It’s time to burst your bubble. Sorry! The typical paperback novel is between 80,000 and 100,000 words long. Yes, you completed 50,000 words, and that’s an amazing achievement in 30 days. But 50,000 words does not a novel make. The beauty of NaNoWriMo is that it releases you from worrying about what you’re writing, trying to make it perfect, and instead you just focus on getting words down on the page. And that is a serious accomplishment: 50,000 words in 30 days. NaNoWriMo hopefully taught you that when you’re not seeking perfection, you can get an amazing amount of words out instead of staring at a blank page. So, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you’ve likely got more work ahead on that novel of yours. Here's what you need to know...
Literary agents are the gatekeepers of the publishing world. Their verdict on a five-page submission can make or break an author’s dreams. It’s critical to ensure your submission catches an agent’s eye and doesn’t immediately get passed upon.
Dialogue tags are the words that refer dialogue to a specific character. The two most common examples are “said” and “asked”. - “I’m not going!” said Charlie. They are essential in writing, particularly in scenes that include several characters, because they help the reader follow the conversation. Novice writers, however, have an annoying tendency to use more ﬂowery dialogue tags and pepper them with adverbs. - “I’m not going!” said Charlie angrily. - “I’m not going!” shouted Charlie. - “I’m not going!” roared Charlie furiously.
What is the ProWritingAid Dialogue Tags Check? Find out in this article.
What can prose writers learn about dialogue from the world of screenwriting? Find out in this article!
Dialogue can be about much more than just the words on the page. Good authors use it to build tension and subtly set the tone of each interaction. The words their characters choose say so much more than just their lexical meaning. So how you can use dialogue to create captivating characters and move your story forward? Here are 5 tricks.
ProWritingAid analyzes your writing and presents its findings in 25 different reports. Each user will have their own writing strengths and weaknesses and so different reports will appeal to different people. Remember, all the software can do is highlight potential pitfalls in your writing. It's up to you, the writer, to decide which suggestions work within your specific context, and which ones should be ignored.
Are you a new writer? Discover why planning speeds up your writing time, and check out these steps for planning your novel.
Do you know all the ways to edit your work for better readability and a clearer writing style? ProWritingAid's Writing Style Report checks for a multitude of improvements you can make to strengthen and clarify your writing. Let’s look deeper at this most popular and comprehensive report.
Cursed exclamation points! What purpose do they serve in modern literature? They’re still taught as basic punctuation, but their existence is frowned upon. Last I heard, no more than two should be used in an entire novel. Two? That’s it? Even for thrillers and horror?! This topic outrages me to the point of using them after every sentence, even the questions.
Pacing is a lot like the throttle on a vehicle. There are times when driving that you need to move slowly, like through a city or in a school zone. Then there are times when you need to move a lot faster, like on the freeway. And there are times when you need to just coast along at a moderate speed. The pacing in your novel is a writer’s tool to help you manage the speed and rhythm of your story. Sometimes you want fast action, just as other times, you need to slow things down and let the scene unfold. It’s up to you to know when to use pacing. A lot of your pacing decisions will be based on your genre. If you’re writing an action story, it’s pretty fast-paced with exhilarating moments of danger mixed with adventure juxtaposed with quieter moments when your characters do some heavy thinking. If you’re writing an epic that spans over generations, it might move more slowly.
How you format dialogue is a matter of style rather than a rule. There are a few guidelines, however, that make dialogue easier for your reader to follow. And we want our work to be easy to read. Some novelists like Cormac McCarthy do their own thing with dialogue. For example, McCarthy doesn’t use quotation marks, which is his style of choice. Most of us need to follow our publishing house’s rules, or at least accepted standards. Here are 3 unequivocal standards for starting new paragraphs in dialogue.
Inner dialogue is an excellent way to give your readers a peek inside the heart and mind of your characters. Readers can’t get this depth of character strictly from the actions you include in your story. You should give them inner thoughts to create 3-D characters with which your readers will fall in love. The bad news is that there is no hard and fast rule about formatting inner dialogue. Depending on which author, editor, or publisher you talk to, there are as many ways to handle inner dialogue as there are people writing it.
So you are ready to write your novel. Excellent. Are you prepared? The last thing you want when you sit down to write your first draft is to lose momentum. Have you figured out the key traits of your characters so that you know how they will act (and react) in each scene? Have you thought through the climax of your narrative so that you can lay all the groundwork to get there? Have you researched the setting of your story so you can make it feel authentic? Use this guide before you start writing to work out your narrative arc, plan out your key plot points, flesh out your characters, and begin to build your world. Then, when you begin your writing journey, you will have a map to follow along the way.
Danny Mancini is part of the team at Penguin Random House The Writers’ Academy. They excel at helping aspiring writers to hone their craft and sharpen up their writing technique. Whether you've been writing fiction for a long time or are completely new to the process, there are a number of common writing mistakes that all authors should be wary of. So if you're struggling from a case of writer's block, or wondering what's blocking you on the path to publication, read on below to ensure that you're not making any of these fatal writing errors...