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Scribe Tips

Sloan’s Scribe Tip #13

Today I want to talk about dialogue tags.  Now it has been toldthat the only dialogue tag needed is he said/she said because the human brain overlooks them.  And while I can agree with that, I don’t just use he said/she said.  To me that is boring and lacks variety.  If it’s boring for me to write then I would think it’s boring for the reader to read.  Now I don’t get all extravagant with the tags, but I do throw in a he replied, or she retorted, or he offered.  I do not think it distracts the reader from the story at all.  Now this is a personal opinion and I’m sure there are many who would disagree.  As long as you use them sparingly, to me it is not a problem.

I will say be careful about the dialogue tags though.  If there are only two people speaking use less.  If there are more than two people, use them to differentiate the speakers.

“I did not say anything of the sort,” Mark snagged his coat from the hook.

The above is not a dialogue tag.  In this instance you should put the action before the dialogue:

Mark snagged his coat from the hook.  “I did not say anything of the sort.”


“I did not say anything of the sort,” Mark replied.

Happy Writing!!!!!!!

Sloan’s Scribe Tip #12

So I recently did a workshop with Michael Hauge.  He is a script consultant, story expert, author, and lecturer who works with writers, filmmakers, marketers, etc.  It was a very interesting workshop and he talked about the one thing that makes any book, script, or movie successful is when you elicit emotion from the audience. 

My tip today is regarding the emotions you want to elicit from the audience.  For the hero and/or heroine you want them to be likeable, redeemable, caring so that you can root for them to succeed and find their happily ever after while battling the aliens, the demons, the French.  Your villain also needs to elicit emotions, so they can be very nasty, very conceited, very in your face.  But beyond all these things they have to be as real as you can make them.  If a character is not relatable then the audience won’t connect and that will leave them unfulfilled in the experience.

My suggestion is to read up on likeable characters.  Pick up your favorite books from your favorite authors and see how they portray the characters you’ve come to love or hate so well.

Happy Writing!!!!

Sloan’s Scribe Tip #11

Words, words, I love words.  Of course, I love words.  I’m an author!  Today’s tip is about choosing words.  Now I’m not a grammar nazi (that would be my daughter), but it makes sense that you need to know grammar to be a writer.  Brush up on your grammar or have some good grammar how to books close by when you edit. 

Another friend—my best friend actually—is the Thesaurus.  If you tend to use the same words over and over, pull out the Thesaurus and look up the word to get some variations.  Take one of the variations and look that word up to find even more options.  You will be amazed at the richness just that one small thing will bring to your writing.

My last thought is about big, shiny words.  You may read some books that are written by historians or authors who have a much fuller education than I, and they may use big, shiny words.  The problem I find with big, shiny words is that not all people know the words nor do they understand what the words mean.  If the reader has to stop reading to look up the word then you’ve lost them.  So choose your words carefully.

Happy Writing!


Sloan’s Scribe Tip #10

The industry we all know and love….NOT!  This month’s tip is about the publishing industry.  If you are a writer and just want to create the stories, characters, plots, villains, etc. for the joy of creating those things, awesome.  If one day you think you can make money with your stories, and decide to get published….that’s even more awesome.  Here’s the rub.  You need to learn about the publishing industry, because baby, it’s a jungle that is growing and changing all the time.
Where there used to be like 30 “Big” publishers, we are now down to 6.  Harlequin is always a beacon in the dark sea of OMG, which way should I go?  Harlequin has expanded its lines, and even started an e-book division called Carina Press.  All the other “Big” publishers have merged, been bought out by foreign companies, etc., but are also expanding and changing their lines to keep up with the changing times, and doing e-book rights in their contracts.  It’s a constant shift in the publishing world and a writer needs to keep up.  I’m not saying it’s easy, but do your best.

Like everything else the industry is cyclical.  One quarter the type of book you’re writing is hot, hot, hot, but by the time you get it written, sent off, heard back from the publisher that they want to pick you up, the cycle has changed again, and your book is left on the back burner for a while.  Part of the problem with “Big” publishers is that it takes so long to get everything completed and to get the book out.  I’m not at all saying don’t try to get into a New York house.  It’s all the rave, but just be prepared.

When e-publishing came onto the scene, I was psyched.  I actually got picked up by two e-publishers and have been grateful for the opportunities to get my work out there to people who might enjoy it.  Again, this is an area where a writer needs to pay attention.  For a long while, e-publishers would come and go.  I’ve seen/heard about several that went bust and the trouble authors had getting their royalties, and rights back to those books.  My advice is research every house you plan to submit your work to.  See how long they’ve been around.  Ask other authors who have books with them about their experiences.  Read books produced by those publishers to see what kind of work is put out, and whether you think you would fit.  Absorb all information you find about the places you’re interested in.

Next is Indie publishing.  In the beginning, (I sound like a narrator for a bible story….lol) Indie publishing was considered vanity publishing and it was only whispered about in corners.  It was taboo and if you even thought about it, the publishing fairy would come down and zap you with her wand.  But today it is different.  A few years ago, Indie publishing suddenly burst onto the scene as an up and comer in the publishing field.  Big name authors who had been New York pubbed for years were even doing it with their backlists and doing well.  This opened up yet another door for authors who could not get picked up by “Big” publishers or e-publishers to actually publish their work.  There are numerous avenues to do just that, Amazon and Smashwords come to mind.  However, again I will warn you to be careful.  If you are a serious writer, you must take measure here.  Please write the best story you can write.  Hire an editor to edit the book, and find a good cover artist to prepare the cover for your book.  If you do these things and present your work in a professional manner, it will be well accepted.  (Except for those small percentage of readers who will not like the work, but everyone has those so don’t get upset about it.)

I am but relating information as I’ve learned/seen them over the years about publishing.  I am in no way dissing or favoring any particular way to publish.  If you can do all three (and some authors do), more power to you.  There is no right or wrong way.  Find what you feel comfortable with and go for it. 
Please be respectful to those you work with and others who have gone through the same turmoil, present your best work, and good luck.

Sloan’s Scribe Tip #8

To Agent or not to Agent!!!!!!! I do not have an agent (not for lack of trying).  But in all the years I’ve been writing professionally, I have to say that I personally have found that I do not need one at this stage.  The industry is rapidly changing since e-books came on the scene (and I was there in the beginning of all that).  Now, that is not to say that agents are not beneficial.  There is still the matter of negotiating contracts with fine print, print rights, audiobook rights, e-book rights, and what the hell does that mean?  Still, finding an agent (IMHO) is just as hard as finding an editor/publisher.  While I try and try to seem more Yoda-like, my wisdom on this matter is nil.  This is personal choice, and I do mean personal.  When looking for an agent you have to find someone who is invested in your work, and in you.  It has to be someone who believes in what you’re writing and who will push you to the next level.  It has to be someone as passionate about your stories as you are, and that person will do everything in their power to make sure you succeed. 

In my world, that person is me.  Again this is just personal preference because there is no one who will be more invested in me, than me.  Now I work for lawyers in my day job, so the contract negotiations will be all official because I can ask one of the lawyers to read over the contract, and I have a couple that do contracts all the time, so that’s a bonafide bene for me.  Still, the contracts will be your big challenge.  You have to know the industry.  Pay attention to what is going on around you in the writing world.  If you don’t belong to a writing organization, join one.  Get on writer’s loops and keep your ear to the ground for the latest news.  Not all of it will be good news, but that’s business.

Good Luck!

Sloan’s Scribe Tip #7

It’s that time again when I’m supposed to come up with an interesting, helpful, life-saving tip for the writer.  Crap, have you ever had brain freeze?  Oh well, here goes…

The synopsis is evil…EVIL.  As a pantser writer myself, I love the journey of the story and the love that grows between the hero and heroine.  I enjoy watching what happens every day when I sit down at my computer to write and the story unfolds on the page.  What I hate is the synopsis.  The synopsis is the three to seven single-spaced pages that tell the complete story from start to finish using only the most important specific points—the goals, motivations, conflicts, black moment, and resolution of everything.  Here’s the catch:  You have to do it in a fun and interesting way that will make the editor/agent understand that the story you’ve written is the best one they’ve ever seen.  I know, I now…scary, right?  Yeah, that’s what I think too.  I’m telling you, the synopsis is EVIL. 

I’ve read article after article, attended workshops, talked to other authors, and I still don’t think I write them very well.  However, I have sold three books so far, so I must be doing something right.  The one thing that I have to say has helped me the most is something a friend told me.  When you write the synopsis just imagine you are sitting there telling me the story.  You see, I am a talker.  Yep, a talker, someone who can talk your ear off about my book until your eyes glaze over and you wish you were anywhere else.  So, when I sit down at my computer to write the synopsis (incidentally, I still can only write the synopsis after I’ve written the complete book), I imagine myself sitting with a friend and telling them about the story. 

So, if you ever run into the problem of shutting down when it comes to writing the synopsis for your fantastic book, just imagine yourself having a friendly discussion with an old friend, sharing a Dr. Pepper and telling them about your book.

Sloan’s Scribe Tip #6

This month’s tip is going to be on reading.  To be a writer, you must first be a reader.  It makes sense, doesn’t it?  Reading introduces you to new amazing stories, gives you ideas, let’s you see what the competition is putting out, and what your challenges are when you start writing your next great novel.  So my tip is to read.  Read everything you can get your hands on.  When I’m writing romantic suspense, I’ll read tons of romantic suspense books.  It helps me stay in that suspense realm.  The same goes true for paranormal, which is my comfort zone.  I read, read, and read some more paranormal romance to open my mind to the bizarre, the fantastic, and the unusual.  Yep, my comfort zone! 

Sloan’s Scribe Tip #5

It’s that time of the month again (not that one, the other one).  Originally we were trying to do a tip a month, but that didn’t work out so well.  So next, we tried doing one every three months, but that’s really not working out either.  We just can’t seem to get our shit together.  At any rate, we decided that it was time to post again because we (the three sassy girls) had taken the summer off to do our family thing and were anxious to jump back into the water with both feet. 

I am staring at the walls trying to come up with something wise and Dumbledore-like to say and I get nothing.  You wouldn’t think that could happen with a talker such as myself, but it does.  Ah hah, I thought of something.  Marketing.  Promoting.  Crap!  I am all about being professional in my business and writing is my business.  I just hate the marketing/promoting part of it.  In a perfect world, I would get up feeling wonderfully rested and have a zillion ideas and scenes crowding my brain.  I’d sit down at the computer and for several, long, uninterrupted hours I would type out page after page with a smile on my face.

Unfortunately, I don’t live in a perfect world and have to deal with what’s thrown at me.  Writing the book (in my humble opinion) is the easy part.  It’s the stuff that comes after that is the problem.  Not only do you have to type the great novel, the killer synopsis, get the guts to send it to someone, but after it’s bought, you have to help promote the thing.  You are faced with blogs, chats, appearances, signings, reviews, reader’s groups, and coming up with more inventive ideas to make you stand out in the proverbial crowd.  At first, I jumped in and went full force doing absolutely everything.  Soon, I found that to be exhausting and a big waste of time. 

So my tip is to wade carefully into the sea of marketing.  Start small with something that feels comfortable and build on that.  Use your website to its full advantage (something I’m still working on) and ask for help from the marketing group through your publisher, your critique partners, and other writers.  You’ll generally find that these groups are extremely helpful and very much willing to help you.

Good luck out there!

Sloan's Scribe Tip #4

Hmm, trying to figure out a good tip for this month is challenging.  I guess I would like to talk about balancing life and writing.  If there is a way to do it, I don’t think I’ve found it.  Obviously, my family is the most important thing, but I need my stories and writing to keep my sanity.  It hasn’t been working that well this year.  My tip is to set aside time to write every day.  Life (i.e. work, family, pets…) will still be there when you get back.  Of course there are times when writing will take a back seat, but if you write on a daily basis, you’ll find you will be able to handle the life situations in a calm and rational manner. 

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Sloan's Scribe Tip #3

Well in the midst of coming up with ideas for a writing tip this time, the Sassy girls had a meeting.  During said meeting, we discussed many things including an article that I wrote and wanted to send out for publication.  We had a huge laugh (to the point of tears for me) while they gave me their talk and suggested edits for the article.  Depressing was the common theme during the talk.  To say that my life has been tumultuous the last few months making my writing disjointed and bizarre (more so than usual) would be an understatement. 

This brings me to the point of my tip.  (There is one, I swear.)  Critique partners are important.  One person, a group of people, it doesn’t matter.  Critique partners help you learn that even when you think you’ve written something well…it isn’t.  Whether you notice or not, life seeps into your writing and not always in a good way.  Take the time to search out a critique partner.  It will not always be the first person; you may go through several before you find the one or ones that click.  It’s worth the time.  Just do it!

Sloan's Scribe Tip #2

Find a writing organization.  There are many out there and you can use the internet or your favorite publishers or fellow authors to find them.  I belong to Romance Writers of America (various chapters) and have for over ten years.  I have belonged to others now and again.  These organizations provide valuable support not only with the writing craft but with the ins and outs of the writing industry.  It’s just my opinion, mind you, but if you’re serious about making a career out of writing you should join a writing organization.

Sloan's Scribe Tip #1

If there is one thing I’ve learned in all my years of writing that I feel would benefit aspiring authors, it is to write.  Don’t edit, don’t redraft, don’t second guess….write.  Get it down on paper.  The rest will come after, but the most important thing is to write.  Write as much as you can, as long as you can.