Writing dialogue without quotation marks?

QuestionMarkWoman1922

I just finished the novel Benediction by Kent Haruf. This was only the second book that I’ve read from the modern era that did not use quotes to set off dialogue. It wasn’t totally foreign to me but, to be honest, I wasn’t aware that there were a number of authors doing this.

The only other book that I’ve read, written in modern times, that used this quoteless dialogue was Aimee Bender’s The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, which I loved. It was a work of speculative fiction so I assumed that her lack of quotes to delineate dialogue was part of her intention to create a certain atmosphere. I accepted it and really enjoyed the story. I thought the lack of quotes gave it a very internal feeling.

I thought the lack of quotation marks in Benediction was difficult to follow at first but I was soon okay with it.  Again, I thought it gave the novel an internal feeling or perhaps even a timeless feel.  It was as if I were looking at events that happened through frosted glass.

I wondered why someone would choose not to use quote marks to delineate dialogue. I did a quick search online that led me to an article from Lionel Shriver on the Wall Street Journal site where I learned that a number of modern authors, including James Frey, Kent Heruf and Cormac McCarthy, are popularizing the trend.

Shriver contends that “By putting the onus on the reader to determine which lines are spoken and which not, the quoteless fad feeds the widespread conviction that popular fiction is fun while literature is arduous.”

Here’s one of my prime problems with it. I have no problem reading dialect and dialogue without quotation marks. I’m a very fast reader and can adapt. However, I know people who simply cannot read dialect, such as Mark Twain. Their brains simply don’t translate the written word into sound in their head. I believe that writing is about communicating. Anything that gets between the reader and the story inhibits that communication. Now, I know that not every book is for every reader but, as writers, shouldn’t we be trying to communicate in the most clear manner possible?

I also came upon a an interview Cormac McCarthy had done with Oprah some years ago in which he says that the intent is to make the reading easier, not harder. “If you write properly you shouldn’t have to punctuate.”

He does concede that “You really have to be aware that there are no quotation marks to guide people and write in such a way that it is not confusing who is speaking.”

I think that is a rather large challenge and whether writers who write without quotation marks live up to it is another matter altogether.

I took this issue to my writer’s group last night. One of my group contended that a good story will not be brought down by poor grammar or punctuation. Another member said she wouldn’t be able to get past the first few pages. Yet another threw something on the floor in disgust and said that it was sheer laziness on the author’s part.

I think I will personally continue to use quotation marks in my writing, but I won’t reject a book just because the author does not use them.

What do you think? Were you aware of modern authors writing books without quotation marks to set the dialogue apart? Do you enjoy it? Do you do it yourself? I’d love to hear some more perspectives.

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron to Unleash Your Creativity!

Thomas Cole

I’m very excited. On Thursday we had the first meeting of a new group at my library that are devoting themselves to doing the 12 week course in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron with Mark Bryan. I was planning on 12 people but two extra showed up . . . and two more plan to join us yet!

We’re calling it Creativity Unleashed!

There are some people who have done this before, like myself, who are really excited about the possibilities. I did this ten years ago and it helped me get writing every single day, feel more balanced by releasing my anxieties on the page daily and curb that inner censor.

There are also people who have never done it but are creatively inclined and are looking forward to it. Then there are some people who don’t consider themselves creative but they’re willing to give it a chance. I hope it will pleasantly surprise them. I believe we are creating all the time, from a simple list . . .  to a meal . . .  to love letters.

My biggest hope for this workshop is that it will help me work through those last two chapters of Biomalware. Julia says, in the book, that you can’t keep putting down the same complaints in your morning pages without some kind of solutions presenting themselves.

Of course, finding time for three pages of long hand writing every morning can be difficult. She suggests setting your alarm for a half hour early. That sounds good right now.  However, that night, my daughter had a bad night and needed mommy at Midnight, 2 am, 4 am and she got up for the day at 6:55 am. I didn’t get to my morning pages until 3 in the afternoon.  (By then, I had a lot to say.)

The idea, however, is to get your worries and anxieties down on the page in the morning so you can be more productive the rest of the day.  I have no doubt there will be days I manage that and days I don’t. I will take what I can get.

There’s another reason I love doing workshops like this. Teaching someone else something they don’t know makes me feel competent when other areas of my life are making me feel incompetent. It’s very helpful. I sometimes forget I really have something to offer. It’s a good thing to get out of that head space.

I highly recommend this book to anyone out there, and I do mean anyone. You don’t have to be an artist. You could do the workshop on your own or  find some people to do it with you!

Have you ever used The Artist’s Way as a workshop for yourself? Alone or in a group?  How did it help you? Or did it?

Finding Your Best Time To Write

ManageYourDayToDay

 

I’ve been pondering how to find time to write, and my best time to write. I guess we all struggle with that. For me, the demands of being a mom with a full-time job and a long commute make it hard to get any time in, let alone my best time.

For me, part of it is just staying in that creative part of my brain. I frequently refer to this as story brain, keeping the story I’m working uppermost in my brain as I go throughout the day, focused on the story even though I’m doing other things.

Sometimes I worry that doing that makes me less present in my life but I can clearly remembering sitting in my camp chair outside this summer while my daughter played on her swing set and I wrote in my journal, both recording the moment and coming up with a piece of the short story I was writing. So maybe it isn’t staying in story brain but just creative mode. It definitely feels different from normal, going about the routine of the day, brain.

Another part is scheduling. My husband gave me a book for Christmas that he heard about on the Chiot’s Run organic blog, Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind. It’s a collection of essays on the topic, edited by Jocelyn K. Glei. I’ve started reading a bit of it every day. Just the simple admonishment to do the thing that is most important first in your day instead of trying to get all the other little things out of the way first, is so obvious and yet counter to my typical thinking.

I can definitely say that I’m actually a morning person. Oh, not that I want to get up in the morning, but when I do get up early, in the neighborhood of six o’clock, I find myself feeling better and being so much more productive. When my daughter was going to sleep at midnight and getting up at 9 am with her father, I couldn’t do that. I was lucky to get myself to work on time. I love having my husband on first shift because it means I can get to bed earlier and get up at 6 am. I know it won’t last but I’m loving it and plan to make the most of it.

My challenge then is to make time for the morning pages (doing The Artist’s Way with a workshop group) and then write creatively. I can get up and do the morning pages then write in my head on the way to work and just use the voice recorder to catch anything I’ve worked through enough in my head to bother recording. That’s my best plan so far. Otherwise, I’m just going to have to write at night, which is fine but it’s definitely not my best time to write or my most creative. I’ll just have to edit more.

What are your challenges? How do you get your writing in? What’s your best time to write?

Goal Setting 2014 – Part II

melorajohnson:

Okay, I really want to set goals for this year and this blog post will help with that. No problem there. I know what my goals are and I think I know the steps. I will write them down. My biggest problem is getting sidetracked by daily life – full-time job, munchkin and husband etcetera. How do I keep my focus to write every day? How do you do it? I’d love to hear what people think about this.

Originally posted on awritersfountain:

The first part of this article can be found here

motivationAre you ready?

So now you have your goal you need to know how to achieve it, read on.

 

It’s all about the steps…

You will have heard of baby steps – well that’s what we are going to be taking, eventually.

4) LOOK AT THE BIGGER PICTURE

I always think that getting the grand design in mind first helps you see the smaller steps that it takes to build the picture. Never lose sight of the GOAL but you must know how you will get there. Think about the achievements you will make on your way to the final goal.

Write a list of them (in the special Notebook you have already invested in) then consider what steps you will need to take to reach each one of these.

 

5) BABY STEPS

Break down your goal into smaller steps, by…

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Winter Writing Festival Coming Up!

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Just a quick post because tomorrow is Christmas at my in-laws and I have one day to clean, decorate, do my Christmas baking and wrap presents.  I already have the groceries home and put away, and bread staling to make the Pumpkin Praline Bread Pudding but I wanted to blog real quick about a great winter writing festival coming up. (Thankfully, the store had the Hodgson Mills Gingerbread mix prominently displayed so gingerbread cookie making with my munchkin just got easier.)

Anyway, I just read last night about the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood’s Winter Writing Festival. The great thing about this writing challenge is that you create your own goals. I’m thinking to simply make writing my fiction daily a priority by putting a time requirement, say at least an hour a day. I was thinking a half hour but that doesn’t seem sufficient. Can I manage an hour? I’ll give it some thought.

I have a novel and several short stories that I want to finish but who knows how long that will take? I’d rather say I’ll work on them daily and see how far that gets me.

The festival starts on January 10th and goes through the end of February. There’s even drawings for prizes! Check it out using the link above. Happy Writing!

Editing for Someone Else – Ideas or Just Mechanics?

It’s snowing beautifully here in Upstate New York and I’m looking forward to a cozy evening at home. Love to sit somewhere near a wood stove or fireplace with a hot drink and write in weather like this. Unfortunately, I’m at work right now.

This past week little writing has gone on, I’ve been editing for someone else.

Now, I have a wonderful and varied writer’s group. I’ve always enjoyed reading everything people bring in.  We’re all at different points on learning about the craft and most of us write very different things – children’s stories, young adult, chick lit, mysteries, and poetry. We’re a widespread group of people in age and backgrounds. We’re all quite reasonable and good discussions have been had some evenings.

What I am editing right now is something else entirely. My husband has a co-worker who wrote “a book” that he sent out to one publisher and it was rejected. He told my husband that it was short and asked if I would be willing to edit it for fifty dollars. It’s the end of the year and Christmas so I said, “of course!”

The problem I’m having is that it’s basically a religious tract aimed at no longer participating or minimally participating members of his own religion, his position being that if you are not a devout member of this particular Christian group, you are going to hell. His goal is to bring people back to his religion.

I was once a member of his particular brand of Christianity and left it for my own reasons so I have some fairly good knowledge of what he’s writing about. I could debate with him the accuracy of many points he makes, but I figure I’m not here to edit his ideas.

My plan is to simply stick to the punctuation, spelling and grammar plus warn on copyright, including the use of summarized or paraphrased works. Would I have taken this on if I had known the content? Not sure.

I’ve already talked to him about the fact that different versions of the bible are copyrighted. I found a pretty good primer on what you can and can’t use here, if anyone is interested. Yes, it’s a bible but people tend to think of it as THE BIBLE. Remember, it’s a compilation of books.  It has been added to and removed from over time and translated from the original, and not so original, many times over. Many of those versions are under copyright.

Another problem I’m running into is that I suspect a lot of his information is summarized or paraphrased from other sources.  Perhaps I shouldn’t assume that everyone knows the difference between quoting, paraphrasing and summarizing is, and that they still have to be cited.  If you derived your information from another source, you need to cite it, whether you put the other author’s words in quotation marks, summarized the major points of a larger work in your own words or paraphrased a small portion of it by condensing only slightly and putting it in your own words.

Not sure I like this editing for other people thing.

Reminders to Live Today & 10 Books

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Last Sunday a former member of my writer’s group stopped by the library.  I knew she had quit her job to write full time and we talked about that a bit.  She said that life was short and she didn’t want to have any regrets. I really understood where she was coming from. Writing is a wonderful pursuit but it is work and trying to write while holding down a full time job out of the home and taking care of a child when you are home leaves little time for anything else.

Then Tuesday night I got the call that a dear friend and surrogate grandmother had passed away.  Wednesday morning I received an email that my uncle had passed. This hasn’t been easy to take. The only writing I’ve done since has been considering why this has been so hard to absorb.

One of my grandmothers passed away when I was eight.  I didn’t really understand what was going on. My grandfather passed when I was 11 and I don’t think I understood it any better. My other grandmother passed when I was 24 and I felt secure in what I knew and believed. I knew I would miss her but I believed that it was her time and she’d gone on to something better.

So why has this week been so hard? I think there are two reasons. One is that I feel less certain about whether our consciousness survives after death. I was once secure in my faith and beliefs but now I’m not so certain. The second is that I’m simply older and feeling closer to that inevitable conclusion of life

So that’s what I’m thinking and writing about this week.  On a lighter note, there’s been a post about ten books that have somehow touched you in some way.  I’ll list some below.

  1. Dune by Frank Herbert
  2. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  3. A Wind in the Door by Madeline L’Engle
  4. The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
  5. Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Eleanor Pruitt Stewart
  6. A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett
  7. Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon
  8. The Chronicles of Narnia (really hard to pick one) by C.S. Lewis
  9. The Joy Diet: 10 Daily Practices for a Happier Life by Martha Beck
  10. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

These aren’t necessarily my top ten, though some would be on that list. My problem is not in picking ten books that have touched me in some way, but in stopping.  There are far too many.  I add something to my Goodreads book shelf whenever I think of one. What are some of yours?

NaNoWriMo and Cafe Press

Lifeisstrangeandsowewrite

Happy Post Thanksgiving/Last Ditch Effort at NaNoWriMo! I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving and you’ve already “won” NaNoWriMo.  I enjoyed my Thanksgiving tremendously with both families this year but, as for NaNoWriMo, I’m still running behind. I am still running though. I have come a long way with this novel and I will finish.  I have today off and a write-in planned for tomorrow.  I know I can do it! Good Luck to all.

In other news, I’ve put my first Café Press selection of items together and they’re on sale today! I had posted this thought on Facebook, in the box above, that “Life is Strange, and so we write.” Several friends liked it and one said, “Bumper Sticker!” I thought, hey, I could do that. So I did a search online to make sure someone else wasn’t already using it. Then I went into Microsoft Publisher and made a text box, typed in the text, chose my font, chose the font size, chose the alignment and decided to put a border around the text. I saved it as a .jpeg and uploaded it to Café Press. They chose which items to place it on, including several types of mugs. I hope somebody out there likes it.  The design is labeled Life is Strange – Write.

One good thing about being forced to write a little slower this month – I’m going to “win” but I won’t be finished and that’s okay because I don’t feel burned out on it. I’ll keep going until it is then I’ll do a basic clean up edit and put it away for a month or so while I work on other things. I want to finish this book and try to sell it but I’m not going to rush it. I also have my second novel ready to be written (first five chapters are already written.) And I actually had an idea pop into my head that may become my third novel.

I don’t even remember what I was doing but I began to wonder what our society would be like if we had grown up around a more nature centered culture. Could we have industrialized under those circumstances?  If we did, what would it look like? Yes, it’s more questions than anything else at this point but it’s an intriguing line of thought for me and I think it may turn into something.

Life IS strange, and so I write. That is the great mystery and fun of it all.

NaNoWriMo and Word Choice in Characterization

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NaNoWriMo and Word Choice in Characterization

As I sit here, we are anticipating some winter weather tonight and I am looking forward to it.  There is nothing like sitting inside on a snowy day with a fire in the wood stove and a warm mug in hand to write.

I must confess that I am well behind in my NaNoWriMo word count. The goal is 50,000 by the end of the month and I am just around 25,000. Yes, I am well behind but there is still a chance I can catch up, though it is a small one.

Basically, I would need 25,000 words in eight days. That works out to over 3,000 words per day. Granted, this is the weekend, so I will intersperse writing with everything I do. However, the 3 year old may have some different ideas of how we should spend the day and Daddy will be off hunting a good bit of the time.

Another confession, I have been going off on some mighty big tangents, working on short stories, and just plunking the thoughts down inside my NaNoWriMo document at the end.  It’s not my novel but it is adding to my word count. With my limited writing time, I just can’t afford to ignore the short stories when they show up.

Anyway, I picked up an interesting book on Southern writers and artists yesterday at the library for inspiration. Of course the thing that caught my attention was a well known picture of Eudora Welty on the cover. I leafed through it then listened to the first part of the CD interviews on the way home.  I’ve always enjoyed southern writing, the characters are so vivid, and I love listening to writers and other creative types talk about their craft and world view.  If you’re interested, the book is The Storied South .

Characterization keeps coming up for me this week. Characterization through word choice was a major topic in writer’s group last night. Afterward, as I was sitting down to work on my novel, I wrote the line “I don’t know, but I kinda doubt it.” for my Professor character. As soon as I was close to done typing it, my brain had already edited to read, “I don’t know, but I rather doubt it.” (Yes, contrary to all admonitions to keep writing, I do edit little things like that as I go.) Just a simple word choice can make such a difference in a character and I think I was aware of what I was doing because of the discussion in group.

Then today, I had a library patron ask me what the most commonly used silent letter in English was. He amended that to be British English. Hmmm. That sent me researching only to find out that there is Received Pronunciation, also known as The Queen’s English, and Estuary Pronunciation, which is all the dialects that change every 20 kilometers and is how most people speak. That really gave me some insight on how hard it is to right proper dialect. Having an ear for that must be very difficult. (It also makes me think of the Car Talk guys on PBS radio who could guess where people were calling from a large percentage of the time after just a sentence or two. )

So, the answer?  I didn’t come up with a definitive one. My best guess was that it was e.  I said they’d have to consult a linguist.

What do you think?  Do you have any tricks for bringing your characters to life?  I could use some tips to keep me thinking.

In a NaNoWriMo Rut, or an Outright Ditch?

ForestDitchSeppVei

Okay, so NaNoWriMo is going a bit rough for me this year. I’m around 12,000 words when I should be around 23,000. Chalk it up to a nasty cold for me and the munchkin that is still lingering on.  It’s left me with little inspiration. So, I’ve been thinking of things to help me get back into the game.

  1. Wikipedia random article – Just hit the link and write whatever you find into your story. First time I got a classic rock station in New Jersey and I happened to have my characters about to get into a car. When the ignition turned on a classic rock song blared out of the speakers and a discussion on music ensued.
  2. Cooking or baking – Made a new recipe yesterday I found on Pinterest, easy one bowl cinnamon scones. (Well, the way I made them used one bowl, and I was out of butter so I used olive oil. Then I put maple cream on them. Yum. Here’s the recipe.)
  3. Anything physically repetitive – rocking, washing dishes – I used to get my best thinking done while mowing the lawn with a push mower.
  4. Tell yourself, or someone else, the story out loud, It can help you think through problems and add to the story. Has always worked for me.
  5. Change of scenery – take your laptop out for dinner, lunch or a latte.
  6. Creative break – Watch a good movie or read a story or a few chapters of a good book. It might spark something for you.
  7. Another creative endeavor – I started a little quilted hot pad as a Christmas present (for I know not who yet.) Picking out the fabric, deciding on the design, cutting the fabric and sewing the pieces together by hand all give my mind a break and make me think in a new way.

Any other methods you use to get yourself writing again when things are slow or you’re feeling low? PLEASE, share them in the comments. Thanks!

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