5 Things to Avoid When Writing Dialogue

‘Writing dialogue is not always easy,’ she said, shifting in her seat.
‘Okay, will you tell me more?’ I stared at the quotation marks she had used, curious.
‘Oh, these? I’m British. Yep, if I were American, I would use double quotation marks. But, the most important thing is being consistent. Anyway, I’m getting off track. Let me tell you about some mistakes to avoid when writing dialogue.’

1 – Not Varying the Character Voices

People speak differently, and that means that characters should talk differently, too. The way that people speak comes from many different places. It is derived from where they were brought up, how they are feeling that day, what situation they are currently in, and who they are with. For example, I don’t speak to my partner the same way I speak to a client. So many different things change dialogue, and relationships with other people and characters is right up there in importance. You may have an extremely confident secondary character, and a less sure of themselves main character. Just by this distinction alone, these two people should be speaking differently. So, think about your characters as real people, and allow their personal voice to shine through.

2 – Overusing Dialogue Tags

He said, she said, they said…it can all get a bit much when dialogue tags are overused. Trust that your reader is intelligent enough to understand who is speaking without constantly being reminded. It is absolutely fine to use these tags but do so with restraint. Overuse can pull a reader from a story.

3 – Too Much Exposition

‘But Sally, don’t you remember that day when your car drove off the cliff, and we realised that our mother was not who she said she was?!’

In real life, people don’t remind us of things that have happened in this way, and when it occurs in a novel, it can feel disconcerting. Exposition needs to happen, but aim to use it in subtler ways. For example, you can use narrative, setting, a character’s thought process. You can use exposition in dialogue, but make it as subtle as it would be in real life. For example, the above quote might read:

‘Sally, I don’t want a repeat of last year.’

Then, the narrative could go into an inner monologue with some hints of the car driving off the cliff etc. Remember that your reader is astute, so lay down those breadcrumbs of a memory, and keep them coming back for more.

4 – Leaning on Stereotypes

Our characters shouldn’t be stereotypes, so the trick is to research before writing their dialogue. If they are from somewhere you don’t know too well or haven’t been to, listen to some audio to try and get a sense of the different way people speak.
Take me, for example. I am from Birmingham, UK, and not many people outside of Birmingham believe it. That’s because there is a stereotype of a Brummy accent derived from a specific part of Birmingham. However, I still say a few things that give away my hometown, like ‘Mom’ and ‘tuth’.
So, never rely on the stereotype. It’s far more realistic to create your character’s dialogue based on your research.

5 – Making It Too Realistic

This might sound confusing upon first reading it, but bear with me! People speak in complex ways, stumble over words, we all say ‘Um’ a lot mid-sentence, and sometimes we use the wrong words entirely. While this is all great for writing dialogue, as it makes it realistic, there is such a thing as going overboard on realism. Reading dialogue with constant ‘Um’s’ and ‘Ah’s’, significant pauses and silences, and more will get frustrating. Be realistic, but not at the expense of your novel.

So there you have it! Five things to avoid when writing dialogue. If you found this helpful, please share it with another writer!

Got any tips to add? Let me know!

If you’re looking for a similar read, check these blog posts out:

What Does It Mean to Write What You Know?
5 Books On Writing That Will Improve Your Craft

If you need help with your dialogue or something else writing-related, please get in touch. I would love to chat! You can book a discovery call yourself by checking out the calendar here.


The Reset Week: Investigate Your Writing Process

The writing reset week is a week full of coaching prompts. I wanted to provide you with a catalyst for positive change and an example of how powerful coaching can be. Investigating your writing process is essential for improving it, so here is your week full of prompts. Enjoy, and let me know if you have any questions about any of them.


Welcome to the first of the Writing Reset Week! This week I will ask you a new coaching question every day to help you investigate your writing process.

Here is day one:

Write a letter to yourself listing your writing dreams and goals. Put this letter aside. You are going to pick it up again later in the week.


Imagine a time in the future where you have succeeded in achieving your writing goals. Looking backwards, describe the steps that led you there.

What step are you at currently?


Think about what you want from your writing life and ask yourself: What will having this give me that I don’t already have?’


What are you assuming about yourself that is holding you back from your path?


What are you like when you are at your best, creatively?


What has inspired you today, this week, this month of this year? What or who assists this inspiration?


Take a look at your letter from Monday. This is your North Star. Throughout the week, I have asked you questions that that, when answered honestly, will help you consider where you are on this journey, what is holding you back, what assumptions you are making about yourself, and remember what it feels like to be your best creative self, filled with inspiration. Now is the time to reflect on the week and consider how you can move forward mindfully and positively.

If anything has come up this week that you would like to talk about, please do get in touch. I would love to hear from you. As a Certified Professional Writing Coach, I know how important it is to investigate our creative lives and take stock now and then. I hope this reset week has been powerful and informative.


Overcoming Imposter Syndrome for Writers

I used to be scared to call myself a writer…

I used to think that if I said it aloud, whoever I was speaking to would question me on it, and ultimately call me out. Well, let me tell you, I’ve been owning my title of writer for a few years now – and not one person has done what I feared. I know I’m not alone either…

“I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody and they’re going to find me out.” – Maya Angelou

Imposter Syndrome is a tricky beast and one that many of us are familiar with. Through my coaching, I have seen that it impacts many writers in the community. It is the belief that one is not allowed to call themselves a writer or that they might be ‘found out’ as being a fraud. It can even disguise itself as a comparison with others. However, there are ways to address this thought pattern, and I’m going to let you in on the tricks I have used to squash my Imposter Syndrome! If you struggle with it too, read on, because with a bit of work and some reframing, you will be ready to claim your title of Writer and stand tall!

Observe the Thought

So often, we feel our thoughts when they come to us, without observation. This is like going and standing in the rain when it starts; you end up soaking wet and unable to distance yourself. Just because it rains, it doesn’t mean you are the rain. Just because you think that you are unworthy of the title of ‘Writer’, it doesn’t mean that you are unworthy. Next time you feel imposter syndrome, try taking a step back and observing the thought instead of feeling the thought. Answer the following question and observe:

What was the trigger that made you feel this way?


Once you can acknowledge and observe the thought of Imposter Syndrome and the trigger that started it, it’s time to reframe that image. Ask yourself the following:

What would you say to someone in your position?

Remember that no one in the world has all the answers and that it’s okay not to know something, and it’s a great thing to educate yourself and step into a learning mindset. With that in mind, what’s wrong with someone else knowing more than you in reality, or having to learn something new? Absolutely nothing! Writing is an ongoing practice of education, and it’s a lifelong journey. Being on that journey does not mean that you are not a writer; it could just mean that you are at a different stage of learning to someone else. Reframe your thoughts of Imposter Syndrome as an acknowledgement of a learning opportunity.

Talk It Out

Talk to the people around you about how you feel, especially if you are having a hard time separating yourself from your feelings of Imposter Syndrome. Ever heard the phrase ‘A problem shared is a problem halved?’

There are so many people that struggle with Imposter Syndrome in all walks of life. Share your thought process, your reframing practice, and what you learn with others. It’ll lighten both your and their loads.

Get Your Facts Straight 

When you notice that Imposter sign flash across your thoughts, take a moment to think of the facts. Write down five things that you are proud of with your writer’s journey. It could be that you just finished a short story, or that you gave somebody advice online. Whatever it is, these represent the reality of the writer you are. They are the facts. Be proud of what you have achieved so far, whether you have written a Haiku or an entire novel.


Visualising your success as a writer is a powerful way to keep yourself focused. Close your eyes and think of your ultimate goal.

Ask yourself the following questions:

What will it feel like once you are there?

How will it look?

How will you stand and present yourself once you have reached your ultimate writing goal?

Feel all of those amazing feelings and draw them into your body whenever you start to notice Imposter Syndrome sneaking in. Practice battling your doubts with your visualised confidence, and watch Imposter Syndrome lose the battle.

Stand Tall

Making ourselves physically larger, taking up space and owning our place in both the room and the world is a powerful way to build confidence. It’s proven to make us feel braver when we stand like a superhero – legs apart, hands on hips. When you begin to feel concerned about your writer status, practice standing tall. Take up as much space as you can with your body and breath in deeply. Watch this amazing TedTalk on the power of body language for more tips on this!

You can download The Writer’s Way for some writing affirmations, but for Imposter Syndrome, there is a powerful one that you can use while you are taking up your space.

Say it loud, and say it proud:


If you want to talk about feelings of Imposter Syndrome in your writing life, get in touch today. As a fully qualified coach, I can help you investigate these feelings and find a way to move forward.

Found this blog post helpful? Share it with a friend!

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5 Ways to Find a Literary Agent or Publisher

Are you wondering how to find a publisher or literary agent? Let’s chat about five ways to go about it.

You will notice that none of these mention searching on Google. This is for a reason. When you search phrases on Google like ‘Publishers open for submissions’ or the like, what usually comes up is a selection of vanity publishers. Steer clear of these! Whatever you do, always search for publishing house or literary agent reviews before you send your work to them. If they have poor reviews, it’s best not to get involved. Remember – you’ve got the goods, so read on to find out how else you can find an agent or a publisher.

1 – The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook
One of my favourites, this book is released every year and is chockablock with information that could help you get traditionally published. It’s laid out in a very easy to read way so that you can search for those who specialise in your genre. At the very least, check out their website for fantastic resources and information – it’s an excellent asset for writers everywhere! This is for the UK market. The US market has similar with the yearly Writer’s Market, and for those in the same part of the world as I am, you can use the Australian Writer’s Marketplace.

2 – Agent Databases
Agent databases are essentially search systems primarily for agents, and they allow you to filter through to ensure you are finding someone who matches what you have written. Good databases are Agent Query or Query Tracker.

3 – Literary Marketplace
An old school site but with a lot of information at your fingertips, Literary Marketplace is a great resource! You can also find independent publishers here. So, if you are looking to bypass an agent and go straight to a publisher, this might be the resource for you.

4 – Twitter
What? Twitter? Yes! Twitter can be awesome for finding agents. You can use hashtags to find them, and you can also get involved in pitch wars. Pitch wars is an event run on Twitter where writers can pitch to agents and have their manuscripts requested. This actually works – so if you are looking to get involved, set up a Twitter account, and search the hashtag #PitMad. You can also visit to learn more. The next date for this is 2nd September 2021. You’ve got this writer!

5 – Research
The classic. Research books like your own, the same genre, type etc. and find out who published them, who their agent was etc. Create a comprehensive list and get going with your querying!

So, there are five ways to find an agent or publisher. If you ever want to talk about querying or anything related to your publishing goals, whether it is your definition of success or how to find the right route for you, get in touch! I’d love to work with you on publishing your work.

Enjoyed this blog post? Here are some similar ones to read:

Traditional Vs Self-Publishing. Which is right for you?
When to Follow Up With a Literary Agent or Publisher
How to Deal with Constructive Criticism of Your Writing

If you found this useful, share it with another writer!


The Time Blocking Tools That Can Help You Write Your Novel

You may know by now that I am a time blocking fan. Put simply, time blocking enabled me to complete a PhD while working two jobs, and finish two novels in one year with time for querying. So yes, time blocking works for me. I use time blocking tools to help me with this, and here are some of the ones I recommend for you!

But hang on, what is time blocking?

Essentially, it is understanding how much time you have to do tasks in your day, and blocking out your time, dedicating each block to a task. Did you know that just one hour of planning can save you ten hours of doing? Seriously – the amount of time planning can save us makes it a no brainer for writing a novel.
Looking for an introduction to time blocking? That’s what I share in my free class right here: Novel Writing Masterclass.

There are so many time blocking tools that can help us, so I thought I would give you my top four! I’ll include the links so you can explore more if you like the sound of them.


One of the most popular time blocking tools and the one you have probably already heard of – Asana helps you keep track of all of your To-Dos in your various projects. It has reminders, you can link it to your phone, and if you love ticking off tasks as I do, it works well.

Perfect for: Collaborations and writing with others. You can add ‘team members’ to Asana, which is ideal if you’re sharing a writing project.


ClickUp has a reputation for being super easy to use, and it is free for the full version. You can manage multiple projects at once, and it even has an inbox.

Perfect for: Single users who want to manage their daily routine as well as their writing routine.

Google Calendar

It’s the one you may already use, and I love it. It enables time blocking through easy colour coding and reminders, and it speaks beautifully to your other calendars. It also adds in tasks for you when you accept invitations, and that is a dream.

Perfect for: The writer who wants to give time blocking a go before they commit fully to it!

The Classic – The Paper Planner

I won’t lie to you – I’m a paper fan. I like paper books, like writing things down longhand, and my weekly planning is no different. There is also something so beautiful about tearing off a week when it’s over and the physical act of scribbling a task out. There are some excellent paper planners out there, but I favour the type with tear-off sheets!

Perfect for: Old school writers, fans of nostalgia.

Okay, so now you know what tools are out there – ready and waiting for you to try, what about trying Time Blocking? If you are ready for an introduction to the practice (as well as other helpful information), check out this free class I’m giving away as part of my Novel Writing Masterclass: It’s Time to Write Your Novel.

Want to chat more about how it works? You can now book a Discovery Call with ease on my website. It’ll alter to your time zone, and you can book yourself in!

Found this helpful? Please share it with another writer.

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Which Story Outline Method is Best For You?

Whether you are a plotter, a pantser or a plantser, it can be confusing knowing which story outline might work best for you.

After all, there seem to be plenty of books out there suggesting different ways of plotting your novel. So, let’s dig a little deeper into the options so that you can make a creative decision! I’m going to outline five methods because there are a lot, but these are the ones that I believe are most common (based on empirical observation).

Your Story Outline Options:

The Save the Cat Method (click here for a link)

Now then, this is a detailed plan and method, and if the following resonates with you and you feel excited about it, I would strongly recommend borrowing / buying the book, which will help you through the process.

Jessica Brody breaks this method into fifteen ‘beats’ or plot points, as follows:

1: Opening Image. (0-1)%

Who your character is, and what their life is currently like.

2: Theme Stated (5%)

A suggestion of what the main character’s journey will be.

3: Setup (1% – 10%)

Exploring the main character’s current life and issues.

4 – Catalyst (10%)

A life-changing event.

5: Debate (10% to 20%)

Reaction to the life-changing event.

6: Break Into 2 (20%)

A change, perhaps leaving for a journey, a decision to try something new, etc.

7: B Story (22%)

Intro to a secondary character.

8: Fun and Games (20% to 50%)

Seeing the hero in the new world – succeeding or failing.

9: Midpoint (50%)

A false victory and a plot twist.

10: Bad Guys Close In (50% to 75%)

Things look like they’re getting better for the main character, but the baddies are still coming.

11: All Is Lost (75%)

The lowest point of the novel, something terrible happens.

12: Dark Night of the Soul (75% to 80%)

The darkest hour for the main character.

13: The Break Into 3 (80%)

The character sees how they can move forward.

14: The Finale (80% to 99%)

The main character saves the world / comes out of the other side of their struggle.

15: Final Image (99% to 100%)

How the journey has changed the main character’s life.

As you can see, this is an in-depth plot outline that gives you the opportunity to create a novel with a tight narrative structure.

The Three Act Method

Oh, it’s a classic, and one that I enjoy. This story outline involves breaking your plot down into (you guessed it) three acts. Honestly, I like it for its joyful simplicity and flexibility. It’s also the method we are taught at a very young age – beginning, middle, and end. It is also sometimes called:


Setting up the world of your characters, including exposition, world-building, and a problem for your main character.


The rising action that leads to the midpoint and ultimately something similar to ‘The Dark Night of the Soul’.


The climax and fallout of this, the resolution of the tale.

Within these confines, you will see that there is a similar language to the Save the Cat Method…and actually, that’s true of a lot of plotting and story outline methods. They do share a language and often similar methodology. However, the three act structure can be more flexible than other structures because it can be as detailed as you like. So, if you’re not someone who loves to plot, but you like a brief outline, you can break your story idea into Set-Up, Confrontation, and Resolution without going into specifics.

The Snowflake Method

Randy Ingermanson created this method, and it is laid out as follows:

1: Write a one sentence summary of your book.

2: Write a paragraph long summary. 

3: Write down each main character, including: Name, storyline, goal, conflict and revelation. 

4: Turn every sentence of your paragraph long summary into its own paragraph. 

5: Use your character information to create more detailed character sheets.

6: Expand each paragraph into an individual scene.

7: Write!

Randy does go into detail about a step that he no longer takes, and also recommends using an excel spreadsheet. You can find more information on this method here, so if this brief description has you shouting ‘Yes! That’s my method!’ Check it out.

Freytag’s Pyramid 

Another classic, that I have to say, I LOVE. In fact, I usually use this and the three act method to create a super plan that works for me. This one is one that you have probably seen before. It’s the shape of a pyramid, with the peak being the climax. This is broken down into the following steps:


Rising Action


Falling Action


As far as outlining methods go, I find this useful as, similar to the three act method, you can make it as detailed as you please. The flexibility in this works for me personally.

The Synopsis Method 

For those who don’t enjoy plotting, this method is excellent. This is essentially writing down the story before you’ve written the story! Usually, we write the synopsis at the end of writing our novel, but this method turns that idea on its head, and asks you to summarise the novel before writing it.

So there you have it, a brief dive into five story outlines. Which would work best for you? That’s for you to decide!

Found this post helpful? Share it with another writer!

Unsure which is best for you, but know you want to start plotting? That’s okay, get in touch today, and we can have a chat about it. Investigation into your writing process is always worthwhile. I also teach my favourite forms of plotting in my novel writing masterclass, and take you through the steps using a story you know well. So, if you’re looking for some extra plotting help, that’s a great place to start.

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