Jen’s Editing Tips – How To Punctuate Dialogue Tags

During the past month, I’ve critiqued over 80 short stories.

…Yeah, I’m a little tired.

But, I’m also excited to share some new editing tips based on common errors, bad habits, and other hiccups I stumbled upon while evaluating those 80-plus stories.Jen's Editing Tips

“So, which tip should I start with?” Jen asked her good friend, Ms. Red Pen.

Ms. Red Pen shrugged. “I don’t know. What was the biggest problem you noticed while critiquing all those stories?”

“Hands down, dialogue punctuation,” Jen said and shuddered at the memory. “I saw commas where there should’ve been periods, and periods where there should’ve been commas. Missing quotation marks. Uppercased words that should’ve been lowercased, and lowercased words that should’ve been uppercased. The list goes on and on.”

“Yikes!” Miss Red Pen exclaimed. “But, well,” she sighed, “it makes sense. Dialogue punctuation can be really tough.”

Jen nodded. “I know. But, once you get it, it’s easy.”

Dialogue Tags

As complicated and intimidating as dialogue punctuation can seem, it’s not. I promise. All you have to do is remember these basic rules of thumb:

If Dialogue Is Spoken

If a character says, asks, yells, whispers, or speaks in any way, then you should use a comma and lowercase your pronoun. Question marks and exclamation points are okay, too. For example:

Hey, I’m talking to you!” Bill said.

I know, I heard you,” Amy responded.

Then why won’t you look at me? Why?” he asked. 

Because I’m afraid if I do, I’ll hurt you,” she hissed. 

If Dialogue Is Followed By An Action

If a character smiles, scowls, walks, sprints, or acts  in any other way, then you should use a period and uppercase your pronoun. Obviously, question marks and exclamation points are okay, too. For example:

Hey, I’m talking to you!” Bill slammed his hand against the dining room table.

I know, I heard you.” Amy glared at the silverware next to her untouched plate of food.

Then why won’t you look at me? Why?” His voice crackled with fury.

Because, I’m afraid if I do, I’ll hurt you.” Her fingers curled around her knife.

If An Ongoing Sentence Is Interrupted By A Dialogue Tag

If you insert a tag within a sentence, then use a comma to pause the dialogue (inside the quotations marks), and then use another comma to resume the dialogue (outside the quotation marks). Also, be sure to lowercase the first word of the connecting sentence (unless it’s a proper noun, of course). For example:

Hey,” Bill slammed his hand down on the dining table, “I’m talking to you.”

I know,” Amy responded, “I heard you.”

Then,” his voice crackled with fury, “why won’t you look at me? Why?”

Because,” her fingers curled around her knife, “I’m afraid if I do, I’ll hurt you.”

If Two Sentences Are Separated By A Dialogue Tag

If you insert a tag between two separate sentences (spoken by the same character, obviously), then use periods instead of commas, and uppercase the first word of the second sentence. For example:

Hey!” Bill slammed his hand down on the dining table. “I’m talking to you.”

I know.” Amy glared at the silverware next to her untouched dinner. I heard you.”

Then why won’t you look at me?” he asked. “Why?”

Because.” She took a deep breath and curled her fingers around her knife. “I’m afraid if I do, I’ll hurt you.”

So, there you go. Those are the basics of dialogue punctuation. Yes, there are others I could go into (ellipses, em dashes, etc.), but to avoid overwhelming you, I’ll save those for a future post. If you are overwhelmed, it’s okay. Really! It took me ages to feel comfortable with dialogue punctuation.

One thing that always helps me simplify matters is to ask myself one question:

“Is my character speaking or acting their words?”

Once that’s determined, it’s easy to figure out which direction to take the dialogue punctuation:

Spoken = Comma, lowercased pronoun

Acted = Period, uppercased pronoun

If you’re still struggling, then I urge you to read. Read, read, read! And while you’re reading, study how authors punctuate their dialogue. That’s how I learned best when I didn’t know how to handle this annoying, but essential aspect of writing.

And, of course, write. Write, write, write. The more you write, the more you’ll grasp its technicalities and nuances.

Don’t forget, my editing website is up and running! If you’re looking for someone to help with your story, check out Jen’s Edits and Critiques.

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From Writing to Book Marketing. This posts for you.

Hi, it’s me again. Ronovan from Ronovan Writes. I have returned. Jen has kindly allowed me back to help out while she is writing her, um, self off. I just cannot bring myself to say writing her booty off. It just seems so unseemly of me. It’s her booty she can do what she wants with it but who am I to talk about it, right? I mean she says it all the time but I just cannot do it.

Now on with the show. You no doubt know I’m here with the freebies I’ve found. That’s a hobby of mine. When you haven’t any money, you find things that don’t cost any. Are they the number one advice books on the market? No, but I learn from them nonetheless.

So here we go with:

Ronovan’s Five Free Finds

Why only Five and not Ten?

Cause I’m only half as good as Jen.

 

First up, well, you better Write Good or Die.

survival tips for the 21st Century Writer

Divided into three sections, basically a somewhat Training section that talks about different things including NaNoWriMo, then moves onto a Craft section and then Business section. It’s advice from professionals all in one place. One thing you hear from so many people about books on writing is that you can find certain tips online. Yeah, that’s true. If you want to spend all that time searching and researching by all means go for it. Me? I prefer to click on a free book and own it for whenever I want to look at it in one place. I save a lot of time for writing that way. You can get it for Kindle here. 224 Customer Reviews with a 4.1 average. 101 of those are Five Stars. Smashwords has it as well here, both PDF and Mobi for Kindle.


 

Next up learn some Emotion Amplifiers.

character expression

This is another one of those “it’s all on the internet to see find” books. These ladies put it all in one place. The book has a list of emotions ranging from addiction to stress. Yes, it’s in alphabetical order. Within each emotion you have a definition, list of physical signs, internal sensations, mental responses, emotion specific things and writer’s tips. This isn’t just a one shot book from two authors. These two specific authors have many books out to help authors. Becca Puglisi especially is one that might ring a bell for some. She co created The Bookshelf Muse a writer’s help site that is now called Writers Helping Writers. Get the book free for Kindle here and Smashwords here.


 

So we’ve done advice for writers, some writing tips and now what?

Social Media Marketing for Publishers

how to sell your book onlineThe book is from 2012 so some of the lists might be a little outdated but overall great advice in how to do a lot of things. One thing I always take away from books are ideas. There are a great many categories/sections in this book and even though say something like the Top Ten Twitter Phone apps section may be outdated it still gives you the idea about looking for that. Get it for Kindle here.


 

Since this wasn’t available at Smashwords or at least I couldn’t find it I decided to add one that was that I found.  The Savvy Book Marketer.

marketing secrets

52 Experts Share Insider Tips for Selling More Books. I mean do I need to say more than that? It’s from 2011 but things still work. Get it Smashwords here. This one isn’t available on Amazon.


 

Now for something a little closer to this year. Make Your Book Work Harder: How To Use Multiple Platforms To Make More Money.

multiple platforms to make moneyThis one is available on Amazon here, and Smashwords here. “Created by two experienced authors, Make Your Book Work Harder walks readers through the maze of book-selling platforms, including some that are well-known and others that may never even be on your radar.” Great reviews so far. 43 Five Star reviews out of 57 Reviewers. I’ll take it. Well, I actually did. It has four sections Get Your Book on Multiple Platforms, How to Promote Your Book Without it Taking Over Your Life or Bankrupting You, What to do Before you say “I’ve Tried Everything”! and Save Time & Improve Your Writing.


 

This final one is only at Amazon here. Sorry but I looked and no Smashwords this time. This one is a little different. Anti-Procrastination for Writers.

create a daily writing habitCreating that daily writing habit is difficult for some. But if you don’t then that book you have in you will never get finished. So check this one out. This is by Akash Karia who does a lot of writing and talking about how to be successful. He’s motivated. He’s not just sitting around doing nothing. Sounds like a good habit guy to me.

If you missed my Last Five Free for Authors, just click here to go there. (You could click there to go there  as well but I just thought would be confusing to say.)

Well there are your five books, six really if you want. Every book has something you can learn from it. Some you learn how to be good from and some you learn how to be bad. Those books are just as valuable. I read things at times and just shake my head in wonder at how anyone bought the book. And where the ideas came from. But I learned from it because I recognized how bad it was and learned not to do that with my own writing.

Thanks Jenna for letting me crash in your Den. Next time could I have longer sleeping bag? This one only came up to my arm pits. Colorado is cold you know?

Ronovan Writes

 

 

 

 

@RonovanWrites

RonovanWrites.WordPress.Com

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5 Things to Know When Pitching to Literary Agents

Welcome to Twitter Treasure Thursday! So, today’s gem is a bit broader, and perhaps many of us have heard some of these tips before, but I wanted to share them anyway. When it comes to literary agents, it’s always good to be aware and knowledgable about the big do’s and don’t’s.

literary-agentIf you’re interested in pursuing a literary agent someday, be sure to check out this post from author, Mila Gray:

5 Things to Know When Pitching to Literary Agents.

1. Make sure you’re pitching to the right agent.

Buy the Writers’ and Artists’ Handbook (in the UK). Identify those agents that rep your genre. Google them and find out what their submission guidelines are.

Check out who their clients are. This will give you an idea of how big a player they are — how much influence they have in the publishing world.

An agent with lots of high profile authors might not have as much time for you as an agent with fewer clients. On the upside a bigger agent will have more influence with publishers and be able to get your MS onto desks quicker.

Don’t go overboard with contacting every agent in the book. I contacted 12. I had 7 responses, two of which were very polite no thank yous, three of which were ‘we really think this has potential but we have no room on our list’, and 2 who wanted to sign me immediately.

I signed with the agent who I felt I had the best rapport with but she also happened to be very established with a great client list.

To read the entire article, click here!

And for more useful advice, follow Mila Gray on Twitter!

Related Articles

What Does a Literary Agent Want to See When They Google You?

New Literary Agent Alert: Soumeya Bendimerad of the Susan Golomb Literary Agency

Advice For Writers From Literary Agents

Photo credit: http://www.jeffcalloway.com/how-to-land-a-literary-agent.html

How to Write the First Draft of a Novel

Welcome to Twitter Treasure Thursday!

So, I know we all have our different methods of madness when it comes to writing. However, I think it’s always a good idea to read and listen to how others approach their creative trade, especially when it comes to first drafts.

Today’s gem addresses this topic. “How to Write the First Draft of a Novel“.  Thanks to  for sharing this link on Twitter, and to YA author, Melissa Gorzelanczyk, for sharing her views and excellent tips.

terrible-rough-drafts-from-famous-literature-1-15345-1361454456-10_big

How do you write that first draft?

First, don’t panic, and if you do, knock that off fast so you can get to work.

For me, writing a novel is done in two parts: planning and writing.

Read the entire article here.

 Related Articles

7 Tips For Finishing The First Draft

Poster: 10 Rules for Writing First Drafts

First Draft!

Query Letter Pet Peeves – Agents Speak

Welcome to Twitter Treasure Thursday! So, I had to do a little more digging than I usually do for today’s gem, but the hard search was worth it. I discovered an awesome link on Chuck Sambuchino’s Twitter feed: Query Letter Pet Peeves – Agents Speak. I don’t know about you, but I’m always, always, always looking for helpful tips and tricks for my query letters. And this article definitely has some great ones!

petpeeves-340x250

When submitting your all-important query to agents or editors, it’s not just a question of what to write in the letter—it’s also a question of what not to write.

I asked 11 literary agents about their personal query letter pet peeves and compiled them below. Check out the list to learn all about what details to avoid in a query that could sink your submission—such as vague wording, too much personal information, grammatical mistakes, and much more…

Read the rest of the article here!

Related Articles

Advice For Writers From Literary Agents

5 Steps for Surviving a Revise and Resubmit

Creating Kick-Ass Characters

Confession: I found today’s Twitter Treasure on Tuesday, but you know what? This diamond in the rough was just too bright and glittery to tuck away, especially with NaNo starting TOMORROW! So, if you’re having problems with developing your characters, or just want some last minute tips, check out this post on Chuck Wendig’s blog:

THE ZERO-F****** QUICK-CREATE GUIDE TO KICK-ASS CHARACTERS (AND ALL THE CRAZY PLOT STUFF THAT SURROUNDS ‘EM)

Characters are not a fast soup — they’re a long-bubbling broth developing flavors the longer you think about them and, more importantly, the more you write about them. (Which one assumes is the point of the inane questions asked by many character exercises, which would be a noble effort if those questions were not so frequently concerned with details and decisions that will never have anything to do with your character, your story, or your world.)

PS_0065_HERE_ASS

Happy Halloween everyone! Stay safe, have fun and make sure to eat lots and lots of chocolate!

How To Critique Other Writers

 

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Carly Watters, Literary Agent Blog

researchPart of being in the writing community is critiquing, editing and beta reading other writers’ work. It can bring so much to your own writing by helping you be clear about craft issues. And it can be a wonderful circle of support. However, it’s one thing to read someone’s work, but it’s another to provide editorial notes.

Here are my 4 tips for critiquing other writers:

1. Build them up and not down. Even if there are major structural or character issues, part of you job as a critique partner is showing them the good in their work, as well as what needs improvement. All writers are unsure of themselves in that moment when they send things off for another person/friend/colleague to review it. They want you to enjoy it so make sure you tell them the good, too. By highlighting what is good and what’s working for readers you’re going…

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