Warren Ellis on Writing Dialogue

When you have a character talking, have two things you know about their lives in your head as you let them talk. Two things that make them what they are. What was their childhood like? What was their first job? Do they spend a lot of time alone? Are they guarded around people? Because dialogue is about moving information around and expressing character. What you know about them affects the way they talk. Take a book you like — or, hell, even one you don’t — and select a passage of dialogue, and see what you can learn about those characters from the way they speak. (And, on top of that, see if the way they speak changes during the course of the book.)

Via Warren Ellis.


The Words that Maketh Novels

It seems like almost no time at all since I last wrote about not completing NaNoWriMo. But here we are again. A year passes like nothing.

I wasn’t strictly following the rules (but they’re only really guidelines, and optional at that) in that I wasn’t starting a new novel this time. I was carrying on the same one that I started last year, and I hadn’t written many more in the interim. I managed just under 15,000 words this year, which is slightly less than last time (and less than a tenth of my erstwhile OU Creative Writing classmate Karl’s crazy figure)

It has, however, given me a new kickstart, and I intend to carry the momentum onwards, but at a more manageable rate. My novel (working title Accidental Upgrade) currently stands at around 36,000 words. I’ve set myself a target of 80,000 by the end of February. That is more like the length of a modern novel, and achievable at a rate of around 475 words a day, according to Scrivener.

That’s much more feasible for me than Nano’s 1667. Though I’m just realising that I said essentially the same thing last year, and it obviously didn’t work. Still, I feel more confident this time. I wrote around 600 words today, and I’ve got Scrivener to help me keep on track.

The Words that Maketh Novels

Tell, and Maybe Show as Well

Prospective — or actual — writers are always given the advice, ‘show, don’t tell.’ It’s considered to be more engaging as a storytelling technique to let your reader know what’s happening by letting them experience it via the experiences of your characters, rather than merely informing them what happens to your characters.

Good enough advice, in general. But there are always counterexamples.

This morning on the way to work I read a story on Tor’s website, which is almost entirely telling; and almost entirely wonderful.

‘[Six Months, Three Days](http://www.tor.com/stories/2011/06/six-months-three-days)’, by Charlie Jane Anders. Highly recommended.

Tell, and Maybe Show as Well


Well, this is my [NaNoFail](http://www.nanowrimo.org/user/658975) report. I managed around 15,000 words. Which isn’t bad in its way, but is not only a lot less than the desired 50,000, it’s also less than last time, when I at least made it to 20,000.

Oh well. The plan now is not to stop, because then I’d most likely never finish it. Instead, I’m going to carry on, with a much reduced target of, say, 500 words per day, and see where that takes me.

**Edited to say:** That’s 15,000, of course, not the meaningless “15,00”.


The Day After Hallowe’en

Well, midnight on the 31st of October is fast rolling round. We’re not long back from a week in the Highlands of Scotland (very wet, but great, thanks). It’ll soon be the 1st of November, which means two things this year.

  1. We’ll be able to buy Mitch Benn’s mighty ‘I’m Proud of the BBC‘ in downloadable single format. So head off and do that now, and help it to chart. I’ll wait.

    Actually, it’s not yet midnight as I type, and I’ve just downloaded it.

  2. NaNoWriMo is about to start. I’m having a go this year. Wish me luck.

    I last tried it in 2004, which is much longer ago than I thought. I sort of had a half-hearted poke at it last year, but soon stopped. I’m hoping that expressing my intention in public like this will help to keep me going.

    We’ll see, of course.

    I see that the approaching start has brought the NaNoWriMo site to its knees. Oh well. Hopefully they’ll get things back together.

The Day After Hallowe’en