So, you’ve got a great story idea and you’re champing at the bit, all ready to start? Stop! Before you type that first word you have an important decision to make…

Are you writing in US English or British

English? You may think this is not the most important decision on the list but believe me you will thank me later. I’ve lost count of the number of manuscripts I’ve handled which have skipped between the two. Invariably the first question I ask a client is which they prefer me to use.

So before you start tapping those keys, take a little time to decide upon your audience. Are you writing for American speakers or for the British market? What nationality are your characters? If you want to book to have that authentic feel that you need to ensure your dialogue is in keeping with the setting.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject of writing dialogue, here are a few pointers…

Dialogue is the perfect place to ‘flesh out’ a character, so it pays to get inside their heads and give them their own distinct voice. It’s a good idea to read the dialogue out loud to hear if it has a realistic ring to it. Stilted phrasing and unrealistic speech is a sure way to lose a reader’s attention.

So think before your characters speak. For example, is the antagonist more likely to say “I get it” or “I understand”?

Would the main character’s father say “I don’t think sorry is good enough” or use a more definitive statement such as “Sorry isn’t good enough”?

Would this character say “going to” or “gonna”?

Does it make sense to contract “she would” to “she’d” or “would have” to “would’ve”?

Would a teenager ever say “as though” in place of “like“? Teenagers speak a language all their own, so why not get one to read through what you’ve written and take their comments and criticism on board?

In short, don’t just leap in and let the muse take over completely – do a bit of pre-planning first. Engaging with your reader is a vital ingredient forany piece of writing – putting in a little thought will make their experience all the more pleasurable!