Writing Tip: Dialogue Tag Overload


I spend a lot of my time beta reading for other authors, and one thing that flags a new writer to me is their use of dialogue tags.

What is a dialogue tag? 

The most common one is the word “said.”

  • “I want to go to the park,” Timmy said.
  • Ariana said, “I can’t believe she wore that.”

But some writers are clever and vary the word “said” such as using words like… “added” “interjected” “asked” “yelled” “pleaded” “questioned” etc.

  • “I want to go to the park,” Timmy demanded.
  • Ariana sighed, “I can’t believe she wore that.”

This is great, here and there, but when you read pages of dialogue and every line has one of these tags, it slows down the pacing.

Dialogue tags do have a place. Using a fancy one, such as “yelled” definitely adds to the story, but here’s what would be better…

Show me how they say their words. Describe their actions and their feelings, rather than tell me with a dialogue tag.

  • “I want to go to the park!” Timmy stomped his foot and cross his arms. His eyebrows narrowed into a V above his nose.
  • Ariana glanced around the room, then leaned onto the table. She dropped her voice and rolled her eyes. “I can’t believe she wore that.”

Now, let’s return to that important concept called pacing. An entire conversation packed with descriptors as in the last examples would really slow down the reading. That’s where a nice combination of dialogue tags, description, and floating dialogue make a conversation between people flow.

Here’s an example from a short story I just wrote. Not perfect, but an example of using a dialogue tag (Devora asked) mixed with action descriptors and dialogue without any description at all:

Arriving home that night, Derek was already there. “Busy day?” Devora asked.

“Not at all. All the crime must be under control.” He sat on the couch in shorts and a t-shirt, watching some sports ball game.

She pulled her phone out. “Well, I had a busy day. I broke my phone.”

“Why’d you do that?”

She clenched her hands into fists. “I was trying to text you.”

“Was something wrong?”

“Just some type of drug crime going on.”

Derek turned away from the TV and arched an eyebrow at her. “And you didn’t let me know?”

“I told you I broke my phone.” She wiggled her phone’s shattered screen at him, then tossed it on the end table. “You can’t rely on me for everything! I have my own job to do. One that you seem to not take seriously, but I do a lot of good things too.”

When I write, I try to use the least amount of dialogue tags possible, and when I read something that’s littered with them, I find myself detached from the writing and distracted from the story. This is just another one of the many ways to shift your writing from telling the reader what’s going on to showing them.

**Of note: If you need to throw in a dialogue tag, I’ve read that you’re best to just use the old-fashioned “said” because it turns invisible to the reader–minimal slowing of the pace.

So next time you’re writing “said” or “interjected” take a look if it’s really needed to portray to your reader who’s speaking.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on dialogue tags, and when you read, what flags a story as coming from a new writer to you?

A Method to Book Marketing

Ever wonder where to devote your time (and resources) in marketing a book?

I’ve been asking that question this entire year as I plug away at my 1000 True Fans blog series. I stumbled upon a graph on how readers find books and ended up writing an article about it. You can find my article on Black Wolf Editorial’s Blog as a guest post. Check it out, it definitely opened my eyes to where I’ll be moving in the future.

Here was the pie graph from a 2011 Smashwords survey that made me question my marketing strategy.


Again, head over to Black Wolf Publishing to check out the entire article.

Until next time,


1000 True Fans – New Subscriber Email Sequence (Week 4) – Building an Advanced Reader Team

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Today our focus is on building an Advanced Reader Team.

What is an advanced reader team? A group of your “true” fans who want to read and review all your books (or most your books). These are your super-loyal fans who give you feedback when you mess something up and leave reviews to help other readers decide to purchase your book. In exchange for this help, you agree to give these fans your book(s) for free.

So…as I’m creating and sending out a welcome email sequence for my newsletter, I want to formulate a second list of the readers who wish to help me out with reading and reviewing my novels.

Yeah, I know. If I give my books away free, will I be losing sales?

Maybe. But I’m doing this with faith that word of mouth and extra reviews will help grow my audience in the long run.

Plus, I love giving my fans stuff. I can’t help it.

So, to manage this, HERE is the final email I’m sending out in my three part welcome series. (It won’t go out until next week, as I wanted enough time in between that some people may have read or at least started the free stories they downloaded…plus I’m spacing it due to the Memorial Day Holiday, assuming people will be too busy to read their email.)

To help manage my Advanced Reader Team, I created two google forms (Feel free to check them out or use them to sign up. Did you catch that subtle hint? Yeah, not very subtle.)

  1. General sign up for my Advanced Reader Team. Click HERE to see it.
  2. Book request form. Click HERE to see it.

This may also help answer the question I blogged about a few weeks ago…how many of my followers/subscribers are true fans. We’ll see how many advanced reviewers I receive.

As I already hit my initial goal of 1000 mailing list subscribers in this 1000 “True” Fan blog series, I’m focusing on growing some TRUE Fans from this list. May’s focus has been creating a mailing list subscriber sequence. To get updated on this process, you can check out WEEK 1WEEK 2, and/or WEEK 3 here.

For those of you following my newsletter subscriber growth, here’s how I’m doing so far:

Current Mailing List Subscriptions: 2371 fans / 1000 true fans (Up 52 people since last week.)

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 If you want to get caught up on 2017’s journey to find 1000 fans, check out the 1000 “True” Fan Landing Page.

Do you have an Advanced Reader Team? I’d love to hear your thoughts on an appropriate number of readers/reviewers.

Two Audience-Building Multi-Author Projects

As I’m looking to grow my audience reach, I’m excited to be participating in a few multi-author projects.


A group of at least fifteen authors have come together to write a story with the title of “Hidden.” Each of us has selected a week to release our project beginning October 26th. This is a great way to cross promote and keep our books visible long after falling off the Amazon 30 day new release list.

I wrote my first draft of my story, Hidden: A Pregnant Fairy Godmother’s Journey during the April Camp NaNoWriMo. Now, I finalized my cover, and I wanted to share it.

Ta Da!

I made it myself. (I just discovered Paint.net, and I LOVE it!) My first draft of my blurb is also posted below.

Hidden: A Pregnant Fairy Godmother’s Journey…

Hidden Final

Even being the best fairy godmother in all the land, Ciera’s been hiding a secret. Not only is she pregnant, but she’s pregnant from a human.

Humans are not allowed in the fairy realm. Period. That includes half-fairy half-human babies. The only solution is to give the baby to its father before the Fairy Council finds out her secret. Finding the father should be easy, how many men named John could possibly live in this place called Chicago?

Instead of finding John, she runs into a thief who’s hiding a secret of his own. Can the two team up to solve each other’s problems, no matter how crazy they may be?

To stay up to date on the stories in this series, publishing dates, check out the Hidden Landing Page or Facebook Page. (Also, if you’re an author and would like to participate, please let me know.)

Multi-Author Anthology

The other projects I’m working on are two anthologies. One is a cozy supernatural Halloween project and the other is a Twelve Days of Christmas anthology.

Both projects will have a group of authors published in a single book. Each with a separate story that fits the theme. This should be a lot less work than the Hidden project, as I plan to write 5000 word stories for both.

The Halloween Anthology will take place in my Superhero World…and will feature a Witch. I believe the book will be titled, Witch or Treat.

The Twelve Days of Christmas Anthology will feature twelve authors, each taking a day from the classic song. My story will be titled Three Calling Birds and is completely undeveloped at this point.

I’m excited about the possibility of gaining new readers from my stories in these anthologies.


I can’t wait for these projects to come to a close so I can share my results with you.

Have you participated in multi author writing projects? I’d love to hear how they went.

1000 True Fans – New Subscriber Email Sequence (Week 3)

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As I already hit my initial goal of 1000 mailing list subscribers in this 1000 “True” Fan blog series, I’m focusing on growing some TRUE Fans from this list.

May’s focus is creating a mailing list subscriber sequence.

So far, I’ve sent out quite a few welcome emails to new subscribers (um…like 1300 emails to multiple lists I’ve set up.) But, has it been successful?

It depends how you measure success. Right now, I think it’s too early to tell, but here are some of my wins so far:

  • Open Rates: My standard monthly newsletter was obtaining open rates of 34%. I’m seeing open rates for these welcome emails at over 45% now…and some lists pushing 65%. (My welcome series are segmented based on how the reader found my list. Organic subscriber vs free sample vs free short stories.)
  • Unsubscribe Rates: I don’t think unsubscribing to the welcome series is a bad thing. It helps me trim down my list to supportive readers. It keeps costs low and that is the purpose of the welcome. Overall though, my unsubscribe rates have been much lower than when I put these people directly into my monthly email list.
  • Click to Free Book Rates: Over half of the people that open the emails are clicking for the free book. My fingers are crossed that they read it and become fans.
  • Passive Sales of my other Books: There is definite increase in sales for my books whenever I send a newsletter out. This highlights the fact that a book won’t sell if nobody knows it’s out there.
  • Newsletter Subscriber Engagement: Here’s a good one. In my final email going out next week, I’m going to have a link to click to become part of my VIP Advanced Reader Team. That’ll really show me if the welcome series was a success.

So, as I continue my journey of creating a welcome email sequence, I’m on week 3. Since last week, I gave them a link to a full novel, I’m not contacting the subscribers this week. I’ll follow up again next week with the final email in my sequence.

A few things I’m learning in this journey:

  • I’d say a welcome series is needed in mailing list growth. I can see how people who sign up may not even remember who you are by the time your first email hits their inbox.
  • Manually sending welcome emails is a lot of work! Especially if you’re managing multiple lists. This process needs to be automated. (And both Mailer Lite and Mail Chimp has tools for that.)
  • Subscribers are fun, and I love their engagement. I love it when they reply to an email…so if you receive a newsletter, don’t hesitate to make it a two way method of communication.

To get updated on this process, you can check out WEEK 1 and WEEK 2 here.

For those of you following my newsletter subscriber growth, here’s how I’m doing so far:

Current Mailing List Subscriptions: 2319 fans / 1000 true fans (Up 106 people since last week.)

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 If you want to get caught up on 2017’s journey to find 1000 fans, check out the 1000 “True” Fan Landing Page.

Please share your thoughts. I love input!

Oh the Pressure! A Writing Calendar

I love creating new characters, worlds, and writing about their journey, but I have a problem.

I can’t do it fast enough. After that first draft is written, I spend countless hours rewriting, editing, and tweaking it until I’m not afraid to show it to the world. In the mean time, I have hundreds of new characters and adventures flowing through my head, begging me to write their journey.

On top of this, I sometimes find myself overwhelmed in the steps needed to complete projects and feel stagnant and lost when someone asks me when a story I’m writing is going to be published.

So, last week when I received an email talking about ways to increases your writing productivity, I jumped right in and devoured the content.

There were three simple tips, and today(1 wk) I’m talking about one: using a calendar/schedule to plan your writing life.

This made sense. I do it at work, so why not for my hobby?

First, I listed all the projects I have committed to, then determined how long each step in the process takes me. Finally, I arranged it all into a schedule…and what did I find?

Despite having WAY too much going on, I developed a plan with achievable deadlines. It makes me wonder why I haven’t done this before. Now, when people ask me when I’ll have something published, I can give them a good answer.

I found this technique useful, so I wanted to share it with you. Here’s how I did it. Keep in mind, I always overdo everything, so you can do this as simple or complex as you like.

First, I listed all my projects:

  • The Secret Lives of Superhero Wives (Novel)
  • The Stellar Life of a Superhero Wife (Short story hook for full novel)
  • Hidden: A Pregnant Fairy Godmother’s Journey (Novella)
  • Halloween Anthology (Short Story)
  • Twelve Days of Christmas Short Story (for anthology)
  • Blood & Holy Water 2 (Novel)
  • Love, Lies & Clones 2 (Novel)
  • Non-Fiction Project

Then I came up with how long it takes me to do each of the steps from idea to publishing:  (I found this step to be eye opening. I need to work on streamlining this process somehow.)

  • Outline: Novel (2 wks) Novella (1 wk) Short Story (1 wk)
  • Draft Zero: Novel (6 wks) Novella (3 wks) Short Story (1 wk)
  • First Draft: Novel (2 wks) Novella (1 wk) Short Story (1 wk)
  • Beta Readers (Round 1): Novel (6 wks) Novella (4 wks) Short Story (2 wks)
  • Edits: Novel (2 wks) Novella (1 wk) Short Story (1 wk)
  • Beta Readers (Round 2): Novel (6 wks) Novella (3 wk)s Short Story (1 wk)
  • Edits: Novel (2 wks) Novella (1 wk) Short Story (1 wk)
  • Editor/Plan Book Launch: Novel (4 wks) Novella (2 wks) Short Story (2 wks)
  • Final Read Through: Novel (2 wks) Novella (1 wk) Short Story (1 wk)
  • Publish

Finally, I integrated these two steps into a spreadsheet along with hard deadlines, trying not to put to many labor intensive steps together on the same week (marked in red below.) Also, the blue steps are no work for me, so I make sure I have something going on that week to keep me moving forward…even if it’s for a future project. Here’s what my calendar/schedule looks like:


Now comes the easy part. All I have to do is look at my current week and make sure I’m on task with the little steps. As long as I am on task for the week, the overall project is also on task. Easy, right?

Ha. Not quite.

Do you use a calendar to keep yourself on schedule? Or do you wing it, like I always did?

1000 True Fans – New Subscriber Email Sequence (Week 2)

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As I already hit my initial goal of 1000 mailing list subscribers in this 1000 “True” Fan blog series, I’m focusing on converting mailing list subscribers into TRUE Fans.

May’s focus is creating a mailing list subscriber sequence.

This past week, a fellow author asked me how many of my 2000 mailing list subscribers and twitter followers are “true” fans.

That’s a great question. How do you measure this?

Let’s break it down:

Mailing List (2200 subscribers): The best way I can tell is how many clicks my newest novel received when I emailed out this list.  I emailed 1500 people…500 opened the email…42 clicked to by my book…though, I had over 100 sales over the two days and 14 sales of my previous book that day.

Twitter (2000 followers): I’m not seeing much luck here. I believe I have about 50 people that follow me that truly want to hear what I say. The rest are people shouting “buy my book” to whoever will listen. I’m not judging. I did that too.

Facebook (400 followers): I have gained a lot of followers from advertisements and cross promotions, but at least 100 or so family and friends. My guess is about a fourth of these are fans, so perhaps 100?

Blog (550 followers): I don’t know. 550 followers, but how many will actually read this? Plus you have people that check in from time to time that don’t have wordpress and don’t click “follow”. I have about 30-50 names I recognize due to consistent interaction.

So to answer the question…a conservative guess of how many “true” fans I gained since starting this journey January 1st…perhaps 200?

So, not even close to 1000 yet. What dose that mean? We keep moving forward.

Okay, the point of all of this.

I started adding up my reach. 2100 mailing list…2000 twitter…400 facebook…500 blog = about 5000 people, though a lot of my “true” fans are duplicated in various places. That’s a lot of potential readers! How do I convert these people who have a mild interest in my, my book’s genre, or my writing journey to hard core fans?

That is the million dollar question. Of course, it’s to give them what they want.

So, as I continue my journey of creating a welcome email sequence, I’m on week 2.

Last week, I sent out an email to thank my potential fans for downloading the 10% sample of my book (Blood & Holy Water), told them a little bit about me, and offered them another story free. My results? 48 of the 75 opened the email, 28 downloaded the second free book, and 4 bought the full Blood & Holy Water novel (Woo Hoo!) (I did have 2 unsubscribes)

This week (actually, today), I sent out another email out to that group, making sure they got the download okay, asking them if they liked it, and giving them more information on me. We’ll see how it goes. Here’s a link to that newsletter.

To see week 1 of creating a subscriber welcome sequence, click here.

I’m still sending these out manually, as it gives me more control as I figure out the best way to craft this welcome.

Next Week: I’ll update weekly on results of the emails.

So…how’s my progress going on my way to 1000 true fans?

Drum Roll…Ready?

Current Mailing List Subscriptions: 2213 fans / 1000 true fans (Up 321 people since last week.)

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 If you want to get caught up on 2017’s journey to find 1000 fans, check out the 1000 “True” Fan Landing Page.

Please share your thoughts. I love input!