Book II, Part II: Dialogue
Sometimes my writing and editing experience takes me back to when I was but a wee lass, preparing for my Year 6 SATs. Actually, it takes me back further than that, to the first “novel” I ever wrote, which was eight A5 pages long and filled with illustrations so disturbing I daren’t publish online. If you are ever tempted to gaze into the psyche of a four year old, don’t. But anyway, Year 6 SATs. And the immortal advice I got from one Mrs Lineham (hopefully she never wanders this far onto the internet and never learns what I have done with her sage advice) that you should avoid dialogue where possible, and use descriptive prose instead.
Excellent advice for Year 6 SATs! Perhaps less excellent advice for a novel. Now, if you have had a chance to read one of mine, you might notice that there is quite a bit of dialogue. But there are some moments where I’ve deliberately skimmed over conversations because this old piece of advice is lodged deeply in my heart as an eternal tenet of how to write properly. It’s up there along with never using ‘said’ without an adverb, which is another thing that my poor editor has taken some pains to try to cure me of. It’s amazing what we internalise at an early age.
So that has been one of the editing missions with A Fragile Crown, the second part of Morgawse: Queen of the North. And actually, I’ve found it immensely enjoyable. Honestly, imagining the conversation, the interaction between characters is the most fun part. Of course, I see those notes from the editor – “Add dialogue here” – and my first reaction is “Ohhh, but what will they say?” but after a few moments of reflection, it comes. And it’s an immensely enjoyable part of writing. It’s also a great opportunity to cover points you need to get covered without reporting or describing.
So if you’re editing yourself, think about moments that could be made more fast-paced with dialogue. Because that’s the beauty of it – it makes things fast and immediate. It also gives more of an opportunity to convey character. I’ve felt wary about overloading my writing with dialogue, which makes it extra-satisfying to be told to add more. And as someone who spends about 85% of every day of my life chattering, it’s not that hard.
Morgawse 2, A Fragile Crown, out now!