Dramaquill's All Things Writing

July 11, 2020

Good dialogue shapes believable characters

Filed under: Creative writing,Novels,plays,Revising your writing,Writing — dramaquill @ 6:05 PM


I’ve been working on a revision of my second suspense novel and have been looking at ways to keep the writing tight while also really focusing on my characters. Can the reader relate to them? Are they three-dimensional people or just this writer’s words on a page?

I feel like the only way to really use dialogue to make my characters real and believable is to listen to the way real people speak. When I think about friends, colleagues, students or neighbours I know, what do I hear in my head to differentiate them all from one another?

Do they have a recurring phrase or mannerism in the way they speak? Go through even just a couple of people you know really well right now. Can you hear a signature word of phrase you would definitely associate with them? Do they use some sort of slang or unique word often? Do they speak slow…fast…nasally…with precise diction?

One of the toughest things about writing dialogue for your characters is that if you are not careful, they can all end up sounding just like you. They should have their own rhythm and phrasing. If you find some friends or family who are game, why not record a conversation you have with them. When you play it back, listen for the differences in how you both put sentences together. What is the cadence at the end of most of their lines? How does the way they speak differ from the way you speak?

I have always felt that writers need to be very observant in order to convey descriptions so that the reader can immediately get a visual picture in their mind from the writer’s words. But the same is true of writing dialogue. The way a character speaks can also create a visual picture. The more your reader can really see your story, the more invested in it they will be.

Having written a lot of stage plays, where dialogue is the main motivator for plot as well as character, I have been blessed to have had the opportunity to workshop with actors and get feedback on the dialogue I have written from the exact people who have to deliver it. Hearing your words out loud is another great way to see the differences in the way your characters speak.

Next time you think about developing your characters, think about dialogue and make sure they each have their own unique voice.

January 15, 2018

What writing for the stage taught me about writing a novel

Filed under: Writing — dramaquill @ 5:51 PM

For over twenty years I had to create original play scripts for drama students at my studio, Slightly off Broadway.  The drama program enrolled students as young as three years of age and included children, tweens, teens and adults.  Some of my characters included pirates, game show contestants, French chefs, hillbillies, ogres, wizards, aliens, scientists and the like.  

Writing for the stage taught me a lot about writing in general, but I was particularly amazed at how much it taught me when I began to write my first novel.

Writing characters for the stage forced me to listen to speech patterns, accents, pacing and rhythm as well as habits, quirks and ticks. Stage characters use their words as their main form of communication and hearing those words come alive through the voice of the actor/character really helped me *hear* the characters in my novel. Writing what they said wasn’t about being grammatically correct or sounding like a poet, it was about having them speak in a way that made them real to the audience and to each other.

On stage, even when characters have lengthy conversations, they don’t just stand or sit in one place. How boring would that be for the audience? Perhaps they’re fixing dinner together while they talk, or walking through a park, or meeting on a subway. They’re real people. They’re alive. They move. Often their movements define their personalities but just as often the movements help propel the story along. Writing stage directions definitely helped me remember to keep things moving in my novel.

It can be easy to lose sight of your characters’ personalities when writing a novel, especially when plot and pacing are so important. On stage, the characters stand before you. You can visually see who they are as well as hear who they are through their dialogue. When I wrote my first suspense novel, I pictured them physically which helped develop their individual traits and voices. You don’t want to write characters that all sound and act the same. They need to be distinct and memorable.

Novels rely on vivid descriptions to help the reader visualize where everything takes place. In plays, it’s the sets, props and costumes that bring the scenes to life. Again, I had to visualize what my environments would look like and then chose words that could communicate exactly what I was seeing to my readers. This was somewhat of a challenge for me at first because my audience (the readers) couldn’t see anything unless I was able to describe it properly for them.

Monologues belong on the stage  
It’s not unusual for characters in plays to spend several minutes on stage alone delivering a monologue. It’s a great way for a character to share their deepest emotions with you or move the story along by divulging information. Monologues work well on stage.  Big, long speeches do not work well on the page. Readers don’t want to wade through paragraphs of emotion and information. It definitely slows the action and it also just doesn’t make sense in the context of a book. So check your characters’ dialogue and make sure they aren’t *talking too much*.

Immediate reaction versus waiting for revues
Once the play is performed it’s easy to see if the audience gets the jokes and how they react to the characters and their situations. Applause is great for immediate feedback. Once your novel is written, it’s out there somewhere but you won’t be able to sit and watch each person read it and their reactions as they do. At best, if you’re lucky, they’ll post comments or reviews on the websites where they have purchased the books or email the author directly if they enjoyed the book. I’m somewhat prone to the immediate reaction of the theatre. 

So if you’re writing novels, why not try to write a scene or two as a play? You never know what it might add to your writing.

January 4, 2018

It’s 2018 and I’m back

Filed under: Writing — dramaquill @ 3:39 PM

wells-theatre-norfolk-virginian-seats-63328.jpegAfter a very long but necessary hiatus from this writing blog, I am back in full swing.  I hope all my readers have been busy writing, revising, promoting and getting their work out there.

2017 was a breaking point type of year for me. After 23 years of operating a very successful performing arts business, I decided that the 7 days/week workload and all the administrative duties associated with the *business* end of running my studio were slowly draining me of my creativity and my passion for creating.  So at the end of June, I closed my business.

I also needed a change of pace in my day-to-day life, so I bought a house in a town of approximately 1200 people and moved from the city of 110,000, where I lived my entire life, to this slightly isolated forest village.

What drew me to my new place of residence was the fact that there weren’t any creative arts programs offered here. I didn’t really pick my new town – it picked me.  And so far my lessons and classes have been a huge hit with the locals, as well as my more relaxed schedule. I’ve also met another published writer, several trained singers and an abundance of open, giving souls who have all made me feel extremely welcome.

In my former studio I was responsible for writing anywhere from 6-8 original plays and/or musicals for our drama department every school year.  Now that I no longer have all these classes, I have decided to edit and revise my scripts and submit them to play publishers in the hopes of sharing them with drama teachers and their students.

So for my first “all things writing” post, I am going to post some play publishing websites for those of you who may want to submit your own works or those who are looking for fresh material to perform.

So I name 2018 of this blog, “The Year of the Theatre”.

June 26, 2020

Keeping creative during Covid

Filed under: Writing — dramaquill @ 6:00 PM

I haven’t wanted to focus this blog on Covid-19 for a few reasons. People are being bombarded with information online – some true but lots of fake news. Quite frankly, it’s a real buzz kill on one’s creativity.

But as I mentioned in last month’s blog post, I have discovered so many wonderful *FREE* resources from Zoom presentations to live webinars to online lessons through email and I just had to share some of the better ones with you:

The Writer’s Union of Canada offers free articles and webinars related to writing and publishing. And the best part is that you don’t have to be a member to benefit from this free content. I have enjoyed every bit of content I have accessed from them so far.

If you are looking for fifty, yes that’s right, fifty FREE writing courses, delivered in daily emails for the length of the course, then Reedsy Learning is the place to go.

Although this next one isn’t exactly a writing resource, I still feel the need to include it because the information is very applicable to being a writer in the digital age. I attended two free webinars with The Resourceful Church Musician. One of them was about using Zoom to connect directors with their choirs and orchestras. For me, it was an excellent info session about the Zoom platform. This would be a great way for a critique group to move their in-person meetings online and still be able to continue writing and critiquing. The second webinar showed how to use iMovie and GarageBand, which are great tools for making book trailers. So if enhancing your digital presence is of interest then check them out on Facebook:

The last one for today focuses on screenwriting. I have had the pleasure of attending two of the free online webinars and both provided lots of great information. They are taught by award winning screenwriter, Ela Thier. Check her out at:

With all the uncertainty during this pandemic, why not fuel your creativity with some of these *free* resources and keep writing!




May 18, 2020

Free Webinars

Filed under: Writing — dramaquill @ 5:51 PM
Webinar clipart

Free webinar play online button vector illustration in Laptop notebook computer screen. Vector illustration.

We’ve all been social distancing and spending more time in our homes, and likely more time online. as the pandemic rages on. For many it can be extremely hard to stay motivated and accomplish things on a daily basis.

I am thrilled to find so many free webinars online on a variety of subjects of interest to me. This past week I attended one of the do’s and don’ts of writing query letters, I learned how to run meetings and rehearsals on the Zoom platform, and I ingested a ton of great information on the process of revising and editing my manuscript.

Now you’re probably thinking, FREE? What’s the catch?

To some degree, you are right. Some of the webinars sold a product at the end. Some promoted their businesses. But none of them forced you to buy anything and participation in the free webinar was indeed free.

Are all free webinars created equally? Absolutely not! There are those whose sole purpose is to hook new customers and the free info they provide isn’t worth the time it takes to attend. Luckily, if a webinar isn’t worth your time, you can just leave the meeting.

I highly recommend using this time to attend some of these great offerings online. What else have writers got to do, right?


May 2, 2020

What Should I write about?

I have asked myself this question many times. I would imagine every writer has at one time or another.

I enjoy writing in four main areas:

  1. Suspense novels
  2. Plays for the stage
  3. Blog posts
  4. Kid lit

Every time I get ready to begin a new work, I ask myself the above question. “What should I write about?”

My suspense novels tend to focus on the intricacies of human relationships and the way circumstances infuse tensions into those relationships.

Most of my plays are comedic and written for family friendly audiences.

I enjoy blogging about writing and about living in a small town.

In my Kid lit stories I like to include a hidden lesson while entertaining my readers.

But that doesn’t mean I still don’t ask myself “What should I write about?”

So where do I get my ideas?

My suspense novels might indirectly come from a real-life event, or a person I think would make a great character. I also like to set my suspense novels in NW Ontario because it’s where I live, and also because there aren’t many (if any) using this setting. Usually I start with one aspect and build from there. I like to use the WHAT IF technique to get my plot rolling.

When it comes to my play scripts, I tend to start with deciding on my characters. I’ve done a pirate play, a couple of plays involving hillbillies, stereotypical melodrama characters, and a quirky rich cast of family and friends in my murder/mystery to name a few. Once I have established “who” will be in the play, then my storylines seem to come quite quickly.

I started blogging as a way to connect with other writers and also to share any knowledge I gained along the way. Having had some success being published in children’s magazines, Writer’s Digest, and with a small book publisher, I experienced querying, revising, contracts, royalties, promotion and everything else that comes with trying to be a writer. I’ve been blogging about writing since 2007, so it does get harder to find new topics that haven’t been done to death, but with every new step I take in my writing endeavours, there’s bound to be something new to blog about.

Originally, when I began pursuing writing, I focused on writing for children and tweens. I had pieces published in several well-known children’s magazines. I also wrote several plays for children to perform. I even ventured into the rhyming PB genre for a bit. Writing for children needs to stay current. What kids read ten years ago isn’t what necessarily draws todays kids to a book. Observing kids, listening to kids and interacting with kids allows for new ideas in this genre.

So whatever area of writing entices you, look…listen…interact…and you will definitely be able to answer the question: “What should I write about?”

April 22, 2020

Don’t Hate Revising

Filed under: Writing — dramaquill @ 5:18 PM

You’ve written your first draft of your novel. Congratulations! But are you done? Absolutely not!

If I could only impart one word of wisdom to any aspiring writer I would have to say “Revise”. No matter how brilliant your first draft seems, once you let the dust settle and re-read it, (which I wouldn’t recommend for at least a month), you will find all sorts of areas that do not display your absolute best writing.

I can honestly say, I don’t particularly enjoy revising…well at least, not at first. I like feeling that huge sense of accomplishment when I type that last period on that last page of my finished WIP. I like fantasizing about which publisher or agent will want to represent my work. And I’m anxious to share my work so others can read it.

But the reality of it all is that I got my words and ideas down on paper, but now comes the real work. Can I answer yes to all these questions?

  1.    Are there any holes in my plot – anything not explained or resolved completely?
  2.    Do my characters seem believable and real? Do they grow by the end of the book?
  3.    Have I done my research? Are there inaccuracies in my locations or procedures?
  4.    Is there too much description weighing down the forward movement of the story?
  5.    Does my writing tend to be more telling than showing?
  6.    Is my dialogue believable? Do my characters all have unique voices?
  7.    Do my critique partners find it an enjoyable read?
  8.    Is it original? (most writers are avid readers so make sure you didn’t copy               something from a book you’ve read)
  9.    Have you meticulously checked grammar and spelling?
  10.    Are you satisfied that this is your best effort and are you ready to share it

I like to look at revising as an adventure. I have everything I need in my first draft. This time, I’m reading it as if I were reading a book I’d purchased. Is it holding my interest? Do I like the writing style? Would I recommend it to others?

I won’t lie. Revising is hard work and can be frustrating at times, especially when we just want the book to be finished. But if you truly want a fighting chance at publication, don’t skip the revisions. Learn to love this nurturing time in the writing process.


March 31, 2020

Writing during a Pandemic

Filed under: Writing — dramaquill @ 4:19 PM

woman in blue crew neck t shirt writing

We are all facing a very challenging time in the history of our world right now. Stressful times like these can really stifle our creative side. Many writers are struggling to put words to a page.

I’m definitely not an expert when it comes to handling stress, but I have found a few simple coping strategies for keeping my writing going during this time of uncertainty.

  • Get off social media (or even the internet) if you are writing on your computer
  • Try writing with pen a paper so you aren’t distracted with online notifications
  • Remember that writing is something you love and keeping your writing schedule can help alleviate stress and worry
  • Read more (especially in your chosen genre) to keep you inspired
  • Stay social with phone calls and video chats. We all need human contact
  • Get enough rest
  • Eat sensibly and drink enough water
  • Shower…do your hair and makeup…get out of your pjs
  • Get up and move your body
  • Soak up some fresh air everyday
  • Don’t be hard on yourself when the words won’t come. Try again tomorrow.

As physical distancing continues, and likely will for some time to come, remember that this situation isn’t permanent. You have a purpose. Accept that things have to be different for now.

But most of all…keep writing!

July 10, 2019

10 things playwrights should do besides writing

Filed under: Writing — dramaquill @ 4:43 PM
woman using gray laptop computer on her lap

1. Go through your body of work and sort everything into categories
    like genre/length/submissions
2. Make an agreement with yourself to submit to at least 3 markets you have NOT
   submitted to previously.
3. Enter at least one new contest.
4. Go through all your old notebooks and look for a new character or situation on
    which to base a new work and begin writing
5. Save up for a writing program that will make your writing easier, ie Final Draft.
6. Plan a staged reading of one of your works and produce it yourself.
7. Workshop a WIP and really “listen” to the character’s voices.
8. Try writing dialogue for a “new” character.
9. Take an acting workshop and feel what it’s like to step into the actor’s shoes.
10. Plan to attend a work of someone’s that you have never considered going to
    before and go with an open mind.

February 26, 2019

Getting Unstuck

Filed under: Writing — dramaquill @ 4:31 PM


How many of you are currently stuck on a writing project?

I have been stuck on my sequel for quite a while now. Every time I go to work on my final edit, something derails my progress.

Last year my laptop died and although I had been what I thought was diligent about backing up my work to flash drives, it turns out that I am missing three chapters that I had revised and replaced in my original document. So that was a several days checking copious amounts of notebooks and folders to try to re-create these missing bits.

Then, doing an overall revision to my plot, I needed to change an important location, thus necessitating the re-writing of a few more chapters. I’m dealing with this in fits and starts as I can’t quite get the rhythm in the scenes to match the rest of the chapters.

The longer I take digging through the mire, the less interested I am becoming in the project…and that concerns me.

I still think it’s a great story and a great conclusion to my novel, “When Love Won’t Die”. I have readers patiently waiting for the book to come out.

And yet, I remain somewhat stuck.

Blogging about being stuck has given me a push to try again – to jump back in with both feet and wade through the mess until I can tidy it up.

Don’t give up if you’re stuck! We can do this!

April 16, 2018

Being Published is not for the Faint of Heart

Filed under: Writing — dramaquill @ 5:49 PM

As a first-time author, I could barely contain my excitement when I received an offer, and a contract, for my first book, “When Love Won’t Die”.  Red Rose Publishing offered to publish my book, first as an e-book and then, when sales were proven, as a paperback. I was elated. Fast forward two years into my contract and although sales were proven and promises to publish in paperback form were given, practically the opposite of that took place.

Red Rose Publishing skulked away from its authors in the dark of night without paying them all their owed royalties, myself included. The situation had all of us scrambling to remove our books from online sites. It was a very disappointing time.

Fast forward a few months and I received an offer from a new start-up company, Splice Publishing. They wanted to right the wrong of Red Rose and help get our books out in print. I was elated. I even got to keep my cover art since my cover artist was signing with Splice as well. 

Splice was a great company. They paid their royalties and they got my book out there in e-book and print form. 

Sadly, Splice publishing has decided to close. They sent me all my book files so that I can offer it online myself in Amazon Kindle. But other than the 13 paperback copies I have in my possession, readers can no longer order any version of my novel at the moment.

So here I go again – right back to the start.

Will I try to get an agent to represent me?   

Will I query new publishers?

What will become of my sequel?

Although I haven’t fully decided which direction I will take, I WILL take a direction and keep working toward having not one, but two published books out there..My book in PRINT 2.JPG

Like anything, if you really want it, you’ll have to work hard for it, but it’s definitely NOT for the faint of heart.

February 12, 2018

Writing a book: The Importance of Drafts

Filed under: Writing — dramaquill @ 5:35 PM

As writers, we often seem more preoccupied with writing the perfect prose than getting the job done. A book is a huge undertaking and while many writers begin them, not everyone finishes their book.

The First Draft should simply be getting it down on paper. Don’t wrestle with the details, just get the story done from start to finish.

Now you can go back and fill in missing info which could include:

Characters’ names (especially secondary characters whose names you hadn’t even created during the first draft)

Locations and specific places (are they real places that need specific geographical specifics or are they created and don’t actually exist)

Information you have to research (like police procedures, courtroom or hospital)

Now you’re ready to submit this draft to your chosen readers for critiquing. (I belong to a critique group and find them an invaluable resource. I do not suggest using friends and relatives as your chosen readers.)

Once you’ve received their feedback, you’ll have to decide what to revise, thus creating yet another draft.

Finally, get someone to proofread your copy for grammar, punctuation, formatting etc. (Many self-published authors pay a professional for this service.)  At this point many authors also suggest doing a line by line edit as well.

Now your manuscript is ready to be submitted to publishers and/or agents, but remember to follow their unique submission guidelines to the letter.

January 4, 2018

Play publishers

Filed under: Writing — dramaquill @ 3:53 PM


pexels-photo-574077.jpegHere are some of the more well-known sites for publishers of plays and musicals. Those who are accepting new scripts will have information under submissions or writers’ guidelines. Why not get your work from the page to the stage?

Dramatists Play Service, one of the premier play-licensing and theatrical publishing agencies in the world, was formed in 1936 to foster national opportunities for playwrights by publishing affordable editions of their plays and handling the performance rights to these works

Visitors can search for plays that fit their specific needs, read lengthy script samples for free, and buy books and performance rights, online with ease. Playscripts is also the creator of Findaplay.com, a free service for locating plays in the catalogs of all major play publishers.

Headquartered in New York City, Samuel French, Inc. is the largest publisher of plays and musicals. Helping to make theatre happen since 1830

Heartland Plays, Inc., a publisher of plays and drama products, features work for all stages including professional and stock theatre, community theatre, university and educational theatre as well as titles for teens and young audiences

How can we help you? Call us at 800-333-7262 • Home | Plays | Musicals | Texts, DVDs & Makeup | FAQ | Newsletters | Sitemap | About

Theater play scripts for schools and community theater. Download our free script of the week. Genres: comedy, drama, musicals, ten minute plays, mystery, holiday

Welcome to Broadway Play Publishing Inc There are currently 1,025 titles in the catalog

Looking for play scripts? Search here for acting editions of over 800 Stage Plays – search by Length, Cast-Size and Genre. FREE evaulation copies

Eldridge Publishing, a leading play publisher since 1906, offers hundreds of full-length plays, one-acts, melodramas, holiday and religious plays, children’s theatre plays and musicals of all kinds



November 1, 2016

And the winner is…

Filed under: Writing — dramaquill @ 12:16 PM

I am pleased to announce that Heather Norhaugen has won the free copy of my suspense novel, “When Love Won’t Die”.


On another note – watch for some exciting news coming soon!

October 4, 2016

Win a copy of When Love Won’t Die

Filed under: Writing — dramaquill @ 1:37 PM

I enjoy October for many reasons:

Crisp morning air
Beautiful colors of turning leaves
Warm afternoon sun
Canadian Thanksgiving
and curling up with my favorite mystery/suspense books.

To win a copy of my suspense novel, “When Love Won’t Die”, write a ONE paragraph story opener beginning with this line:

Suzannah squinted through the darkness.

Winner will be selected on October 31st.


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