Monday, January 19, 2015


 Since showing is the best way to reveal things in a novel, Ana dives into cadence.

The cadence with which a character speaks reveals (shows) his or her geographical, educational or social background. So does their choice of words as well as their grammar. 

In Self-Editing for Fiction Writers (one of my favorite self-help craft books), Browne and King recommend reading dialogue aloud—something I’m starting to do when I edit. Reading out loud reveals places where the reader might trip over my wording.

“Passages of narration and description will read better once they have the sense of rhythm and flow you edit in while (or after) reading them aloud.”

I have also found that re-reading the next day is a good idea. Different phrasing or word choices often come into my mind. (This is a virtue that is readily applied to critiquing. Words or phrases that bubble up when critiquing may well be valid, and sometimes an improvement.)

With diligent attention to cadence, I am deleting places where I used skewed dialect spelling (for effect) as well as many dialogue tags. I’m striving for words that, as Browne and King write, “real people would actually speak. Explanations, -ly words, oddball verbs of speech, trick spellings—these can’t really help your dialogue because they don’t really change the dialogue. They take the place of good dialogue rather than help create it.”


  1. I read all my chapters out loud - it's my final phase of editing. I even find I'm reading my Irish character's dialogue in an Irish accent! Not only does it flag up any awkwardness in dialogue, it can also show where the writing of narrative doesn't flow as it should.

  2. I also read out loud, especially the finished book. It's surprising what you pick up on.

  3. I need to read out loud more than I do. It's a great editing tool.

  4. We always do read-aloud critiques in my writers' group. I don't do it as often as a should on my own.

    I find that letting something sit overnight is a good way to come at it with fresh eyes the next day. Sometimes when I leave something, new phrasing will come to me at odd moments as things percolate in my head. I always keep a small notebook next to my bed and in my purse for such occasions.