April 12, 2016

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Craft Talk with Author Lee Gjertsen Malone

I have a confession to make. I am addicted to craft books.

Not the kind with knitting patterns, beading advice, or recipes for adorable cupcakes that look like space aliens (though I do have those).

I'm talking about books about the craft of writing.

These are just a few of my books
about the craft of writing.
Debut middle grade author Lee Gjertsen Malone is stopping by today to give us a pep talk. Sometimes the best advice for authors and NaNovelists is to stop worrying about how to write and just write. That's the moment when our characters, instead of our self-help books, guide us through a draft.

Let's welcome Lee Gjertsen Malone to Author Amok.

Lee Gjertsen Malone is the author of
debuting on February 23, 2016.
“I’m bored,” Francesca said, for what seemed like the tenth time today.

I was jogging along side the two of them, barely able to match their steps. “What’s going? I don’t understand any of this!” I squeaked out, struggling to keep up.

“This is all moving so fast,” Bartholomew whispered, his hands in her hair. “We just met yesterday.”

Many authors find themselves writing this kind of dialogue all the time in first drafts. But sometimes writers need to stop and listen to what our characters saying.

Not to each other – but to us.

I’m a firm believer that we all have a subconscious writer, a little muse (or nag, depending on your point of view) helping us as we grapple with the many facets of writing a novel – the characters, the plot, the voice. And sometimes that muse tells us things we need to hear through our own invented people. I was reminded of this recently while mentoring in this fall's Pitch Wars contest, and I think it’s worthwhile for many writers to consider.

Because let’s face it. If your character thinks the story is boring....or confusing...or moving too fast...what will your readers think?

Sometimes, it’s true, characters need to express certain emotions like frustration or confusion as part of the plot. This kind of dialogue can allow a more knowledgeable character explain what’s going on, or provide needed character depth. For example, a character who is easily frustrated by simple situations could be very compelling in the right story.

But all too often, these bits and pieces of dialogue are telling us what we don’t want to hear – that the romance is actually moving too fast. That our story has become confusing, or repetitive. Or, because the plot demands it, some of the characters are behaving in a way counter to their own personalities.

So looking at dialogue this way during the revision process can be a good method for finding some of the flaws in your work -- especially if you are the sort of writer who is reluctant to listen to critique partners who might be saying the same things.

I generally think reading dialogue out loud is a great way to see how it works for your story, and looking for these kinds of problems is another way you can improve both your dialogue and your plot. If you find can places where what your characters are saying feels more like a commentary on the story itself, then you have an opportunity to solve those problems and avoid some of the tropes that so often torpedo our work, like sagging middles, insta-romances, and plot points that get buried in blur of action.

So, what are your characters you?

Find out more about Lee's debut
novel on Goodreads.
Lee Gjertsen Malone is the author of the upcoming middle grade  novel THE LAST BOY AT ST. EDITH’S. As a journalist she’s written about everything from wedding planning to the banking crisis to how to build your own homemade camera satellite. Her interests include amateur cheesemaking, traveling, associating with animals, shushing people in movie theaters, kickboxing, and blinking very rapidly for no reason. She lives in Cambridge, Mass. with her husband, daughter, and a rotating cast of pets.


Tabatha said...

I'm off to pre-order The Last Boy at St. Edith's for Elena :-)

Author Amok said...

I've heard such great things about this book. It's out on ARC tour with my debut author's group. Can't wait until it's my turn to read it.

Cynthia Reeg said...

Thanks for the advice, Lee. Dialogue is always tough to pull off successfully, but it can be so powerful when done right. :)

Anonymous said...

Lee, such great advice! I'm looking forward to reading THE LAST BOY at ST. EDITH'S. The dialogue has always been a tricky spot for me. I will use your advice on my current work in progress :)