Friday, May 28, 2010

The Dialogue Is Taking Over!

First off, can I just say that bloggers are the best community of encouragers one could ask for?  Thank you so much for your personal notes empathizing with my aqueduct dam of writer's block, sharing your own stories, and telling me it wouldn't last.

I'm so glad to say it didn't. I woke up yesterday with a million errands to run and no time to write. When I finally hit the swimming pool for my daughter's swim team practice at 5:00, I opened my computer for the first time and in 45 minutes, I managed to write somewhere along the lines of 1500 words. Which is pretty good for me. I focused on one of the scenes I'd started and couldn't move forward on, and finally the dam burst. Today I'm hoping to finish that scene.

I tried to figure out what the problem was with writing. Or the not writing, as the case happened to be. I'd spent Tuesday off in a beautiful place with a great friend taking pictures. There's nothing more cathartic and freeing than that for me. I thought I'd come back refreshed.

And I started another book, which I let go of my interior editor and just let myself read and enjoy, and usually that inspires me to write.

Instead, I felt like someone had put a wall between my brain and my fingers. The story was there, it just couldn't escape.

I think part of my problem was that the dialogue has started taking over the book. Every nice little paragraph of narrative leads to pages of dialogue. This book has the most chatty characters in history. I try to get them to shut up, but they won't. Talk talk talk talk talk.

It's driving me crazy.

And to heap guilt upon guilt, I read a quip from an editor that said nothing kills a good book faster than using dialogue as exposition.

And I went through the book I've been reading and it's nearly all exposition and narrative. Dialogue sprinkled lightly as needed, but mostly narrative.

And I began to panic.

I felt like donning a 16th century wig and riding through Boston on a horse screaming, "The dialogue is taking over! The dialogue is taking over!"

(I don't know where that came from. My 2nd grade lunch box I think, where there were comic strips about 1776 and the British redcoats and cartoon Paul Revere in a wig screaming "The British are coming...")

I digress...

Anyhoo - I was trying so hard to write narrative without dialogue that I couldn't move forward. I was trying to add in reflection and observation when the characters just wanting to keep moving forward.

In short, I was trying to force the story to be something it wasn't ready yet to be.

I've given over to the whims of the characters.... for now. What I've learned is that I'm pretty darn good at revisions, and adding in details and reflections after the scene is done, and it's a lot easier to revise if there's something on the page to begin with.

What about you? Is there something that keeps you from writing? And how do you feel about a lot of dialogue?

(and why does blogger and my email program not recognize dialogue as the correct spelling??)


  1. See that's why I try not to read advice about writing, because invariable I' haven't followed that rule and then I panic. Just joking, but in some ways not really.

    I think it depends and maybe it's because I know now. I'm reading a book right now that does a lot of telling through dialogue, which is annoying to me, but might not be to someone else.

    I used to write a log of dialogue, with this next draft I'm trying to limit it.

    I'm a little stuck right now, so I'm just waiting for that dam to burst so I can finish this thing.

  2. I would write how the story wants to be, at the present -- if it means having a lot of dialogues, then that's great. You can always go back and revise later -- what's important is to get this draft written. :)

    I'm more of a narrative person, rather than dialogue. Dialogues don't come easy for me. So I think it's wonderful that you can write dialogue well!

  3. My best writing comes when I'm traveling... On vacation... Escaping the norm... Getting out of the daily grind of what needs to be done around the house. Guess I need to just stay on vacation....
    1500 words in one sitting that's Fantastic!

  4. I'm glad you got your groove back!

    I just try to write it down, no matter how bad it is. I can always clean it up later!

  5. I wrote 1200 words in two days recently and was very proud of myself. So you just kicked my butt. Now I'm editing those 1200 words to death. Not so great. Anyway, I try to balance action and narrative and dialogue with LOTS AND LOTS OF backstory, adverbs, and the passive voice. Just kidding... Writer's block. I hate it.

  6. I find dialogue is good actually. I like reading it because as the reader you feel like you are taking part in the conversation and it often moves the story along quickly and nicely. That is, so long as it isn't just a history lesson or a lazy way of "telling" the reader stuff you can't otherwise figure out how to get into the story.

    And like you say, you can always fill in the story with other details later. Chunks of my YA first draft started life as dialogue scenes and that's okay, I reckon.

    So good on you for embracing it.

  7. I'm glad to hear you got your groove back! My inner editor that includes others advise on how it should be done, can get me blocked when writing fiction. Non-fiction rules, I find, are more concrete. I believe rules broken are what makes the prose more interesting and creative in fiction.

    I like a lot of dialogue particularly in present tense stories. Gets me, the reader, into the action.

  8. Ha, ha! I know, I hate that when the spell check program doesn't recognize a correct spelling of a word, making me doubt myself!

    I'm so glad you fought your way through your writer's block. I haven't experienced this yet, but it sounds awfully scary. It makes sense to do what you did, though. Just write down something/anything at the point where you're stuck to get yourself past it and moving forward again.

    That's what revising is for! :o)