Here’s some of the best advice I’ve read on the subject of writing dialogue. It’s reprinted with permission from David Farland. You can find out more about David and sign up for his free Daily Kick emails at DavidFarland.com. The retweet button doesn’t seem to be working, so you can also retweet from here.

Below David’s Daily Kick, you’ll find a link to an excellent article on “Dialogue Tags vs. Action Leads/Inserts”by freelance editor Lane Diamond.

David Farland’s Daily Kick in the Pants – Don’t be “On the Nose.”

David Farland

David Farland

The topic for today’s kick comes from a question by Brandon Lindsay, and it’s going to take a moment to get to the point.

In screenwriting, one bit of advice that you’ll often hear is “Don’t be too ‘On the Nose.’” It means, don’t have characters giving speeches, telling you what’s going on inside them, playing down to the audience. Imagine that you have a character who is angry, and we get the following snatches of dialog:

Angela: “What are you so mad about?”

Derek: “You! Why did you have to wear that red dress? You look like a slut, and at my company party!”

Can you hear how hokey, how contrived, that dialog sounds?

There are a number of ways to avoid being ‘On the Nose.’ For example, maybe Derek doesn’t quite know what he’s angry about, or maybe he doesn’t dare say it. Or maybe he’s torn, because Angela looks so hot, and Derek noticed how his boss was eying her. Or maybe he’s even worried that the problem goes deeper. Maybe he’s not sure about Angela. Is she flirting? Does she really feel committed to him?

So you re-cast the dialog, you circle around the truth, skirt the deeper issues. You let the audience wonder what is going on, let the actors perhaps interpret the performance, insert their own nuances. You might reconsider the argument:

Angela: “What are you so . . . furious about?”
Derek: Pushes her away, turns and starts to walk. She follows. “Nothing.”
Angela: “This isn’t nothing. Tell me, please?”
Derek: “Really, I’m not mad.”
Angela: “Liar.”
Derek: Sighs. “It’s not you. It’s . . . did you see my boss, undressing you with his eyes?”
Angela: “He’s a drunken slob.”
Derek: “A rich drunken slob, and other women throw themselves at him.”
Angela: “I’d rather throw myself at you.” Derek hurries his pace, leaves her behind. “Grow up. You’re so immature.”
Derek: Whirls and yells at her: “You looked like a slut! And you acted the part . . . perfectly!”

Now, do you see what I’m doing here? Instead of having a character define himself, instead of having him come to the point, I let him circle the point. I let characters argue about who they are. Derek is defining Angela. She’s trying to define him. Others will be defining each of them separately during the course of the story. In other words, one central conflict in most stories is “Who are you?” It’s not just a question, it’s the center of an argument. A lot of different voices from various characters should come into play, sometimes with wildly different accusations. Who is Derek? Maybe his priest thinks that “He’s that gay guy.” His mother might think he’s too shy to ever “make a catch.” His father worries that he’s an over-educated loser. His girlfriend thinks that he might be ‘the one.’ The local cop might think he’s good for a murder, and the truth is, even Derek isn’t sure who or what he is. The story grows as he decides which roles to take and steps into them.

So, when you’re creating characters for a screenplay or book, you avoid being on the nose. You as the author know all of the secrets, all of the answers. You just don’t spill them too easily.

_____

Hi, everyone. Moses again. Another article I recommend on writing dialogue comes from freelance editor Lane Diamond. Check out his advice on Dialogue Tags vs. Action Leads/Inserts part 1 and part 2.

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I’m goofy-excited to announce that my debut novel is scheduled for release on August 1st, a few days before my birthday. (EDIT: The book is out!)

The Black God's War (Novel)

BOOK DESCRIPTION

Against the backdrop of epic warfare and the powers of ten mysterious gods, Lucia struggles to understand The Black One.

Her father-king wants war.

Her messianic brother wants peace.

The black god wants his due.

She suffers all the consequences.

King Vieri is losing his war against the lands of Pawelon. Feeling abandoned by his god, he forces his son Caio, the kingdom’s holy savior, to lead his army. Victory ought to come soon.

To counter Caio’s powers, Pawelon’s prince enters the conflict. Rao is a gifted sage, a master of spiritual laws. He joins the rajah to defend their citadel against the invaders. But Rao’s ideals soon clash with his army’s general.

The Black One tortures Lucia nightly with visions promising another ten years of bloodshed. She can no longer tell the difference between the waking world and her nightmares. Lucia knows the black god too well. He entered her bed and dreams when she was ten.

The Black One watches, waiting to see Lucia confront an impossible decision over the fates of two men—and two lands.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Thank you all for witnessing the journey!

_____

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15
Jun

And the Winners Are …

   Posted by: Moses Siregar III   in Giveaways

Now you can watch my riveting process for choosing the winner of the free Kindle, Nook, or $100 gift card (and the charitable donation).

Thanks so much to everyone who participated!!!

The winner of the Kindle or Nook is Ardee-ann and the winner of the charitable part of the contest is Jessica B.

UPDATE: Ardee chose the Kindle 3!

UPDATE 2: Jessica chose Defenders of Wildlife as the charity, so I’ve donated $100 to them.

Look forward to another giveaway later this summer!

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The Black God's War: A Novella Introducing a New Epic Fantasy

Free at Amazon! The Black God's War: A Novella Introducing a New Epic Fantasy

Want to win a free kindle e-reader (or a $100 Amazon or B&N gift certificate) just for tweeting or sharing this blog post on Facebook? Or win $100 for your favorite non-profit charity in the U.S.? The details are below.

I’m feeling blessed. Around midnight on Tuesday night, Amazon made my novella free for the US and the UK. It was downloaded about 3,000 times during the first 24 hours after this change. To put that in perspective, that’s nearly half the total downloads I’ve had over the first 9 months since I released the book (across all e-bookstores). In just 24 hours.

I’m a lucky guy.

To celebrate this and to thank the ebook gods, I’m giving away a free Kindle 3 -or- black-and-white Nook (the winner chooses either the Kindle 3 or the B&W Nook). You’re welcome to enter my drawing for this prize. I’m also going to choose another winner, who will be able to choose a registered non-profit US charity; I’ll donate $100 to the charity of that person’s choice. You can enter multiple times, and here’s how:

Kindle 3

1) Share this blog post on Facebook. You can use the “Share on FB” button at the bottom of this post. As long as your FB account has at least 50 friends or fans, this counts for at least one entry. If your FB page has 500-999 friends or fans, this counts as two entries. If your FB page has more than 1,000 friends or fans, this counts as three entries. You can collect double points for posting this twice, as long as your two FB updates are at least 24 hours apart.

Btw, here’s the link to this blog post, in case you need it:

http://bit.ly/kOUmUO

2) Retweet this blog post using the button in the top right, or RT one of my tweets about the contest. If your Twitter account has 25-499 followers, this counts as one entry. If your Twitter account has 500-999 followers, this counts as two entries. If your Twitter account has 1,000+ followers, this counts as three entries. You can collect double points for tweeting this twice, as long as these tweets are at least 24 hours apart.

3) Write a blog post about this giveaway on your own blog. This counts as two entries.

4) Sign up to get email notifications of new blog posts, using the sign up box at the bottom of this post (even though it will give you an error message when you sign up–but if you get that error message you actually signed up correctly). This counts as two entries. If you’ve already signed up for these notifications, then you can state that to get two entries.

5) Digg this blog post using the button at the bottom. This counts as one entry.

6) Share this blog post using Reddit. This counts as one entry.

7) Share this blog post with StumbleUpon. This counts as one entry.

Nook

Many folks tweeted about my free novella earlier on the 11th, before this blog post was written. Each of those kind people will also get a free entry, and these people are welcome to enter again using the methods above (they can also tweet twice more to get extra entries).

Enter as many times as you’d like (following the above guidelines). The only other rule is that you have to add a comment to this blog post to let me know how you got your entries. For example, you could add a comment that says:

“I tweeted this twice to my followers (my account has 300 followers), wrote a blog about it, and shared it via Reddit. I think that counts for 7 entries. Laterz, I’m going square dancing.”

If you don’t add a comment to claim your entries, your entries won’t count in the drawing. I’ll draw for the two winners either a few days after Amazon’s free promotion of my ebook ends or on June 15th, whichever comes first.

You’re also welcome to check out my free novella, The Black God’s War from Amazon US or UK (my upcoming debut novel by the same title, The Black God’s War, should be out sometime between June and August). Of course, the novella is free on Amazon for now (I don’t know how long that will last), and if you’d like another version for a different e-reader, the best place to get the most recent version of my novella is at Smashwords. I wouldn’t recommend getting the current version from B&N or iBooks (or Kobo or Sony or Diesel), because the versions they have are older. Amazon and Smashwords are the best places to get the latest version. If you read it, then of course you’re welcome to write (or not write) an honest review at Amazon, B&N, GoodReads, or anywhere else.

Thanks a lot for reading this and for participating (if you’d like to)!

_____

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Earlier today I read a question on a message board for writers, the Writer’s Cafe at Kindleboards.com (one of my favorite online haunts). The name of the thread was “Personal Glory or Commercial Success?” and the first post asks this:

Ideally, we’d like to be able to write books that are both meaningful to us as well as popular in the consumer market.  Realistically though, it’s extremely uncommon to have both.  If you had to choose, would you rather write for personal fulfillment even if it doesn’t attract much in the way of sales or write what will more likely appeal to the masses and give you some amount of decent profit?

Definitely both.

But I’ve come to a soul-searching moment with my book. Mine is at a point now where I think it’s finally in good enough shape to publish it, after working on the book for 21 months. If my top goal was to make money, I’d probably release it now and get to work writing another one so that I could try to have a second release before the holidays.

But I’ve found I literally can’t do that. I’m still poring over the book, making every detail as good as I can possibly make it. I’m trying to root out every weak instance of ‘telling’ in the cases where telling isn’t the best choice, and trying to make every sentence concise and clear. I want every piece of dialogue to ring true, and every character to work and feel real. I want every part of the story to be logical and to function with maximum emotional impact. These are some of the goals, anyway. I’m doing the best I can with them.

By doing all this, instead of releasing my book in May like I’d hoped to, I might not be able to release the novel until June at the earliest and probably August at the latest (I’ll guess July). And I know this might cost me some money because it’s slowing down my current and future release schedule (or maybe make me more money in the long run–it’s hard to say).

But when I’ve looked really deeply at it, I’ve decided that if people are going to spend some money on my book and, more importantly, hours of their lives reading it, I can’t feel good about that unless I know that I’ve given everyone my very best effort. That’s what I want from any author I read, so that’s what I have to give.

I’ve realized that my #1 goal, literally, is to write the very best book that I can, however long that takes, still absolutely with an eye toward commercial success–but regardless of whether my release schedule helps or hurts me in terms of generating an income from writing. I’m living off some of my savings to do this, but in the end, I want to know that I gave everyone the very best I had to give, and I think that’s worth more to me than commercial success. Then again, maybe this is the best way to have longterm commercial success. But I’m okay with or without commercial success as long as I know that I didn’t cut any corners just to make more money. That’s not saying anything about anyone who has that goal–it’s just not my top goal.

I want some people who read my book to feel like it’s one of the best reading experiences they’ve ever had. I want my book to be one that stays with some people for years, one that they want to re-read some day. Even if it’s just a small percentage of people that feel that way, that’s what I value most, the qualitative experience that those readers might have, not the numbers in my bank account.

Writing this book (and then hopefully more, similar books) is literally my top personal (selfish) desire, for my life. After this, my top goals are to be the best dad and husband I can be and eventually to focus more on charitable projects. This is why the writing of the book is more important to me than the money. This is just how I feel. I’m not comparing or contrasting myself to anyone else, and I know I’m very lucky to be in a position that allows me to approach writing this way. Then again, I’ve worked hard at other things so that I could do this some day.

Thanks for asking a great question. Sorry if I gave you more than you bargained for  😉

_____

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Remember back in February when Apple rejected Sony’s ebook app? I haven’t heard much about this recently. And after googling and reading for a few hours, I haven’t found any significant recent news.

Apple is still blocking Sony’s app. Sony has since threatened to pull their music from iTunes (that would include Madonna, Michael Jackson, and Bob Dylan, among others) and Sony appears to be moving toward options that will allow them to do that. Some have speculated that Sony’s app was rejected because they tried to offer their own in-app purchasing method (i.e. one that did not give Apple a cut and may have had other security issues), but I can’t confirm that as a fact, and from all I can find this seems to be false. I found one of the first blogs that first brought up this theory, and I think that blog post misunderstood the other two blogs that it linked to to back up this claim. For example, read the “Update” part of this blog (Sony’s rejected app sounds just like other ebook apps). And Apple’s own statements sound different:

“We are now requiring that if an app offers customers the ability to purchase books outside of the app, that the same option is also available to customers from within the app with in-app purchase.”

Apple isn’t talking about Sony offering their own in-app purchasing method. Apple is talking about wanting Sony to offer a way for people to buy Sony ebooks through the Sony ebook app, which would give Apple a 30% cut of those sales. Also known as $$$.

If this policy were applied to, say, Amazon, this could potentially make it impossible to access your kindle books through Apple apps, if Amazon doesn’t change its apps to allow for in-app purchases. Which, of course, Amazon wouldn’t want to do because that would mean paying Apple 30% on those sales and Apple already pays independent authors 70% in many, if not most, cases. The same could be said for Barnes and Noble/Nook, Kobo, etc., with slightly different royalty figures. But Apple hasn’t forced this issue yet, and they might not ever force the issue on any other company besides Sony.

Unless I’m missing something, Apple is preventing Sony from being able to do something that Apple continues to allow Amazon and B&N (and other companies) to do. That is, sell ebooks through an app for iPads and iPhones by taking customers to a web browser to make those purchases (without also having an in-app purchase option). Apple says it is going to start to enforce its written policy, thereby forcing apps to also offer the option to purchase ebooks through the actual apps, where Apple takes 30% of those transactions. But it hasn’t forced Amazon or Barnes and Noble or Kobo to do that yet.

iConfused.

For now, it looks like Apple has fired only on Sony, leaving Amazon and B&N to wonder if they’re going to be shot at next. But before you worry too much, I think there’s a good chance that Apple won’t fire the same cannons on Amazon and B&N, because that fight would get really ugly and it could also get Apple into some serious antitrust issues.

Let’s hope Apple doesn’t push the issue any further, because could mean more restricted access to ebooks for Apple customers and lower royalties for authors.

By the way, if you know anything else about what’s going on with this issue, please feel free to mention it in the comments. I feel like I have a decent grasp on what’s going on now, but it hasn’t been easy to sort out all the facts from the fiction. Speaking of which, I need to go write some fiction.

_____

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Suvudu recently posted an hour-long video of Terry Brooks speaking at an Oregon library. Suvudu titled their post: “Terry Brooks – Setting as Character,” but a different part of his talk snagged my attention.

Question put to Terry Brooks: What’s your favorite of all the books you’ve written?

Terry BrooksTerry Brooks: What’s my favorite book?

The one I’m working on right now. Which is going to be the best book I’ve ever done. Which is what I tell myself with every book I write. The contract I have with readers is very simple. I will always give you my best effort. And my best effort will always be geared toward saying that this book will be at least as good as the last book I wrote, if not better. You may not see it that way when I get done, but that’s the goal.

Because I’ve read too many writers, and I’m sure you can speak to this too, who write four or five really good books and then suddenly they take a vacation. And you think, what’s this? I just spend $25 on this book that looks like some kind of retread or half an effort. It’s irritating.

Or, as some of my favorite writers do, they write 300 really good pages and then they write a really bad ending. Which is unforgivable–unforgivable! That’s my contract with you, though. I will never do that, and if I do you should call me on it. I don’t want to have to go into a room full of readers at any point in my life and defend myself because I didn’t put forth my best effort and I know it. I want to be able to say, “At the time I wrote that book, this is the best I could do, and I think it’s a pretty good book and this is why I think it’s a pretty good book.”

Shawn Speakman filmed the video at Terry Brooks’ request. Three cheers for Shawn and Terry!
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Patrick Rothfuss Podcast InterviewI’ve somehow managed to interview three #1 NYT bestsellers over the last few months for the Adventures In Sci Fi Publishing podcast (where I’m also a co-host): Brandon Sanderson, Sherrilyn Kenyon, and, now, Patrick Rothfuss.

Pat talked to me and fellow AISFP guy Dan/D.T. Conklin for about 90 minutes last week. Though it hurt to edit it down, I got the conversation down to a 65-minute audio interview.

Researching Pat’s success and talking to him left a righteous impression on me.

  1. For a #1 NYT bestseller, Pat’s a remarkably open and authentic guy. From all I’ve seen, there isn’t any question he won’t answer honestly. As someone who’s interviewed a lot of successful authors over the last year, I found that to be so refreshing.
  2. He’s a generous soul. Whether it’s raising around $600,000 for Heifer International in three years (with a lot of that money coming out of his own pocket), slaving away on his well-loved story for geeks everywhere, or putting in a lot of work on his hilarious blog, he seems to be all about making other people happier.
  3. He has incredibly high standards around writing and storytelling. Talking to him inspired me to be a better writer. Period. He talked about making every piece of your story exceptional, and doing all it takes to make your world believable in the context of the magic or the future that you imagine.

The Wise Man's Fear, by Patrick RothfussIn our interview, Pat tells us which scifi or fantasy author he’d spend eternity with on a desert island, who’d win if he were to wrestle Brandon Sanderson, and why he’s tired of questions about his mighty beard. He also discusses the somewhat subversive nature of his work, and tells us a bit about what we can expect from the conclusion of book 3. We even talked a little bit about Dragon Age 2, his love for John Scalzi, and the current state of publishing.

Here’s the full podcast interview with Patrick Rothfuss.

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18
Mar

Welcome to the Slush Pile, Suvudu!

   Posted by: Moses Siregar III   in Humor, Sci-Fi/Fantasy News, Weird

Suvudu is hosting a contest that will award an editorial review of a science fiction, fantasy, horror, or paranormal romance novel to the winning submission. Here’s my favorite comment on their blog post announcing the contest. It’s from “Taylor:”

I thought I’d share a funny story. I made a submission earlier, but I was hammered ass drunk. I forgot I even entered the contest. I have no idea if the file sent was the right one either. It wasn’t until I checked my email that I realized that I had entered. I was preoccupied with, well, beer, one of the greatest substances known to man.

Well, hopefully I sent the correct file. Good Luck to everybody else in the running. I’m sure that it would be a big break for anyone involved. Fuck Publish America. Roll Tide!

Kangaroo,

T

Awwwwwww, yeah. Welcome to the slush pile, baby.

And hey, Taylor, if you’re out there and this was a joke … keep ’em coming, bro!

_____

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If you want to succeed, hang out with unsuccessful people. Er, am I remembering that right?

If you want to get somewhere, don’t ask for directions. Wait, that’s not how it goes.

If you want to master something, don’t learn from the mistakes of the masters. Hm. That just sounds wrong.

Because I don’t subscribe to the above philosophies, I’ve attended two of the Superstars Writing Seminars. I went there to hang out with some bestselling science fiction and fantasy authors to soak up their best advice about the business of writing. These events last three full days, and they’re chock full of great information.

I could never do justice to everything there is to learn from these seminars in one blog post, but here’s one thing I learned.

Successful writers don’t just write, they write their ____ off.

Brandon Sanderson writes a few books a year, making time to squeeze Wheel of Time tomes into his schedule. Kevin J. Anderson dictates his stories into a digital recorder while hiking the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. He also rents hotel rooms to get away from everyone (p.s. if my wife is reading this, I love you, Honey!) and write his ____ off. Eric Flint writes in binges that last for weeks and during those times, he is dead to the outside world.

Kevin J. Anderson says something obvious, but powerful: The top professionals in any respected field (medicine, law, you name it) WORK real, disciplined, long hours at their jobs, and then enjoy the fruits of their labor. When you have a ‘real job,’ you keep a schedule and you punch that clock. Serious writers shouldn’t expect to do any less. Kevin recently talked to the Writing Excuses guys about this very thing.

David Farland (Dave Wolverton) is also a Superstars’ presenter. In addition to hanging out with Dave at two Superstars seminars, I also attended his “Writer’s Death Camp” last November. What I’ve learned from Dave is hard to summarize in a flashy bullet point. I’ve learned from him so many fine points on the craft and business of writing, little things that can make all the difference. If you subscribe to his free Daily Kick emails, you’ll see what I mean.

A funny thing happened in one of Dave’s Daily Kick emails last week. Out of the blue, he said some exceedingly kind things about me and my work in his Daily Kick about “The Dangers of Self-Publishing.” Yep, this was a nice surprise. Now the following quote lives at the top of my ebook’s Amazon page:

“Moses is a fine writer and is deserving of success, and I think that it will follow … maybe his project will turn him into the next Amanda Hocking. Personally, I really enjoyed Moses’s work.”
–David Farland, NYT Bestselling author of The Runelords

Though this came as a surprise to me, this quote would’ve never happened had I not made a decision to hang out with some successful authors, to appreciate what they had to share with me (p.s. thanks, Dave), and to just be myself around them.

Here’s another cool thing I lucked into. At the end of the first Superstars seminar, I was hanging around the nearly empty conference room when I saw Brandon Sanderson reading the first few pages of someone’s manuscript. So I walked over to listen to the advice Brandon had for (someone who is now my friend) Joshua Essoe. Brandon asked if I had something he could read.

Uh. Yeah?

So he did. He gave me some great feedback on my first chapter, told me the story was strong enough that he’d continue reading if he was an editor, and then helped me with a technical issue I was struggling with at the time. I can’t tell you how how helpful his comments were.

Then at the second Superstars seminar, I got to sit and have dinner with Brandon and a handful of other seminar attendees. I got to pick his brain about which editors might be a good or a bad fit for me at different publishing houses, and again I learned a lot (thanks again, Brandon).

I also interviewed Brandon, Howard, and Dan from Writing Excuses at the recent conference, as well as Sherrilyn Kenyon (that interview will be up any day now at Adventures In SciFi Publishing), and I got to film a couple episodes of Writing Excuses (thanks, guys) that featured Mary Robinette Kowal and David Farland.

If there’s a takeaway from my ramblings, maybe it’s to spend time with writers you emulate, whether it’s at workshops, seminars, conferences, blogs, or even on Facebook and Twitter. Don’t do it with the mindset of getting anything from them, other than an education. Be yourself, be positive and grateful, and something–hopefully whatever you need most–will definitely rub off on you.

Oh yeah. And if you want to be a writer, write your ____ off.

_____

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