Ask the Divas

Ask the Divas: Creative Dialogue Tags

Posted by on Jul 19, 2013 in Ask the Divas | 0 comments

Ask the Divas: Creative Dialogue Tags

This week, the question for Ask the Divas is What’s so bad about creative dialogue tags? To answer this question, we have to identify what a dialogue tag is and what purpose it serves. Then can we highlight creative dialogue tags and show why your efforts are better spent elsewhere. Dialogue tags are noun/verb pairings that attach to a line of dialogue—usually with a comma, as they are part of the sentence—and indicate to the reader who is speaking: “It’s late,” he said. “What time is it?” she asked. You’ll notice the lack of a comma in the second example, but still a lowercase she to indicate the continuation of the sentence. The question mark takes the place of the comma; you wouldn’t use both. In the examples above, he said and she asked are dialogue tags used to identify who is speaking. Said and asked are the most common dialogue tags used in fiction, and they are nearly invisible to readers, who tend to skip over them and merely use them for clarity. There are other generally accepted dialogue tags, however. Intransitive verbs that describe a way of speaking—such as yelled, whispered, etc—can also be used in place of said, but they should be limited to a short list and used sparingly. So, what is a creative dialogue tag? “It’s late,” he yawned. “What time is it?” she paled. Simply put, yawning and paling are creative because they are not verbs that describe speech. But as editors, we see these creative tags more and more. Pseudo-dialogue tags like argued and agreed are two of the most common, and authors are sometimes surprised when asked to make changes. An easy way to test the word is to put your dialogue tag into this sentence: I can ____ this sentence with my words. If the sentence doesn’t make sense—I can yawn this sentence with my words—then it’s likely the tag is too creative and you should consider changing it. But what’s so bad about that, you ask? Well, for starters, some creative tags are simply redundant. Agreed and argued are not only creative, they’re unnecessary. It should be clear from the dialogue if a character is agreeing or arguing without having to tag it. Don’t even get me started on nodding. Secondly, the more creative the tag, the more likely that it will stop the reader in her tracks. If she’s anything like me, she will tip her head to the side—as if she’s heard a sharp, whistle-like noise—and think, “Huh? Wait, what?” The last thing you want in your book is something that stops your reader from reading. If it halts the forward progression, it should be modified or removed. There’s another, less obvious reason not to use creative dialogue tags—one that is harder on authors to accept because they don’t realize it’s happening until it’s become a habit. Creative dialogue tags can become a crutch for the author, and then they’ll begin to take the place of creative narrative. Sure, it’s easy to see that these tags add information to the sentences. From the first examples, there was no indication that he was tired or she was worried or frightened. Yes, creative dialogue tags will tell your reader how the characters feel. But wouldn’t it be much better if you showed them? He rolled the kinks from his neck but kept his arm around her, unwilling to disturb her. She’d had so little rest. Smothering a yawn, he felt her stir, and the dreamy expression she’d worn turned wary. He knew speaking would end their hard-fought truce, yet he couldn’t ignore the question in her eyes. “It’s late.”   All color drained from her face, and she stiffened against his side before sitting up awkwardly and looking around. She raised a shaking hand to her mouth, as if to stop the words rushing from her. “What time is it?” You’ll notice the distinct lack of dialogue tags. That’s my last important point. Dialogue tags are there to give the reader clarity—if it is perfectly clear who’s speaking, a tag...

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Ask the Divas: Why Do I Need To Hire An Editor?

Posted by on Jul 12, 2013 in Ask the Divas | 0 comments

Ask the Divas: Why Do I Need To Hire An Editor?

This week, the question for Ask the Divas is, Why do I need to hire an editor? Well, regardless of what you’ve heard, grammar still matters. Readers still care and so do publishers. Grammatical errors, weak characterizations, and plot holes are distractions that frustrate readers. Countless manuscripts are rejected each year because of these easy to correct issues. The condition of your manuscript will decide whether your story gets read or dropped in the slush pile. It’s the job of an acquisitions editor to find manuscripts that are worthy of being published and are ready to be edited for publication. Tip: Yes, there’s a difference between regular editing and editing for publication. Let your editor know if you’re self-publishing or if you intend to send your manuscript to agents and acquisitions departments. If she is aware of your intentions, she can recommend the type of editing to fit your needs. Manuscripts that require development or heavy content editing cost publishers money. And that perceived cost could make a difference between a contract offer or a rejection. The potential a publisher sees in your story will only take you so far. Never forget that just like you, publishers are in this industry to make money. The greater the risk and cost for the publisher upfront, the more likely your story is to be rejected. Unfortunately, the burden of that primary editing expense falls to authors. If you have invested your time and money, it will show. And a publisher will be more willing to take a risk on you if they see your dedication to excellence. After all, it’s not just your reputation on the line but theirs as well. Critique partners, betas, and pre-readers can take you only so far. Yes, these people have an important part to play in the drafting process, but they are not a replacement for a professional editor. An editor’s sole responsibility is to the manuscript. They are an impartial adviser who will cut the fat and recommend needed revisions. Nothing can beat the advice of a professional editor. Take advantage of their knowledge of grammar, their ability to shape content, and their experience in the industry.  If you hire an editor, it is money well spent. Not only will working with an editor improve your manuscript, but it will improve your writing overall. If you are self-publishing, recognize your readers’ investment of time and money and give them the best product possible. If you go the traditional route, give yourself the advantage of querying with an excellently edited manuscript. It will make you stand out in a sea of lackluster content. If you are interested in Write Divas’ editing services, check out our Author Services page for more information. Do you have a question for the Divas? Fill out the form below and perhaps we will answer your question next week. Your Name (required) Your Email (required) Ask the...

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Ask the Divas: Do Book Covers Matter?

Posted by on Jul 5, 2013 in Ask the Divas | 1 comment

Ask the Divas: Do Book Covers Matter?

While Fridays are reserved for Ask the Diva, this time will be a little different. The discussion today is book covers and how they help or hinder the sales of books. We have all seen the lovely covers on Amazon, Goodreads, blog tours, and from the authors themselves. Some covers are outstanding, the artwork is beautiful, the font is exceptional, the color scheme works, and a quote from a respected author sweetens the deal. I would say six times out of ten, the book is written well and the story is captivating. The author or publisher’s investment in a book cover designer is money well spent. The cover should draw the reader in, hook them with the pretty, and keep them interested. It should also convey the genre of the book, which in itself is a hard thing to accomplish. So in short, book covers are the first stage in book sales, in my opinion. Nothing stops me dead in my tracks like a beautifully crafted cover. I have seen a lot of books in this industry take off just from the cover alone. Hey, I’ve been guilty of falling in love with a cover before reading the summary. That is what the cover is meant to do. Kudos to the creative book designers on that front. On the other hand, excellent books covers don’t mean excellent books. I’ve been burned by covers I went goo-goo eyed over, but in the end, I’ve couldn’t get past the first half of the book. Without naming names, there are some NY Times Bestsellers with stellar covers but horrible stories. I feel almost gypped or misled. I spent money on a pretty book I couldn’t finish. Granted, I have learned my lesson since then and now read an appropriate amount of reviews before purchasing books. Who has the cash to plunk down on pretty books and not read them because the story is flawed.  It’s’s like playing Russian roulette. On the other spectrum, what happens to those books that have lackluster covers? There are some real gems out there that don’t receive the attention they deserve because readers can’t get past the covers. Many of these books simply don’t sell, others are dragged through the coals by reviewers who haven’t even bothered to read the book, or some have moderate sales but never really reach their full potential. Sometimes readers can’t get past the cover design to discover the ridiculously good book behind the first impression. I have found many of these books are by self-published first-time authors. Inexperience, money, and poor direction may be the cause. Some authors do have success, though, don’t get me wrong. A good example of this would be Cora Carmack’s book, Losing It. This book was first self-published with this cover: I wasn’t a fan of this cover. In fact, in my review I said I hated it. Loved the story, but hated the cover. It took me a long time before I even picked up the book. The layout is good, but the image of the boy (and yes, I said boy) is all wrong. He looks too pubescent for the character of Garrick, who is Bliss’s college professor. Plus the backgrounds of both images don’t match. Because her book garnered a lot of attention, Ms. Carmack was picked up by a publisher that made a few changes to the cover: Turns out her publisher didn’t like the cover either. They aged the male image, cut out his face, and matched the backgrounds so it seems like the two images are one in the same. Perfect! If I would have seen this cover, I wouldn’t have hesitated so long to read the book. This new cover is more appealing to the eye and easier to market because the male image is a better fit to the story. I have seen this happen with many books signed by bigger publishers. What is the purpose of pointing all this out? Cover research can play a key role in the success of your book. Here are some good...

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