Melody first, my dear

Melody first, my dear, or so they say when you compose lyrics/music. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it’s been my pattern to spend a day giving structure to a new chapter by writing the dialog out first, let it sit over night, and then turn it into text the next day. It’s a technique I’ve been using for years, and where there used to be a fairly reliable 1:2 ratio of dialog to text, page wise, it’s slowly evolved to more of a 2:3 ratio now.

I’ve noticed my chapters are getting longer, too, but that might be an artifact of having an increasing number of people interacting at one time, stretching myself. I like brevity, but sometimes, there’s a need for everyone to be there. The chapter I’m in now has Rachel, Trent, Quen, Llaze, Bis, and Jenks. Oh, and Buddy, the dog. Remember Buddy? Trent took him in after all. So it’s a full chapter, and they all need to be see/heard at least once a page or you forget about them. Writing dialog first lets me spin through the proposed chapter a couple of times in a short span to make sure I have everyone interacting, or at least, being seen doing their own thing. I shudder at trying to put all the fun stuff, like Llaze using his mouth to catch the Cheerios Jenks is throwing, in at text stage, but in dialog? It’s easier. Low stress.

Today I’m doing text, having spent the first few hours of my day shifting things around after a good think about it last night. For me, it’s a lot easier to change a chapter in this state then after I’ve put in all the physical movement. Not nearly the number of slips where a character is sitting down twice before standing up or needing six hands to hold everything.

I’ve also found that this technique of dialog first, text second has gotten me through more than a few instances of what could have developed into writer’s block. There’s a lot less performance stress if all you task yourself with when you sit down is dialog, and once that is solid, the rest sort of fills in on its own.

So if you’re stuck, give it a try!

Dialog first, my dear.

29 Comments

Filed under Drama Box

29 responses to “Melody first, my dear

  1. I was going to ask who Llaze is, Kim, but I see you’ve already answered that one, however there is something else I’ve been wondering about since I first read The Witch With No Name — can you tell me what happened to Belle? I thought she and Jenks might be becoming a ground breaking though extremely unlikely pairing but by the end of TWWNN there was not even a whisper of her — is there a tale there?

  2. Thank you so much for this, Kim! I don’t have writer’s block per se, as an overabundance of ideas -which one gets the coveted First Line? I know I need to write everything down and sort it out later, but its proven difficult, lol. Anyway, thank you for giving me a new way to deal with each challenge. 🙂

  3. Amy Ping

    Anyone else jumping up and down going Goody!!! Goody!!!!! I’m so thrilled to hear your working on a Racheal book!!! I don’t care how long it takes, I’m waiting years for Diana G to finish the next Outlander, I can be patient for you!!

  4. I love your post and I’ll be sure to try it and see what happens. I love your books and you are one of my favorite authors!!

  5. Margo

    If they ever put your books on tv or in a movie, don’t let them screw them up like they did True Blood or Shannara. Keep it true to the story line. Script writers just got crazy with the other authors work and it just didn’t flow right, at least not for me. Please don’t let them change it If they ever approach you.

    • Amy Ping

      Or the movie they made from J Evanovich One for the Money… I was so disappointed. It had such potential!!!!

  6. JP Eastridge

    Any new inquiries into turning any of The Hallows series into film or t.v.? I know you didn’t get anything you liked out of the last option, but I still think there’s 2 or 3 solid films in your characters, if the scripts are solid.
    I trust you to make the right call with your creations- I have enjoyed the series tremendously since 2005, and would like to see you get higher recognition. I’ll keep buying, in the meantime.

  7. It is good to hear from you again on this page. It seems many besides me have missed it.

  8. Donna Meyer Schmidt

    I am not a writer, but, a Huge fan. I have never heard of Llaze. Who is this new character? I am trying to be patient so please forgive me if I am jumping the splat gun.

    • Llaze is a new character, but I think I’m going to have to change his name, what with Landon and Lucy sharing his initial. More on him later! (But he’s a young elf.)

  9. I agree. Great tip! I’ve never been able to sit down and write for more than an hour, no matter the subject, so I am in awe at what you do daily. And to say I’m thrilled to hear you are writing about Rachel, Trent, Jenks and the rest is just so exciting. Although, I am curious about your other writings that may or may not be published. So far there isn’t anything you’ve written that I have not thoroughly enjoyed.

    Oh and did I tell you that we have all missed your blog posts? Glad you started them up again. Welcome back!

  10. This makes me think of when I studied script writing. 🙂 With all the trouble I’ve been having with actually getting stuff written, makes me wonder if I shouldn’t revert back to that process. Honestly, I’d love to see your process from start to finish. 🙂 (p.s. so very happy there is more Rachel & Co coming!!!)

  11. Love this idea. Do you use a specific program to help you organize or do you just use a regular word processing program? I’m envisioning index cards with dialogue on a bulletin board that can be moved around as needed (pardon my old-school brain images). I use Scrivener because it incorporates that bulletin-board feel with the usefulness of technology.

  12. Is Rachel back? I’ve been out of touch for a while and this is the first I’ve heard you speak of her since, well, a long time.
    Dialog is one of my “go-to” devices because it helps me learn what my characters are up to. Dialog is especially useful to break through a sticky point in the story.
    Good to hear you’re back in blog land.

  13. Great tip! I remember trying this when you first wrote about it (a few years ago already), but somehow it’s slipped my mind. So I’m definitely going to start doing this again with my own writing. 🙂

  14. Interesting idea! I think I’ve accidentally done this a few times. After a general plot progression covering the entire novel, I go back and do a chapter-by-chapter synopsis, and sometimes this includes straight-up dialogue between characters so that I don’t forget to write in key conversations. It’s definitely helpful 🙂

  15. It never occurred to me to start it this way. Just thinking about it from that angle makes it sound less daunting. Thanks for the insight into your personal process!

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