If, as a writer, this is you – because you’ve hit a brick wall and you’re feeling discouraged, or because you’ve had several rejections from agents or publishers – then consider the advice of a friend of mine – DJ Stutley – who’s the author of the very successful “Operation” series of books for young adults.
“My bit of advice to all budding authors is this: don’t even think of contacting an agent or publisher until you have paid a professional to assess your manuscript. There are many Manuscript Assessors out there on the net and these people know about writing. They don’t know you from a bar of soap, so they can be honest yet helpful in their criticism. They can tell you if your writing needs to be tighter, if you use too much description, if there is a plot problem, if your dialogue is wooden, if you have a point-of-view problem etc. And frankly – and this may seem brutal – you don’t have any business wasting Agents and Publisher’s time sending in a manuscript that hasn’t been assessed. It’s pointless asking family and friends to assess your work, because they’re not professionals, and they’ll probably tell you “it’s wonderful” even if it’s not.
I would not be where I am today if I had not paid for an assessment of my written work. I cannot stress this enough. And be wise enough to accept advice. Once you’ve rewritten the MS, find an editor. All the best writers in the world use and listen to their editor. By implementing their suggestions, we learn to become a better writer.
Keep in mind that your reputation is at stake every time you send your work to an agent or publisher for consideration. So if people who know about writing are telling you that your work needs help, listen to them!”
I’d like to add something that my instructor said about the importance of good dialogue at the very start of my course. I’ve never forgotten and turn to it often when writing dialogue.
“Make sure your dialogue fits the time in which your story appears. If your story is set in modern times, you should have an ear for present-day speech patterns because today’s language is less formal than in earlier generations. On the other hand, don’t use modern phrases in period settings. This not only lowers the impact of your dialogue, it is off-putting to the reader and reduces your credibility as a writer.
Dialogue increases reader connection and creates character believability. It gets your characters up and running, walking and talking. It makes them valid. Most importantly, once you’ve made your reader care about your characters, they’ll want to read on and find out what happens to them!
Sophie turned to the table and fumbled in her backpack. Hands closing over the cardboard cylinder, she set it on the table in front of Harry.
“What is it?” He turned the cylinder over and shook it, a look of bafflement on his face.
Bending down beside him, she took a piece of paper from the cylinder and smoothed it flat. “It’s the deeds to my island.”
Dominic seemed even more confused. “Sophie, I don’t understand. What island?”
She took a step back to see his reaction better. “The island I bought from Bran Maddox – off the coast of Cornwall. I’ve had a few tentative house plans drawn up too. Look!” She sorted through some sheets of paper, drawing his attention to one in particular. “I think the second one’s the best, don’t you?”
The above piece of writing has not used the word “said” once; however, it’s clear by the actions and reactions of the characters, which is doing the talking. You don’t need “said” or any of its substitutes to have lively dialogue.”