The More You Know…A Writerly PSA

When I first started publishing, I felt lost and often confused.

And no, that is not my normal state. How mean of you to think so…

When I started thinking about proposing workshops to conferences or teaching writing at Rec Centers, I felt like I didn’t know enough to teach anyone anything.

I was right, in that, my first workshop was a disaster. *I threw up in a trashcan*

But I lived through it.

And now, I can stand or really sit at my desk, and tell you this--You have more knowledge about writing, marketing, and publishing than you think. Even if you’ve never published a single word or even finished a novel.

Because you are here, reading my words, among the hundreds of other books, blogs, and other assorted writer-related texts you’ve poured over learning about craft, learning about publishing (indie and traditional), and about marketing.

It’s truly amazing the depth of knowledge our brains can hold and the ability we have to share that knowledge with others. Whether it’s at a workshop or at your local coffee shop with a group of writer friends.

Since I have zero friends, I tend to chat up whoever is around, often resulting in restraining orders, but that’s another post for another day.

Which brings me to my real point. Share your knowledge.

Whether they want it or not!

Okay, the last part, not so much.

That being said, impart your knowledge on me. What have you recently learned that you’re willing to share with the rest of us?

 

 

Conference Update!

Can you believe conference is only two months away? I don't know about you but I am STOKED!

Things at Conference HQ have not stopped moving, and there is still more planning to come!

Here is an update on various pending items for attendees and those still thinking about attending. If you've already registered and wish to add a session to your registration, the instructions for doing so are at the bottom of this blog.

As always, if you have questions about any of these things, or run into trouble trying to add a session to your registration, just let me know at: conference@rmfw.org we also have the Conference Facebook page where you can connect with other attendees and ask questions.

Cheers!
Corinne O'Flynn
Conference Chair

Special Master Class Intensive: The Nelson Literary Agency Story Clinic | Register by July 15
Kristin Nelson, Danielle Burby, Angie Hodapp, James Persichetti
Each attendee will submit a 750-1,000-word synopsis for a story idea—one you're working on, stuck on, or unsure how to develop. Include specific questions or frustrations you have about your story idea. Manuscripts do not need to be complete. You’ll read and critique each attendee's synopsis ahead of time—not on its merits as a piece of writing, but on the story idea it presents—and be prepared to discuss with the NLA team what works, what doesn’t, and what it will take for each author to take their stories to the next level. Limit: 12, Register by July 15 - Currently on a waiting list.

Critique Round Tables | Register by JULY 15
The critique round table sessions are among the most popular offerings at RMFW Colorado Gold. Three and a half hours in length, the round tables offer you a chance to receive detailed critique on ten pages of your work and allow you the time to give feedback on the work of the other members in your group. The round tables are a unique opportunity to experience specific critique with other writers as well as an agent or editor. This year, we have 14 sessions to choose from, monitored by an attending agent or editor. Attendees may sign up for one or two round tables. Sessions are offered Friday morning at 8:00 AM and Friday afternoon at 1:00 PM. The tables are open to 8 critique participants and 2 auditors.  Registration closes JULY 15, Pages are due Aug 9.

One-on-One Critiques | Pages Due JULY 20
Registration for these sessions closed July 1. If you signed up for a one-on-one critique with Keynotes Sherry Thomas or Lori Rader-Day, you should have received an email from the conference chair with instructions about submitting your pages. The one-on-one appointments with Keynote Diana Gabaldon are in a blue-pencil cafe format, which means you will bring your pages to be read real time.

Conference Bookstore | Sign up by JULY 15 for Bookstore
If you wish to have your books in the Conference Bookstore (runs Friday through Sunday during conference) you need to sign up by JULY 15th. Read the eligibility details on the link. Bookstore is for all members (even if you won't be there), presenters, vips, and other faculty. The Friday Book Sale is only open to PAL and IPAL members, presenters, vips, and other faculty. (PAL and IPAL are the trad and indie pub groups within RMFW.) As of this blog post, the Friday Signing Event is FULL. Check the conference Facebook page for updates if this changes.

Headshots | One Opening Left!
We had a cancellation which made a single headshot appointment available at conference. Schedule a 10-minute photo shoot with photographer Mark Stevens, RMFW volunteer and owner of a Denver-based communications firm. Mark takes thousands of pictures every year for a variety of clients. We are lucky to have him conduct photo shoots for us again this year. Schedule a casual session during the conference or pre-banquet (in your fancy duds). The price for a photo shoot is $40 and includes photo editing and large-size files for all your publicity needs. Expect delivery within two weeks following conference.

Open the Gates to Imagination and Creativity with Hypnosis
2-Hour Group Session: You’ve heard about hypnosis helping people stop smoking or lose weight. Did you know hypnosis can also help increase productivity, overcome writer’s block, and open up your imagination and creativity? Sign up for this group session to learn about hypnosis, and experience group hypnosis at its best with Easton Harrison, Certified Hypnotherapist. Registration is required. Space is limited.

Master Classes | Registration Open Through September
We have six amazing classes available this year, with some impressive faculty:

  • MFA in Half a Day: Your Guide to Artful Prose | Angie Hodapp
  • Self-Publish Like a Pro | David Gaughran
  • Deep Character Building: Analyze, Traumatize, Accessorize & Eulogize Your Character | Chris Mandeville
  • B.A.M!: Crafting Fiction and Creative Non-Fiction with the Book Architecture Method | Stuart Horwitz
  • Deep Revisions: Making the Good Even Better | Heather Webb
  • How to Write a Series that Sells | Susan Spann

Support Cocoon Journal - Bring a Blank Journal to Conference!
RMFW Special Guest, Stuart Horwitz, is delighted to share: Book Architecture has partnered with Cocoon Journal, a non-profit organization that puts blank books in the hands of high school writers. The idea is that by writing, they can clear their head (and maybe generate the first draft of a future project). Do you have some blank journals lying around that you aren't using?Now, the solution: BRING THEM TO CONFERENCE! Cocoon Journal will be collecting unused, blank journals during Colorado Gold this September. You can also ship blank journals to: Cocoon Journal P.O. Box 740340, Arvada, CO 80006.

 

How to edit your conference registration:

  1. Go to the registration link from RMFW.org/conference as if you're starting from scratch.
  2. When you get to the page that asks for name and email, click "already registered" and follow the prompts.
  3. Click "OK."
  4. When you're at the summary page, click MODIFY on the upper left.
  5. Make your changes.
  6. Click through to the payment screen and it should prompt you to pay only for the added item.

 

 

Something Extra

I recently read a women’s fiction novel by an author I’ve enjoyed before, Lisa Jewell. It had the usual things she does well: interesting characters, complex relationships, an appealing and well-developed setting. But it had something else, a suspense plot. This “something extra” made it an even more compelling book. The book worked as women’s fiction already. The suspense plot took it to another level.

I’ve noticed this kind of “genre crossbreeding” is happening more and more. It started in romance years ago when authors began adding suspense to create the romantic suspense sub-genre, and paranormal elements to create paranormal romance. Then historical mysteries took off, followed by mysteries with fantasy or sci-fi elements. And what is urban fantasy, other than an action/adventure novel set in a fantasy world?

Even literary fiction has gotten in on the trend, with authors adding strong genre elements to books written in a literary style. An example is one of my favorite mystery authors: Benjamin Black, which is the pseudonym of John Banville, an acclaimed literary writer. There's a mystery at the core of his Quirk series, but the writing is also beautiful and evocative, providing a thrilling and enriched reading experience.

In the very crowded publishing world of today, there are so many well-written genre books that you have to find some way to set your novel apart. Adding elements from another genre is a good way to do this. A friend of mine, Amanda Cabot, writes inspirational romance. In her most recent novel, she added a mystery subplot. From the reviews she’s gotten, readers loved it. The mystery was “something extra” that made the book even more satisfying.

In some ways, the trend can be a disheartening. You’ve reached the place where you’re very good at writing books in your genre. Now you realize you have to up your game and work even harder. But another way to think of it is an exciting opportunity to stretch and expand your skills.

Without my really planning it, there ended up being a mystery subplot in the historical romance I recently finished. In addition to the love story and the other usual plot elements, someone attempts to murder a secondary character. I’m not a plotter, so after I finished the first draft, I had a lot more revision to do than usual. I had to make sure the timeline made sense, the clues were there and the mystery—in addition to everything else—got wrapped up satisfactorily.

The book was more work than any I’ve written in years. But it was also challenging and gratifying. Knowing that I’d enriched the story by adding a mystery made me more hopeful my publisher might be interested in the book, despite the fact that medieval romances aren’t exactly a hot commodity these days.

I don’t know if the mystery subplot is why my publisher offered me a contract. (Yay!) But I don’t think it hurt. What about you? Are there cross-genre elements you could add to your next project?

Critiquing Can Be Hard Work, But…

When critiquing the work of colleagues, whether in a critique group or just between friends, the hardest thing is when it's a topic, genre or style you don't normally enjoy reading in your leisure time. It isn't often spoken about, but it's true. It can sometimes be an interminable slog to try to read and critique a colleague's work when it's not something you would have chosen on your own to read. It's not that they're a bad writer, in fact, they could be the best writer in the world, and it would still be like a trek through a vast, barren, hard-pack, salt-flat desert.

Actually, I take that back a little - I enjoy reading the writing of a really talented writer whatever the topic. But let's face it, most of the critiquing we do is for fellow travelers on the journey to becoming great writers, who, like us or like we once were, may not quite be there yet.

So how do we get through the torture of reading for critique something that, to our tastes, is either bitter or bland? I have five suggestions below. These are the same tactics many of us used when studying in school, reading chapters of a dry technical manual or textbook. Maybe they won't make it easier, but they should help us stay motivated to get through it.

  • Sooner begun, sooner done. It's as simple as that - the sooner we just knuckle under and get through it the sooner we will be finished and on to something we do enjoy. Don't watch the clock, stop glancing at your watch and just do it.
  • Set goals for yourself. If you're doing a full-manuscript critique, set goals of, say, one chapter, then take a break and do something you enjoy. BUT be sure to set a time limit on that break, and stick to your schedule. A half hour of TV, then back to the next chapter. Eat lunch, then back for the next chapter, etc.
  • Imagine someone who enjoys the topic or genre. What might they be thinking as they read this piece? How might they feel, what might strike them as exciting or interesting about the work?
  • Play archaeologist. This a text you found in a deep dark tomb somewhere, and inside it you just know is a single nugget of truth that could cure athlete's foot (or whatever) and if you read it you might be the one to find it.
  • Pretend you are an Audiobooks performer. Read the text out loud like a narrator, adding tone, accent, and timber to each voice, making the dramatic moments breathless and the moments of discovery triumphant.

Can you think of other ways to make the slog more palatable? I'd love to read your ideas in the comments below.

How Do Online Classes Work?

The answer to this question always makes me smile because I want the first answer to be, “Easily!  Seamlessly.”  Except, if you’re nervous about a new technology, there may be nothing easy about an online class.  At least, at first.

Online classes are a way of taking a class at the times of day or days of the week that you most prefer in the comfort of your own home or favorite coffee shop during the specified duration of the class.  In general, you can expect the following:

  • Classes are offered for a specified period and are generally two to four weeks in length.
  • The level of structure within a class varies widely based on the preferences of the instructor.
    • Some instructors follow a defined schedule and hope to see feedback within a specified few days.
    • Some instructors like the freedom students have with self-paced study.
  • There are generally two to four “lectures” per week (text or video or a combination).
  • Participants can log into the class whenever is most convenient for them.
  • Participants have the opportunity to ask questions and post comments via a discussion board that works a lot like Facebook.
  • Some instructors offer one or more “chat” sessions during the class, which are schedule for a specified time that allows participants to engaged with others in real time.
  • Participants have access to the classroom materials for a couple of weeks after the class ends.

RMFW University runs on a classroom platform called Moodle (used by colleges and universities), which gives users a richer experience than available with a Yahoo group.  To help people interested in classes at RMFW University feel more comfortable with the tools, there is a Quick Start that is a self-paced tutorial structured to emulate how most classes are organized.  If you would like to see what the RMFW University classrooms are like before enrolling in a class, send an inquiry to moodleadmin@rmfw.org requesting access to the Quick Start.  The tools are so simple to use, this tutorial should take you no more than an hour to figure out, even if you regard yourself as technically challenged.

A list of upcoming classes is posted on the RMFW website under the tab for Education and Events.  If you have ideas for classes that you’d like to take, please let us know.  Or, if you’re a person with a skill that you’d like to teach others, let us know that, too!  We are actively expanding the catalog of offerings.

What could be easier?  The classes are reasonably priced, and you can attend wearing your favorite faded PJs and slippers.  We hope to see you there soon!

~*~

Sharon Mignerey (www.sharonmignerey.com) is a long-time member of RMFW who was recognized in 2016 as one of RMFW’s Guiding members.  She is the 2000 WOTY, and she has been published with Silhouette, Zebra, and Steeple Hill.  She has an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction, and she has a passion for sharing the tools and techniques of writing and story-telling with other writers.  She divides her time between the Texas Gulf Coast and a family cabin in Colorado’s mountains.

KINDLE GIVEAWAY Announcement by WOTY/iWOTY Finalists, 2 Days Left

As a group we are doing a kindle/ebooks giveaway. There will be at least one (I'm doing three) book from each WOTY/iWOTY finalist on the kindle. String attached: You sign up for our newsletters.

Here's the contest entry site: https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/4776d9a027/?widget_template=592ee685127b48230e9b5f9e

How the Heck do you come up with your ideas?

Image from writerstoauthors.com

Have you ever been asked that? Bet you have. Bet we all have. The answers to the question are as varied as the ways we DO come up with our ideas.

My book An Unsinkable Love came from an open call from a small publisher. A friend in a critique group was editing for them and she posted the call for a story that included the Titanic in the storyline (it was for the 100th Anniversary of the sinking). I had never considered writing a book about the Titanic - that’s been done, right? But I didn’t have anything else I was really passionate about right then so I thought,  What the hell? Four months later I found myself sitting in my car in a dark parking lot where my beta reader passed over the manuscript to me from her car. I’m lucky we weren’t turned in for a probable drug deal. I submitted it at ten o’clock the next night, beating the deadline by two whole hours (I wouldn’t recommend waiting until the last minute – it’s hard on your blood pressure). I got the contract and that story is history (pun intended).

The point I’m trying to make is that your story idea can come from inside your head (I’m trying frantically to get all those stories out because the racket they’re making in there is unbearable at times!). They can come from something you see. From something, you read in the newspaper. From a TV show that mentions something that catches your interest – basically, anywhere, if you let them.

For me, I immediately write those tidbits down. If I don’t, I forget them and the Great American Novel might have just been lost (eh, maybe). I keep a “potential story” file on my computer – most entries are just a single sentence or two, or a scan of an article cut from the paper or a magazine to remind me what I need to research.

My current series is about Classic Car restoration, so I subscribe to the Barrett-Jackson and Mecum auction sites. They have color photos and details on cars to give me lots of info to work with. When I travel I make notes of interesting things I see, like the absolutely ginormous ammunition depot on the way back from Las Vegas that had more than a hundred huge underground bunkers and other interesting-looking structures. I drive through a cemetery to get to work and often walk there on breaks or lunch; I keep a notebook with me and write down names and dates from stones that have interesting artwork or sayings on them, especially those that are from the 1800’s.

Where do you get your ideas from? Do you keep a list of ones you want to write about someday? What’s the oddest tidbit you’re holding on to?

If you think you have writer’s block, or just need something to work on while you’re waiting to get that six figure contract, pull your list out and WRITE ON!

Say No! Say it “Now!” How the power of now frees you to be your best

 

I’m listening to a fascinating audiobook about the power of the present. There are so many ways of expressing it.

Stay in the now.”

“It’s called the “present” because it’s a gift.”

“Mindfulness.”

Deepak Chopra refers to it as slipping in the gap during meditation.

 In this audiobook, Eckhart Tolle says that living in the now is the “truest path to happiness and enlightenment.” Tolle stresses that mindfulness, and a learned ability to stop the ever-chattering, negative inner voice will free us of the chains of the past created by mistakes and failures in times gone by. Stilling that inner voice will also free us of anxieties and fears when contemplating the future.

Of particular interest to me was Tolle’s observation about creativity. Creativity cannot exist in the past, or in the future. Creativity inhabits only the now. As I recall my most creative times, writing lyrics, poems, short stories and novels, I experience a “melting away” of life’s gnarly details—social complexities, financial responsibilities, life’s frustration—all that slips off my shoulders and evaporates, and I am in … the now.

Looking at a lake, a mountain, a deer, a flower, the ocean’s waves—these are the rejuvenating gifts of vacations, when we successfully escape “the voice” and simply … live.

All one must do is still that voice—the one that we ‘think’ is us but is really a compilation of parental ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ and family/community/global expectations and standards—and we can enjoy simply being, every day of our lives, not just during getaways.

This message is also found in Buddhist and yogi writings, and in Deepak Chopra’s books and videos. Chopra in fact recommends The Power of Now.

Reviews for this book cover the spectrum, from deep appreciation for the book having helped people change their lives, to others who call it regurgitated rubbish and New Age babble.

For your further study, should you wish to do so, check out the reviews on Goodreads.

I was reminded of two important truths from the book.

  1. Unless you have a time machine, nothing happens in the past. Nothing happens in the future. The only place anything really happens is in the present. It makes sense to silence any voice of the past, whether you think it’s your own or some kind of universal/conglomerate voice that seems motivated to make you suffer or limit you based on activities in those time periods. (Excepting criminal acts, of course.)

2. As it pertains to writers, our chiding, deriding inner voice does not belong in our creative “now.” I really like Tolle’s suggestion that we have the power to silence that destructive, crippling voice. I’ve had some good success countering it with yoga and powerful affirmations. I like to think of nurturing my “critique friend inner voice,” the one that’s based on the positive. Rather than, “This scene stinks. What makes you think you’re a writer?” my CFIV offers, “This scene can be more effective if the conflict is ramped up—how can we do that?”

I can envision a writers’ therapy session, where we gather and write a “silencing scene” in which we explore possible dialogues to say, "No!" --to quiet The Voice.

“Time’s up, buddy. Out you go.”

 “Who are you, and what are you doing in my head?”

 “There’s an app for that!” (pushes red ‘eject’ button)

 “Sorry. Wrong number.” (gestures as if hanging up)

 “No membership card? You don’t belong here.”

 “I’d heed you, but then I’d have to kill you.”

Or my favorite –

“Get a life! Oh, that’s right—you don’t have one!”

The Power of Now offers writers insights into how to quiet that negative, often destructive inner voice so we can reach our potential and realize our dreams.

I’m wishing you many peaceful, creative moments!

I Did It My Way (But Why Would Anyone Want To?)

After more than thirty years of writing genre fiction, I will finally be able to answer “yes” to that irksome, miserable question that all would-be novelists get at cocktail parties, “Are you published?” On November 2, 2016, I signed a contract with Five Star (Cengage/Gale) for publication of my historical romance, Love’s Last Stand. Yes, yes, yes, the publication monkey is off my back forever. I am finally a so-called “real” writer. But getting published took so long I thought I’d also answered that other nagging question would-be novelists sometimes get. “If you knew you’d never get published, would you keep on writing?” Lately, my answer has been, “Well, yes, I’ve pretty much done that already.”

I first started writing fiction in 1981, in the most clichéd manner possible. I heard somewhere that Harlequin would give you $1500 for three chapters and an outline. How hard could it be to write romance? Yes, dunderhead, harder than your thick skull. I didn’t get my advance or a contract, so I went to law school. But the writing bug had bitten, and I simply couldn’t abandon that story I’d started. After graduating and working for the Department of Justice for three years, I managed to finish the book, and without ever taking a writing class, reading a book on writing, or attending a critique group. How good could that book be?

Lo and Behold! My classic story of romance took second place (or was it 3rd) in the RMFW contest, way back when we still awarded places. I was a genius! Fortune and fame were close enough to touch. Ask me about my smug smile, please. Alas, it was not to be. The story, which I still love, violated every rule of fiction writing imaginable, especially those of romance writing, and I invented a few new rules to violate along the way. I shudder at the memory. That manuscript will remain forever buried, not in a drawer, but even further out of reach, in the murky depths of Word Perfect 4.0, where no one will ever find it, except perhaps, Robin Owens.

Undeterred, I continued to write. And, more importantly, I found RMFW and my critique group, not to mention my future wife (thanks, RMFW!). I was still not getting published, but it could have been my fear and loathing of rejection, as much as the quality of my writing. I simply didn’t query much. At least not as much as I should have. Not as much as you should, if you’re not already published. I much preferred the writing and, if I wasn’t going to publish, the one thing I could do is win or final in a contest.

And contests I did with a passion. Between 2002 and 2016, I was a contest finalist twenty-seven times. On top of that, I won the RMFW Colorado Gold Contest twice, and got first place in the Crested Butte Writers Friends of the Library Contest (twice), the Southern Louisiana Romance Writers Dixie Kane Contest, the Land of Enchantment Romance Authors contest, the Central Ohio Fiction Writers contest, and the San Antonio Romance Authors Emma Merritt Contest. I was Champion of the Contest World! But I still wasn’t published.

Eventually, I simply read ten pages for Five Star editor Tiffany Schofield at the RMFW conference, and the rest is history. What to make of it? You tell me, please. Was it as simple as not sending out enough query letters? Was everything I wrote “over the top,” as one agent told me? Was it just plain dumb luck? Being in the wrong place at the wrong time all these years? Truly, I don’t know.

Mine may be a cautionary tale, and I can’t recommend my strategy for getting published. What I can recommend is finding a good critique group, continuing to write come hell or high water, and, of course, never, ever giving up. Sorry, there’s nothing new or innovative in my advice.

I may never get published again, but at least now I know it’s possible, even for me. As long as it took, I’m not ready to rest on my laurels. My smug smile has been replaced by one a bit more knowing and patient.

After all, I’m just getting started.

 

When he’s not writing fiction, Steven Moores is an attorney for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In addition to law, he has degrees in journalism and fishery & wildlife biology, and his interests in writing are as varied as his education. He has written contest-winning stories in romance, mystery, young adult, and middle grade genres, and he is currently under contract with Five Star Publishing (Gale/Cengage) for publication of his historical romance, Love’s Last Stand.

Yada Yada Yada: Give Your Characters Distinct Voices

Just like real people, your characters have unique personalities, backgrounds, and worldviews—they should also have unique voices. Newbie authors often miss this lesson, and as a result, all 15 characters in their novel end up sounding exactly like the author. Here’s how I took my writing to the next level by giving my characters their own distinct voices.

There are two layers behind character voice: how they speak, and why they speak that way. Here are a few examples:

How                                                  Why

Big vocabulary                                 Insecure, trying to impress

Big vocabulary                                 Highly educated

Longwinded                                     Used to work as a teacher or lecturer

Longwinded                                     Arrogant

Blunt                                                  Doesn’t care about others’ feelings

Blunt                                                  Comes from a country where directness is valued

Loud voice                                        Lives with a hard-of-hearing relative

Loud voice                                        Attention-seeking

Notice, from the list above, that each how has multiple why possibilities. Also note that some of the whys on this list are personality traits (such as insecurity and arrogance), while others are related to the character’s environment (such as occupation and hometown).

Your job is to first understand your character’s whys, from both personality and environment perspectives. There are many factors to consider: character traits, education, upbringing, location, sense of humor, political and religious views, and overall attitude toward the world. Are they a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty type of person? A leader or a follower? What are they afraid or superstitious of? Do they appreciate sarcasm, puns, or black humor? What kind of local slang or colloquialisms might they be exposed to? What job or hobbies do they have? Are they timid, assertive, or brash? Self-confident or insecure? How old are they, and how emotionally mature?

Next, determine how these whys inform how the character speaks. This means vocabulary, grammar, sentence length and structure, directness and subtext, just to name a few. This also includes verbal tics, similes and metaphors, and references to history, pop culture, etc. For instance, a college professor will likely have a wider vocabulary than a high-school dropout. Someone who studied abroad in France might exclaim “Mon Dieu!” while someone who grew up in Alabama might say “Criminy!” A professional engineer may use words like “delta” and “deviation,” while a hobbyist gardener may make analogies to roots, leaves, and flowers.

Then make a list of each character’s key hows and whys. Your lists might look like this:

Allison                                                                           Xweebob

12-year-old girl from New Jersey                               Middle-aged alien from Neptune

Hates school, but loves athletics and gym               Expensive education, has traveled extensively

Uses lots of slang, sentence fragments                    Speaks more formally, full sentences, big words

Makes references to sports                                        Makes references to home planet

Sarcastic sense of humor                                            Doesn’t understand Earth humor

Once you have a rough list for each of your important characters, do a round of editing just for dialogue. Print out your manuscript and skim through the whole thing, highlighting each character’s dialogue in a different color (you can do this digitally, but I much prefer doing it by hand). Then go back to page one, and read through only one color of dialogue. You’ll notice immediately if that character is repeating himself, saying things that don’t fit his voice, or using a verbal tic too often. Make edits as needed, then go back to page one and start reading through the next color. It’s time-consuming but well worth it.

And remember, crafting distinct voices doesn't mean slathering on the dialect or slang. For instance:

Character A: “Well, hawney, sun’s a-settin’, so yew’d better git on down the road thurr.”

Character B: “Croikey! Is it dusk a’ready, mate? Oi’d better get outta here ‘fore Oi get eaten boi a croc!”

Character C: “Dude, I’ve never seen, like, a real crocodile. That would be, like, super intense, like, you know?”

For one thing, no reader wants to wade through this jungle of phonetics. For another, this is so heavy-handed that the characters come across as stereotypes rather than real people. The art of good character voices is much subtler. Here’s a better example:

Character A: “Gettin’ dark out there. You better get on home.”

Character B: “You’re right, mate. Hope the crocs aren’t out tonight.”

Character C: “I’ve never seen a crocodile—you know, a real one.”

See how these lines give a flavor of the characters behind them, without choking readers with dialect?

As with dialect, verbal tics and pet phrases will add depth to your dialogue, but be careful not to overuse them. If a character says “I dunno” or “Holy crap!” every other paragraph, readers will notice—and not in a good way. Same goes for references, analogies, and metaphors. As with anything, moderation is key.

Hopefully, this gives you a good starting point for your own character voices. Now dive into that story and start talking!