Tag Archives: Tolkien

Day Twenty-Seven of NaNoWriMo

If you are a follower of this blog on Facebook or Twitter (or both… and if you’re not, why not!?), you are probably aware that I’ve just eaten my weight in roast beef.

You are also probably aware that the Queen of Procrastination (me) has just spent the last afternoon writing blog posts.

So, no, NaNoWriMo has not taken over my Sunday. Instead, food and family has. I should feel like a fail.

And yet, oddly, I don’t care. It might be the immense amount of dinner I’ve ingested. It’s also the discovery that there is no avenging NaNoWriMo angel that descends from the blue and strikes me down with a bolt of righteous lightening just because I’ve not written anything but blog posts and emails for a while. I know, you NaNo-heads, you might be shocked and worry that I really have lost it (and I’d better not be saying this out loud in case the NaNoWriMo Avenging Angel really does strike me down), but it’s true!

So I may as well accept that I’m not going to reach 50,000 words by Wednesday. But hey, I’m kind of okay with that. I’ve made massive in-roads to my novel, and it’s basically all there ready for writing and editing. So it gets written by the New Year instead. I’m also okay with that.

Guess what? I can’t NOT edit! I am way too much of a control freak to be able to Let It Go. So, I can also be thankful for NaNoWriMo proving this point for me. Water for Elephants may have been created in the midst of the madness that is November and National Novel Writing Month, but let’s face it – Tolkien took decades to write his stuff.

I am completely Pro-NaNo. I don’t care what people say that it’s encouraging sloppy writing – it’s encouraging writing, and enthusiasm for writing again, and that’s pretty damn good enough for me. Will I be doing it again? Ask me next October…

This isn’t the last post about NaNoWriMo, my faithful NaNo-readers. No, no, I will keep going with it until the bitter (joyous) end. Who knows – I might have a mad few hours of genius on Tuesday night and reach 100,000 words by midnight of Wednesday. I won’t, but who knows.

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Description vs. Dialogue… the Unending Question

Have you ever tried to write a story? Of course you have. And, if you have, you’ve most certainly come across the frustrating and ceaseless question of description vs. dialogue.

It can either be so right, or so wrong. My rule of thumb is a 50/50 attempt – if you can say it in dialogue, then say it. If you can’t – go for the description. But, as with anything else, I always fall back on my descriptive ramblings. I am a fantastic info-dumper. You know that chapter in Lord of the Rings that has nothing but conversation? Well, think the opposite. I can wax lyrical for hours about rubbish.

I blame my pictorial imagination. It’s because I see everything so clearly that I feel the need to describe it in minute detail so that everyone can see it as I do. Which, of course, is completely the wrong thing to do. Part of the beauty of books (I think) is the interpretation and images you draw from it, not what the author necessarily had in mind, but something that makes it familiar to you.

The problem is just as bad with dialogue – because if you fall into the trap of trying to describe everything by dialogue, you’re going to fall into the “yeah right” territory; you’re going to write dialogue that doesn’t flow and simply isn’t realistic. The “no one says that” pickle.

Show and not tell, right? You should have your reader immerse themselves in your story, to believe it completely and totally the whole time they are reading it. You don’t want to write anything that will pull them out of the text and make them realise they’re just reading a story. It has to be real to them. So you can’t patronise, you have to be natural, you have to be engaging and entertaining and most of all, believable. This is no more so than when you’re writing fantasy, because you’re already dancing that line between total immersion and “yeah right”. So how do authors do it?

My rule of 50/50 usually disappears once I start writing and I just try to write as naturally as I can. If it feels like dialogue, it goes in as dialogue, if it feels like description, it goes in as description. But I still have some clangers that are frankly more comical than anything else – and definitely cringeworthy. And when I’ve just written two and a half pages of description, I quite often go back and do a bit of heartless culling. Because not even Tolkien got away with a whole chapter of one or the other – not completely anyway (as someone who reads Lord of the Rings every Christmas, I now skip that guilty chapter).

As a reader, what do you prefer? And is there one thing that pulls you out of the story more than anything else?

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