When Dialogue Gets Weird: Representing Unorthodox Forms of Speech on the Page (Text Conversations, Psychic Communication, etc)


Whether you’ve written any fiction yet or not, you’re probably extremely familiar with how dialogue appears on the page: it’s surrounded by quotation marks.

Even if you’re not quite confident with all the finer details of formatting spoken words on the page, it’s probably perfectly natural to you to wrap these words in quotation marks. You likely don’t think twice about it, although this isn’t actually the only option you have.

“Standard” dialogue is, generally, represented in one of three ways:

Type #1: The Most Common Style for Novels and Short Stories

“Excuse me,” John said, “is this the train for London?”

“Yes, though it’s the all stopper,” Daniel said.

Type #2: Standard Format for Scripts, Occasionally Adopted by Novelists / Short Story Writers

John: Excuse me. Is this the train for London?

Daniel: Yes, though it’s the all-stopper.

Type #3: Used in Some Literary Fiction, Particularly Short Stories

– Excuse me, John said, is this the train for London?

– Yes, though it’s the all stopper, Daniel said.

(Type #3 takes some getting used to, and personally, I’m not entirely sure what benefit it has over standard quotation marks … other than, perhaps, lending a clear “literary” stamp to the novel or story. You can see it in use part-way through D.W. Wilson’s essay On the Notoriously Overrated Powers of Voice in Fiction or How to Fail at Talking to Pretty Girls.)

Chances are, you’re using type #1, and that’s all well and good.

But what do you do when you want to represent an exchange of words that isn’t quite so conventional as a face-to-face chat?

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Should You Write Faster? Here’s What Four Indie Authors Do (Plus My Take)



By a lot of people’s standards, I’m a pretty fast writer. For the last 12 years or so, I’ve been able to comfortably produce 1,000 words an hour (sometimes to the envy of writing group peers). I write most days – though I don’t always spend as much time on my fiction as I’d like.

In the indie-author world, though, I’m not exactly what you’d call fast. Lots of indie authors produce multiple books per year (and many imply, if not outright state, that this is necessary if you want to build a successful indie career).

Let’s take a look at what four different indie authors – all excellent ones – say about writing fast.

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Seven Ways to Start a Blog Post … and Seven Ways to Finish It


Where do you get typically get stuck when you’re writing a blog post?

For a lot of bloggers, the first few lines of the post – and the last few – are really tough. You might have a perfectly good plan for what’s going to come later … but you just don’t know how to begin.

One solution is to simply type anything to get you going. While that’s fine when you’re drafting, at some point, you’re going to need to come back and revise.

Another is to skip the introduction and jump straight in with your first key point. Again, that’s a great way to get moving … but it doesn’t really solve the problem. You’re still going to have to write that introduction at some point.

Beginnings and endings matter, and it’s important to get them right.

The first few lines of your post draw the reader in and, ideally, set the tone for what’s to come.

The final few lines are a crucial opportunity to ensure your post makes a difference.

Here, I’ll go through seven different ways to start a blog post, and seven ways to finish it – with examples from a bunch of blogs.

Note: You can use more than one “start” or “finish” technique in a single post (as you read through, you’ll probably spot that some of the examples do this). To begin with, though, you might want to focus on just one at a time.

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Marketing Your (Self-Published) Novel: Five Books Reviewed


Long-time Aliventures readers might remember that the first half of 2012 was a little hectic for me. I’d just launched my first novel, Lycopolis, and started Writers’ Huddle … and I had five months to turn in the manuscript of Publishing E-Books for Dummies.

And on the very day I handed in the final chapter of the Publishing E-Books draft … I found out I was pregnant with Kitty.

Which was, of course, lovely news! But the first-trimester exhaustion hit me like a truck (thankfully I got off easy on morning sickness) … and all my great plans for promoting Lycopolis came to nothing.

I didn’t have time to market the novel and write more novels, so I chose to stick with writing. (And motherhood: as well as now 3-year-old Kitty, I have 18-month-old Nick.)

But now I’m starting to get back into marketing. Of course, a lot has changed since early 2012, and techniques that were popular then (like making a book free, getting it high in the charts then switching it back to paid-for) don’t work so well.

Here are the five books I’ve been digging into … and what I thought of them.

Note: These aren’t in any particular order. I’ve given links to Amazon as that’s where I shop, but most of these will be available through other ebook stores too. If you’re a member of Kindle Unlimited (KU), then several are available for free.

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What Should You Pay for When You Self-Publish a Novel?


One reader asked me to write about, “Self-publishing, whether to use editors, cover designers etc and how much is a reasonable amount to pay them.”

This is a big and important question, and one I wanted to tackle on the blog. (I normally run reader questions in the weekly newsletter – if you’re not already receiving that, and the various bonuses that go with it, get on board here.)

Here’s the quick answer to the question – one that virtually everyone writing about self-publishing will agree with:

  • If you’re going to self-publish, you should definitely use an editor.
  • If you’re going to self-publish, you should definitely use a cover designer.

Let’s dig a little deeper into that, though.

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How to Blog Consistently and Build Your Audience: Eight Simple Steps


I’ve got a confession to make.

I had five different blogs before Aliventures that I started, worked on for a while, then abandoned. (One got ditched after two weeks; my best attempt lasted a year and a half.)

With all those blogs, I made the right call. They weren’t on topics that interested me enough to stick with them for good. They weren’t “me”.

It definitely didn’t help, though, that as I lost interest, I barely posted at all.

However much you love your blog’s topic, you’re not going to get far if you don’t blog consistently.

If you don’t publish posts regularly, you’ll find that:

  • You get out of the habit of writing for your blog, and feel a lot of resistance towards getting going again.
  • You lose any momentum you’ve built up – your readership and traffic levels may not drop dramatically, but they’re certainly not growing.
  • You feel discouraged, and eventually, give up on your blog. That might be a deliberate decision to stop blogging, but more often, it just happens. You don’t blog for a few weeks … then a few months … and eventually you realise you stopped years ago.

Of course, the easy answer here is to just blog regularly – every week, or twice a week, or three times a week – without fail.

But it isn’t really as easy as that.

Life gets in the way, for one thing – even the lovely bits of life. In the past six years of blogging on Aliventures, I’ve had two house moves, a wedding, two pregnancies, two babies … none of which have exactly been conductive to the smooth running of the blog.

And for many bloggers, writing itself is hard at times. Perhaps you struggle to stay motivated, or you never seem to have any ideas. Even when life is going reasonably smoothly, it can be incredibly hard to stick with your blog, week in, week out.

But …

It’s possible.

One of the key things that helps me is to have a clear blogging workflow. In the past – particularly pre-kids – I just wrote posts on the days when I wanted to publish them. That works well for some bloggers, but for me, it became all too easy to let busyness take over.

These days, I have a system – which I’ll share in a moment. Before I get to it, though, a couple of important notes:

#1: While you’re working through this plan, it’s okay to hit “pause” on your blog. Don’t worry about publishing new content until you’ve got well ahead with ideas and plans. If you leap back in too soon, you’ll just end up back at square one.

#2: Feel free to tweak this plan to suit you. I’d definitely recommend giving it a go as-is to begin with, but if there’s something that isn’t quite right for you or your preferred way of working, feel free to improve on it! You might want to leave a comment below to let us know what you’ll be changing, in case your tweak would work well for someone else reading.

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What if You’re Just Not Good Enough to be a Successful Writer?


What if you’re not good enough?

What if you enjoy writing … but you’re actually pretty rubbish at it?

What if any success you’ve had so far has just been a fluke?

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only writer who’s ever had those thoughts – more times than I care to admit.

Perhaps you feel that way too.

It’s easy – and tempting – to say here of course you’re good enough; who am I (or anyone else!) to tell you that you aren’t?

But I think that invalidates a deep, difficult fear for a lot of us.

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Join Writers’ Huddle Today (Because I’m Closing the Doors Tomorrow)


Just in case you’ve missed the news over the past couple of weeks …

… Writers’ Huddle is currently open for new members.

If you’ve not heard of Writers’ Huddle before, it’s a private members-only community of writers. We’ve got novelists, bloggers, freelancers, short story writers, and more; some are very new to writing and others have been writers for decades. Whatever your goals are for your own writing, you’ll find a warm and friendly home with us.

maria-smithI joined Writers Huddle a few years ago, and what a good move it’s been for my writing, and for me as a writer. Of course the resources are very good. There’s lots to keep you busy, but there’s much more on offer. Sometimes you just want to connect with someone else who is going through the same stuff as you. Someone who can identify with your writerly woes, and is on hand to give you advice, or feedback.

Being a member of the Huddle makes me feel part of a writers’ community. I like that, and know if something is bothering me, I can pop into the forums, ask a question, and before long, someone will respond, and offer advice on POV, character, or writers block! Whatever it is that causes us angst can be eased. It’s great to feel part of something, and to feel supported.

Maria Smith

This is also a particularly good time to get on board because I’ve added a couple of special bonuses for new and existing members.

They are:

bloggers-guides-4-pack-small#1: My four Blogger’s Guides – you get the full, premium ebooks (plus their associated extras) as part of your membership. These normally cost $29 each or $66 for all four; Writers’ Huddle is $19.99/month, so this is by far the cheapest way to get hold of them!

#2: A personal critique of 2,000 words of your writing – often, the fastest way to grow as a writer is to get feedback on your work-in-progress. I no longer offer critiques or coaching to the general public, but I’m offering a free critique to everyone in Writers’ Huddle. You don’t have to take advantage of this right away, if you’re not quite ready – you’ve got a whole year to send me your work.

Of course, you also get all the usual benefits of Writers’ Huddle membership too, including:

  • A new seminar each month about an aspect of writing (you get both the audio and the nicely edited transcript, plus a worksheet with a summary of key points).
  • Access to the full archive of all 50+ past seminars (you can download these and keep them, even if you decide to leave Writers’ Huddle).
  • Three full-length ecourses, “Blog On”, “Launching Your Freelancing Career”, and “On Track” (you can go through these at any time, or join in as part of a small group working through the material together).
  • Full access to me via the forums, the Writers’ Huddle contact form, email, and my weekly “office hours” on Skype (where you can chat to me via video, audio or text – whatever you’re most comfortable with).
  • Lots of opportunities for group support, encouragement and accountability – through our friendly members-only forums, our new “buddy” system, our Sunday evening “writing hour” and our regular Writing Challenges. (All of these are completely optional: you can join in as much or as little as you want!)

Writers’ Huddle costs just $19.99/month.

You’re not tied into any minimum term, either: you can leave at any time. In fact, if you decide Writers’ Huddle isn’t for you, just contact me within your first 30 days – I’ll cancel your membership and issue you a full no-quibbles refund.

Sounds like it might be right for you? Get all the details of everything that’s included here.

Not sure if Writers’ Huddle is a good fit? Feel free to drop a comment below or email me (ali@aliventures.com) to explain your circumstances. I’ll be completely honest with you about whether I think Writers’ Huddle is right for you at this point in your writing life.

Important: I’m closing the Writers’ Huddle doors at the end of Tuesday 31st May. (I want to make sure new members are fully settled in before we start our Summer Challenge in late June.) Head on over there now to make sure you get your place!

How to Get Back On Track When Your Writing Plans Go Awry


So you’ve made a plan for the next seven months.

For a month or two, everything goes fine. You’re writing regularly, hitting your targets, and feeling great about your progress.

And then something happens. You’re knocked off-course. You’re understandably discouraged, perhaps ready to give up.

Plans do go awry, more often than not. That’s not your fault, and it’s not necessarily a problem. You just need to be prepared in advance to deal with things not going quite according to plan.

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Are You Planning Your Writing Career … or Winging It?


If you’re a novelist, you’ve probably come across two different camps of people: the “plotters” and the “pantsers” (seat-of-the-pants writers).

While there’s no right way to approach a novel, I’ve definitely started moving from the “pantser” to the “plotter” end of the spectrum over the past few years. I like plenty of room for exploration and spontaneity … but I don’t like having no clue where I’m going.

In your writing life, too, having a plan makes it much easier to actually get somewhere.

I got lucky in the early stages of my writing career. I got into blogging on a whim, then started freelance blogging entirely by accident.

It was one of the best things that ever happened to me … but I realise now how fortunate I was to be in the right place at the right time.

These days, I’m a lot more strategic. I don’t plan in obsessive detail, but I do set goals and take conscious steps towards them.

If, like me, you want to do a bit more planning and a bit less winging it, here’s how.

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