Journey to a Polished Manuscript: July – (RewriteItClub)

This year, RewriteItClub are doing a monthly series on writing a book, and I’m joining in with my adult political fantasy. To find out more about RewriteItClub’s series click here, or to see this month’s post, click here.

This month is all about dialogue!

There’s a lot of dialogue in my book, given that much of the book is focused around the political scheming and bargaining of the characters. Can’t do that without talking! I did a quick search for speech marks in my book and there are over 8000, which implies about 4000 lines of dialogue!

I spend quite a bit of time picking over dialogue when writing and editing. I like layering dialogue with several meanings, and political allusions to each character’s goals. It usually takes two or three passes to get it right.

For me, the easiest way to do this is to have a list of everyone involved in the scene and exactly what they want – not only what they want themselves, but also what they want from the others in the scene. How much are they willing to let on? Who are they going to target? What vulnerabilities do they know others have?

But what about dialogue tags? Some people say just to use said, others to use a variety of other dialogue tags like “snapped” or “whispered”, while others say not to use dialogue tags and just use action beats.

I tend to use a mix of all three – depending on what feels natural at that point. I think it’s a matter of moderation and what the scene needs, rather than prescribing religiously to one of the three methods. There are times when “snapped” explains how the character is speaking better than said, and other times when showing what they’re doing helps set the scene better.

When it comes to dialogue tags, I don’t think the writing world will ever agree on what’s “best” when it comes to this, as it’s a matter of person style. Some books will lend themselves to certain styles, so why proscribe only one way?


How do you approach writing dialogue?


Read the other posts in this series:

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