With Leap Day, You Get Extra: Editor Kristin Daly Rens

Leap days are extra, so I thought it’d be swell to give you an extra bit of wisdom from Kristin Daly Rens (senior editor from Balzer & Bray/Harper Collins) who spoke at the conference. Plus, I had a pic of her with Cathy-on-a-Stick and that’s always a bonus, right?

So Kristin (who is funny, delightful, smart, and charming and I’m not just saying that because she happened to do my formal critique) spoke about dialogue and plotting. But (and I’m sure this will come as no surprise to you) I cannot find my plot notes. So we’ll be sharing dialogue notes today.

She had a ton of great tips about dialogue, and examples of sparkling banter in books. Um, apparently, I did not write down the book titles. But Debra Mayhew, who sat next to me, wrote down every single book mentioned and then she shared them on her blog. (Why thank you, Deb!).

So now, let’s dash to Kristin’s tips, starting with what to avoid in dialogue.

AVOID SAYING SOMETHING YOU’VE JUST SHOWN. (Yes, I know that seems like common sense. But it’s a terribly common problem and one you should check for when editing your manuscript. Because…

TOO MUCH DIALOGUE SLOWS DOWN THE STORY (Who knew? I LOVE dialogue. In fact, I tend to read the dialogue in books and skip all that descriptive stuff. But it occurred to me that I can do that because I read good books where the dialogue is used correctly. How so, you wonder? So glad you asked.

DIALOGUE SHOULD BE SIGNIFICANT  (Every word of dialogue should matter to the story. Every. Single. Word. Yes, you want to be authentic, but not so authentic that you bore your readers. So don’t put in all those umm’s and uh’s. Put in the words that matter and most importantly…

PUT IN THE WORDS THAT MOVE THE STORY FORWARD  (That tip speaks for itself, doesn’t it? Get it? Speaks for itself? Um, yeah…we’ll just move on. Like your story should do with great dialogue.)

Because now I think you have enough dialogue information to make your own banter extra sparkly. And you’ve got an extra day to do it!

10 thoughts on “With Leap Day, You Get Extra: Editor Kristin Daly Rens

  1. Thanks for sharing, Cathy. 🙂

    I’m reading a YA book right now with the snappiest dialogue I’ve read in a long time. Check out Joe R. Lansdale’s ALL THE EARTH, THROWN TO THE SKY – oh, and is that not the best title ever?!

  2. Two in a row? I’m in blog heaven. CATHY ON A STICK reminds me of the garden gnome somebody steals out of your yard and sends around the world. Except she went willingly, and probably has better travel accommodations.

    I certainly did not know that dialogue slows down the story. The problem I have is when the voices are so similar that I have to keep backtracking to see who said what.

    • A. I’m just glad that someone appreciates Cathy on a Stick…around here, she’s…well, you know that saying about a stick in her own land.

      And B. About voices being so similar? THAT DRIVES ME NUTS. Especially when there are no tags. Sometimes I feel like I’ve fallen into a black hole. Except WAY deeper. 🙂

  3. Great post. I had not heard that dialogue slows the story…most experts I’ve heard speak about dialogue (speak about dialogue? heh), anyway, they seem to think dialogue is the essential spice that makes the whole dish sing with flavor. My absolute favorite example of killer dialogue is John Green’s PAPER TOWNS. Oy! I love that man!…uh, I mean I love his books. I laughed so hard while reading that book I had to put it down to catch my breath. To borrow a ridiculously overplayed analogy, I think great dialogue is like that thing that starts with “p” and ends with “ornography.” You know it when you see it.

    • I think Kristin wanted to make the point about TOO much dialogue–as in plodding dialogue, or pages and pages of dialogue where the reader gets confused or dialogue that doesn’t MOVE the story.

      Because yes, yes, yes! PAPER TOWNS has THE most amazing dialogue and I laughed so hard that a pants change was called for. 😉

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