Broken Pieces of Tomorrow and The Summer Will Come due for publication in August 2017.

 Today I’m blogging about London Book Fair 2017.

 This was my first visit to LBF, Olympia and it was an amazing three-day experience. It left me thinking about not only my writing journey but also how to amalgamate and streamline everything I’m doing and still need to do to ensure success.

 I met some of the most inspirational, driven and friendly writers too, who shared their ideas, experiences and stories with me through the various seminars and discussion forums. Many had the time to talk to me afterwards too, which was an absolute privilege!

 These are the top 8 things I took away from my whirlwind experience. I hope you find them just as inspirational and as helpful as I have…there’s a lot more to being a writer than writing. So grab that cuppa and have a read.

1. You have to be an entrepreneur as well as a writer

 As a Business Studies teacher in my past life I totally agree with this, and yet too many creatives ignore or spend little time on this aspect. With the increased ability to manage your own promotion to create awareness for your books and for you as an author, you have to be willing to spend at least 40% of your time running your writing ‘business’ as an entrepreneur. There’s little point in writing and getting your book published if you’re not going to shout about it to the world. Be active on Social Media!

2. You can be successful self-publishing

 With self-publishing becoming more and more accessible and acceptable in the literary world it is getting easier for writers to find success through platforms such as Amazon and Kindle Publishing Direct. One writer has self-published ten books on Amazon and has recently been approached by a publishing company to publish his tenth book! It can be done any way you choose.

3. You can start creating your author platform NOW

 Don’t wait for your first book to be out before telling other writers and the world about who you are and what you’re writing about. And remember, your followers don’t want to see plug after plug for your book…include writing tips, insight into your writing journey, news or articles that link to the genre or theme you are writing about, other authors of the same genre, new books and titles, titbits of research…keep it interesting and engaging.

4. You need a website

 This is the fastest and most reliable way to keep in touch with your readers, and your web page will allow you to share your news, blogs, research sites, author interviews and much more to keep the interest and engagement high. If you don’t have one…make this your priority. If this falls outside of your comfort zone then outsource it…I’ve just had a telephone meeting with someone who’s going to build my website and so I don’t have to spend hours trying to figure what I need to do.

5. You must be true to yourself and write what you love, what makes you happy

 If you’re writing about a topic or experience you love, and have an innate interest in your writing, it is more likely to become an enjoyable positive experience, leaving you and your readers feeling fulfilled and wanting more. Don’t be influenced by the current trends…write from your heart and what sits true with you.

6. Think about book cover design early on

Often this is one of the last aspects of the writing journey that writers think about (and I’m guilty of this!) but actually, thinking about it sooner can influence and inspire your story too. Images can bring colour and life into different parts of the story as you write as well as keep you motivated and focused. Visuals can help make your dream more concrete and therefore more real.

7. Not everyone reads at the same pace as you do

 This is something I did not consider, and I’m not saying it’s a huge consideration, but it got me thinking about two things. The length of books and the length of each chapter. Think about who your readers might be and what their reading patterns may be like…will they have an hour or two to read or will they be reading in short bursts between cooking, collecting the kids from school or during their lunch break. All these things impact on two more things too…the pace of your book and conflict or dilemma within each chapter.

8. Writers support writers

I met an amazing array of people at the show…from established successful authors, to aspiring authors, publishers and printers…they all had a story to tell and something to share. Never underestimate the power of talking and sharing your ideas…connecting, supporting and being honest and open. The people I met are generous of heart and kind…which fits in with my two mottos; ‘It costs nothing to be kind.’ and ‘There’s room for all of us to be successful.’.

 If you liked this blog post and would like to know more about me and my writing please follow me on Twitter: @schristodoulou2 and on Instagram: @soullasays

I look forward to connecting and to hearing from you soon and, in the meantime, Happy writing.  

Additional reading/connections:

Promotion: http://adamcroft.net/ 

Twitter: @adamcroft

Book cover design: http://mecob.co.uk/ 

Twitter: @mecobtweets

Author platform: http://gabrielmercer.com/ 

Twitter: @gmwrites



Giveaway News! 

 Hi everyone. Just wanted to let you know that if you head over to my Instagram sometime in the next 24 hours I’m participating in an author-hop. There are 18 of us, all offering our own giveaway prize! My own prize that I have on offer is a signed paperback copy of my book Victoria’s Victorian Victory.  Head over there and take a look, enter mine and other giveaways, and meet some new authors! 

 Also, I have some great articles coming up- an interview with author Krysten Lindsay Hager about her new book, and a guest post all about attending the London Book Fair. And lots more! Why not follow my blog to make sure you don’t miss anything? 

Graphic by Anna Madrise. 

How To Use Instagram To Promote Your Content

 I originally wrote this article especially for a writers magazine, who then rejected it. So when I first started this blog I tried posting it and was surprised by the extremely positive response. Now it has been featured on the website Invest Grow Repeat! So it goes to show, just because something is rejected in one place doesn’t mean it won’t have value somewhere else. 

 Instagram is a great platform for writers, but just like anything there are things that work and things that don’t. I have not only successfully created and organically grown my own account, but also other people’s accounts. I hope my experiences can help you do the same.

Here are my top four tips for promoting your content on Instagram…

Read on. 

An Interview With Julia Blake

Julia Blake is the author of The Book of Eve and the soon to be released Lifesong. In this interview she talks about her career to date, including a difficult battle with severe illness and how she is overcoming it. 

When did you start writing and what motivated you to do so? 

 I’ve been writing since I was old enough to pick up a pen, short stories, silly poems, plays, that sort of thing, but it all crystallised for me when I attended a writing course many years ago. It was as if a key in my brain turned, and four months after finishing the course my first novel was complete. I think I finally allowed the voices in my head free reign and all I had to do was put into words the stories they were telling me. As to what motivates me, I want to be a full time writer, that’s the dream – well, isn’t it for all of us – to spend my days doing what I absolutely love the most.

Tell us about your novel, The Book of Eve. 

 The Book of Eve was the fourth novel I wrote. I’d been to a family funeral and thought how they made people reconnect after not seeing each other for a while, so wanted to begin a novel at a funeral, maybe the funeral of a main character (I know, crazy isn’t it, kill off your main character in the first chapter). I then had this rather gruesome image stuck in my head of red blood dripping down a white marble staircase, after that, things began to click into place and The Book of Eve was born.

What kind of reception has Eve had? 

 It was very well received at first, especially in America where one critic called it a “modern day Downton Abbey” and with over thirty 5-star reviews and not one single bad one, it seems those who read it loved it, but then I got very ill a few months after publication and was unable to promote it so sales dropped off.

I’m sorry to hear that. How has your illness impacted your writing? 

 My illness went undiagnosed for years, my rather unsympathetic doctor insisting it was my age, and it wasn’t until I changed doctor and he initiated an exhausting range of tests that the growth (by then the size of a grapefruit) was found and treatment could begin. During those years I gradually grew weaker, one of the symptoms being severe anaemia which in turn affected higher brain functioning. By the time of diagnosis I had a blood haemoglobin level of 6.5 which made basic living a struggle, reading was difficult, writing impossible, so I didn’t write a single word for several years.

How awful. How are you overcoming these challenges? 

 Since last June I’ve been on massive doses of iron and medication to help shrink the growth and it’s like I’m coming back from a very dark place. As the anaemia loosens its grip I’ve found ideas beginning to flow and now I’m almost back to normal, the voices in my head back to their noisy demanding selves. I’m having surgery soon to remove the growth and then can concentrate on total recovery.

Where’s your preferred place to write? 

 For a long time I had no special place to write, trying to cadge computer time whenever I could, but last summer we converted the spare room into a den for my teenage daughter and I was finally able to claim a corner of the lounge, where I have my own little desk and laptop. It’s somewhere that is totally mine, somewhere dedicated to writing.

Is your writing fueled by tea or coffee?

 I hate to say this, but neither. I do have a big mug of builders strength tea first thing in the morning and couldn’t do without it, then most days I have a cup of fresh coffee mid morning (not instant, can’t bear the stuff), but I find too much caffeine makes me muzzy headed so for most of the day it’s water, well, until gin o’clock time that is!

Are you a Plotter or a Pantser? 

 Oh, seat of the pants gal, absolutely. I think if I started plotting everything I’d never get any actual writing done, I like to sit at the keyboard and with no thought for consequence plunge straight in. But then, that’s me in life, when decorating I never want to waste time with boring prepping, just want to grab a paintbrush and get stuck in.

What advice would you give to new writers? 

 Don’t listen to advice… no, only joking. I think mostly keep writing. It’s very easy, especially as you get older, to let life “stuff” get in the way – work, family, home – it all crowds in on you and leaves no time for writing. Make time. Carve out a time and space that’s yours. Grow a thick hide, you’re going to need it. Unless you never let anyone but your nearest and dearest read your writing, then someone sooner or later is going to give a bad review, criticise your work and generally grind all your hopes and dreams into the dirt. It happens. You have two choices, get bitter or get better. You can’t please all of the people, all of the time and that’s especially true with writing. Also, beware of social media, it’s a two edged sword. Yes, it’s an amazing way of promoting your work, of connecting with other authors, making use of their wisdom and experience, but, it can also be a distraction, taking you away from the real job in hand – mostly writing.

What’s next for you? 

 What next? My novella Lifesong will be published later this month on Kindle and I’m very excited about this. I wrote Lifesong many years ago and submitted it to the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future novella competition. Not expecting anything, to my delight it was placed sixth internationally. Lifesong is very different from Eve and I hope will appeal to a different audience. I suppose it must be placed in the science fiction genre but it’s not aliens and space battles, instead it’s a hauntingly beautiful story of our planet and what we are doing to it, so, if anyone has concerns about the environment, then check out Lifesong, I think it will speak to you.

Where can we buy your book? 

 The Book of Eve is available as a download and an absolutely gorgeous paperback from many online retailers such as Barnes & Noble, ebooks, The Book Depository and, of course, Amazon.

Lifesong is now available to preorder here

Julia’s bio: 

I was born and raised in the historic market town of Bury St Edmunds, in the county of Suffolk in the UK, where I live still with my teenage daughter, one mad cat and a succession of even madder lodgers. I love writing and my passionate hope is that one day I will be able to step away from the rat race and be a full-time writer. I’m a bit of a foodie and am quite a good cook, enjoying nothing more than feeding people. Books are also a massive part of my life, and I usually have two or three on the go at any one time.


Connect with Julia here:

http://juliablakeauthor.co.uk/ = website 

https://www.instagram.com/juliablakeauthor/ = instagram   

https://www.facebook.com/juliablakeauthor/ = facebook 

@JuliaBlakeAuthor = wattpad  

Another ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Review! 

 Victoria’s Victorian Victory is a charming, old fashioned novel set in Victorian times and reminded me very much of the writings of L.M. Montgomery, the Lark Rise to Candleford series and the Flambards trilogy by K.M. Peyton.

 Extremely well written, the novel is nicely paced with well developed, believable characters and a strong plot line. The author has obviously researched the period thoroughly, because the details were absolutely spot on, adding so much depth and authenticity you could almost smell the fresh cut hay and hear the mooing of the cows.

 Victoria’s Victorian Victory is about 14 year old Victoria Bloom, whose life is turned upside down after the death of her father. Expecting her older brother to take up the challenge of running the family farm, things take a turn for the worse when her brother Charlie is seduced away by the bright lights of London, leaving Victoria and her family to cope alone, with the rent due, a harvest to get in and the very real prospect of the workhouse looming before them.

 However, Victoria is not a girl to take adversity lying down and I think her character is one of the book’s main strengths. Almost modern in her thinking and outlook, Victoria is determined her family will keep their home. Not only that, she is convinced she can make the farm thrive and become more prosperous than ever.

 In this age of “kick ass” futuristic heroines, all in love with vampires or werewolves, it was a refreshing change to read a book where the heroine was just strong minded and independent because that’s her character. Not because she has super powers, or a destiny to fulfill, but just because her sheer grit, determination and stubbornness will never let her admit defeat. In Victoria’s eyes, an obstacle is there to be got around, and get around them she does. Often with a cheek and inventiveness that had me chuckling.
If there is one tiny flaw with the book, it’s that it ended too abruptly, leaving me wanting more of Victoria and her family. I am hopeful that the author has a sequel in mind as there is definitely, in my opinion, far more of Victoria’s tale to be told.

 All in all, a thoroughly lovely book, highly recommended.

Thanks to Julia Blake for this wonderful review of my baby! 

If this sounds like your sort of book then you can find it here on Amazon.com and here on Amazon.co.uk

How To Decide What To Write

A Guest Post By Krysten Lindsay Hager

 The idea of writing a novel can be overwhelming, but here are some ways to get started.

 First, focus on the thing that got you inspired about writing a book. Was it a setting that you thought would be perfect for a romance novel or mystery? Maybe there was an event that happened in your life that you felt was the perfect backstory? Or maybe a character you want to write about?

 For my Star Series, I knew wanted to write a coming of age story set in a beach town (Grand Haven, Michigan) that I grew up visiting as a preteen and teen. Growing up, Grand Haven and Saugatuck (another beach town featured in the series) always seemed like the perfect places to be in the summer. I remember being a preteen and going into shops with my aunt and watching the older teen girls picking out outfits. It made me feel even younger than I was seeing how sure of themselves they were as I was always wanting to blend in with my surroundings. So I decided to create a character named Hadley Daniels who was a teen, but wasn’t at that self-assured phase yet. I had Hadley go to visit her grandparents in Grand Haven for the summer and find herself living next door to a former teen TV star named Simone Hendrickson—hence where my title, Next Door to a Star, came from. Simone is that epitome of those self-confident teens I used to see and who I want to be when I was a kid. But I wanted to take the story to where you saw Hadley struggle with trying to find her place in that group of teens and also show that Simone wasn’t always the confident girl she appeared to be. In fact, in the second book, Competing with the Star, we see she’s actually more insecure than Hadley. I took both a setting and a memory to create these books.

 With my Landry’s True Colors Series, I knew I wanted to take aspects from my own preteen/middle school years. I had kept journals during that time and for some reason I have a really strong sense of recollection of those years—to the point where I can tell you the albums I listened to at that age, what my classrooms looked like, the exact names of the lip glosses I used, and what they served for lunch. I blame the fact they gave us such teensy servings of Spaghettios for lunch to explain why I make enough pasta for eight people when I cook now. So besides remembering the awesomeness that was/is the Bonne Bell Dr. Pepper Lipsmacker, I also remember the awkward cringe-y moments that I experienced in class when I got called on while daydreaming. However now I get the last laugh on that because many of those very daydreams have worked their way into book storylines, so who’s wasting their time in a fantasy world now? Ahem.

 Anyway, seeing as I can recall my exact feelings of humiliation, it makes for richer and more vivid scenes as I feature Landry deal with the sweating and other…unpleasantness, when she gets when anxious. Even though I revisit all those emotional and anxious times as I write and, it’s probably causing me physical and emotional distress to go back to those moments where all my friends turned on me, I have to say those are the exact scenes I get reader reactions about. One thing about writing for teens and preteens is that they have a very strong b.s. detector. They can tell if you’re not being authentic. So when I get messages saying, “Oh my gosh, that’s me, too with my anxiety,” or, “I thought I was the only one,” I know I’ve done my job.

 You can also start a book just based on a particular moment in your life by writing just one scene as you recall it and then see if you can basically write a book around it. I had someone tell me about a situation where she was made fun of and no one around her stood up for her, but they also didn’t know how to react. She shared with me how she felt and I built a scene around that for Landry in Like. In fact, it triggered a memory of mine from grade school and I ended up writing another scene involving one of Landry’s classmates getting humiliated on Valentine’s Day and another classmate being grateful that Landry went out of her way to give him a Valentine when no one else did. Memories that bring back strong emotions can really add life to a scene, so that’s an excellent way to begin.

 I recommend always carrying a little notebook around with you to jot down ideas that pop into your head. Last summer we drove through a town in Dublin, Ohio, and I stopped because one of the streets reminded me a bit of two towns in Michigan I grew up visiting (Birmingham and Fenton.) I saw this one restaurant with an outdoor eating area and I just knew this was going to end up as a date setting for a book. I took pictures and made a note of it and later, when I was revising a scene in my YA novel, Dating the It Guy, I realized that should be the romantic restaurant Emme and Brendon go to while on a date. Not only was that setting fresher in my mind than the one in Michigan, but now I have pictures to post on my website so my readers can see the places that Emme and Brendon visit.

 People often think writers have an entire book plotted out before they sit down to write, but that’s not always the case. Thinking you have to have the whole book ready to go when you sit down to begin can stop some people from trying to write at all. Just take one strong sense and see where it takes you. You never know where that story might end up.

 Krysten Lindsay Hager writes about friendship, self-esteem, fitting in, frenemies, crushes, fame, first loves, and values. She is the author of True Colors, Best Friends…Forever?, Next Door to a Star, Landry in Like, Competing with the Star (The Star Series: Book 2), and Dating the It Guy. Her debut novel, True Colors, won the Readers Favorite award. Krysten’s work has been featured in USA Today, The Flint Journal, the Grand Haven Tribune, the Beavercreek Current, the Bellbrook Times and on Living Dayton.  

You can Find Krysten’s books here.

Follow Krysten:

Website: http://www.krystenlindsay.com/

Instagram: http://instagram.com/krystenlindsay

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/krystenlindsay/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KrystenLindsayHagerAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KrystenLindsay

YouTube: http://bit.ly/2lItLri