Where Ladybugs Roar

Confessions and Passions of a Compulsive Writer

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Day Four- The Dialogue that Ate the Plot

So, a year and a month ago, my brother Adam received an email from me-- I can't be sure, but it may have been the one where I was pulled over by a cop for going backwards up an on-ramp when the poorly tied-on mattress on top of my car became a sail. He said something to the effect of "You should really write a book." I laughed and then thought, "Can I do that?"

I decided to write about what I knew--a female with OCD. I threw in a mystery, a guy named Julio, a car that seemed alive, a strange company, and voila! A novel was born. Three things shocked me.

1. That I could finish a novel--a whole novel. I felt all writerly.

2. It didn't suck. People read it. (biased people) They said it didn't suck.

3. I did it in around two or three weeks.

Say what? Three weeks?

I know. Subsequently, the manuscripts I wrote sometimes took the same amount of time. I'd dive into writing, bury myself in a story, and emerge shortly after that with a fully-formed novel. Instead of feeling good about it, though... it felt strange. Who can write a novel in two weeks, after all? It can't be good, right? This still baffles me... and it still feels a bit... well... cheap. I feel guilty because I can write so fast. What's wrong with me? What's wrong with my writing?

I think... byabout the time I reach 20,000 words... what I've written can't be good. It can't be healthy. It just can't be.

How? Why? What's wrong with me?

Yesterday, I was reading a "cheats" for NaNoWriMo on someone's blog. (No, I don't need cheats but I find such things fascinating.) They said to add dialogue because dialogue adds words in massive amounts.

A light went on above my head. No joke. It was all cartoony and freaky, and I quickly slapped it away. (Now you see why some of my paintings are so odd.)

I write about eighty percent of my stories in dialogue. So, I started flipping through books looking at the dialogue to exposition or whatever ratio. I still have no idea what the average amount of dialogue is--or if there is even an average, but I think I really tip the scale with my dialogue. Is that bad? Is that good? I have no idea. It is what it is.

Anyway, I just noticed that, so I'm trying to add a little more between dialogue from now on.

I have to run to Yoga. Today is going to be busy for me. Have a good Wednesday everyone on this side of the globe... and I'll see all of you tomorrow on the other side of the globe. (That totally made no sense.)


  1. Dialogue is definitely the easiest thing for me to write, and, thankfully, one of the easiest things for me to cut.

  2. Maybe that's my problem. Dialogue is difficult for me. I write mostly the action and if the dialogue moves the action than it's added. Mental note - more dialogue will help me to write faster.

  3. I love dialogue. If a book doesn't have enough dialogue it bores me. If description of surroundings or events is running long my eyes totally jump to the next dialogue. You don't have to worry about sentence structure or slang because people talk in sentence fragments and slang. It makes me happy.
    If I like your books so much because you are a little dialogue happy then so be it. Don't change!

  4. Dialogue is easy to cut, Bane. That's a good point.

    (BTW, Google chrome desperately wants me to spell Dialog like this. Anyone else have this happening?)

    Mary, shhh... it's our little secret, okay?

    Jaime, what's up dawg? I love me a little slang. I'll keep it real for you.

  5. I find dialogue much easier/quicker to write but I'd guess less than 1/4 of my current WIP is dialogue. Not sure if that's good or bad, either. I suspect when I do rewrites I'll flesh out the dialogue more.

    And I want to say I am in total awe of your ability to write that much in that amount of time. After a year and a half of plugging away on my WIP I only have about 250 pages (if you don't count the 150 or so pages of notes). I'm really slow. Of course, if I could just win the lottery and not have to work full-time I could probably crank out quite a few more pages, though I'm pretty sure you would still have me beat.

  6. Sesq- I think some stories lend themselves more to dialogue, but I could be wrong. It would be cool to win the lottery.

    NO GOOGLE! It's spelled "Dialogue" not "Dialog"--so give it up already!

  7. ahem, Right-click | Add to Dictionary

  8. @ the Geeky Husband- You're so hot when you tech-speak. I'd love to right-click with you. Hurry home and we'll add some words to the dictionary together.

    XOXO Wendy

  9. I agree that dialogue is easy to write. It seems that I type it so much faster because I actually "hear" the conversation.

    Wow, you can write a book in two weeks? I am in awe.

  10. Wendy kudos for all your zest and writing! I will write for days then stop for weeks. I'd like to get into a schedule but with kids, homework, a job, and a mountain of wash I think the only possiblity I have is writing from 4-6 in the mornings. I'm really thinking of doing it.

  11. THREE WEEKS???? ARGH! I can't believe it!!!!!

    Dialogue is my thing. My dialogue sounds very natural. It's the rest of writing that I have trouble with. :)

    I'm an eavesdropper. I listen to everyone. I hope I don't get arrested for stalking one of these days. :0)

    The trick to dialogue is knowing when to turn it off. To build tension. Say nothing. Let the scene take the weight. Silence can definitely be golden. :) Great post my new pal!

  12. I think everyone writes differently, so if it comes quickly to you, go for it. If your writing is good, then all the better! I'm personally light on dialog, so I always like to study writers that do a lot of it. It feels unnatural to me, probably because I don't talk very much. But, from reading this post, it seems like you are a strong writer. Just embrace your talent! :)

  13. Melane, exactly! It's so much faster to type.

    J.J.-if it took getting up that early--I wouldn't be a writer.

    Robyn-I eavesdrop too. I also swipe ideas from stories my friends tell. Today we had a discussion in yoga that I'm totally stealing. BAWAHAHA!

    Davin-thanks for stopping by. I'm used to reading your stuff over on Writer's Lab.

    Oh crap! T is getting into the spaghetti sauce... must run.