How to punctuate dialogue

Picture of gold punctuation marks

How to punctuate dialogue

Dialogue punctuation is an area of fiction writing that often baffles new and experienced authors alike. Here you will find simple explanations on how to punctuate and lay out your dialogue, plus the difference between direct dialogue, indirect dialogue and internal dialogue.

 

Single or double ‘quote marks’?

Single and double quote marks (also known as quotation marks) vary from country to country and publishers usually have the final decision to fit their in-house styles. Generally, Australian and UK publishers prefer single quotes, whereas US publishers prefer double, though this can still vary. The main thing is to be consistent in your choice. It’s easy enough to complete a Find/Replace in Word if you eventually decide to switch. I have used single quote marks in these examples, but you can use your own preference.

 

What goes inside dialogue quote marks?

Only two things should be placed within dialogue quote marks:
A. What a character says out loud (direct speech)

‘Don’t sit there. The paint’s still wet,’ he said.

B. Dialogue punctuation (e.g. comma, full stop, question mark, exclamation mark, ellipses)

  1. ‘I’m not sure if I like this,’ Ruth said. ‘It’s scary.’
  2. ‘Haven’t you done this before?’ John asked, looking amused.
  3. ‘No. Wait!’ Ruth took a step back. ‘It’s … a lot higher than I thought.’

 

What goes outside dialogue quote marks?

Dialogue tags  (said, asked, called, murmured, yelled etc.)
Dialogue tags are used to flag which character is speaking and often help the reader understand the tone of the character’s dialogue.

  1. ‘Will you be joining us for dinner?’ he asked.
  2. The waiter called out, ‘Sir, you left your jacket.’
  3. She leaned in and whispered, ‘Don’t forget to lock your door.’
  4. ‘Well, if you’d told me,’ David mumbled, ‘we could have worked it out.’
  5. ‘Don’t be so hasty to decide,’ Verity said. ‘You still have plenty of time.’

Notes:

  • Dialogue tags are always punctuated with a comma, unless the speech is interrupted and a new sentence begins with a capital letter (see example 5).
  • Dialogue always starts with a capital letter, unless a sentence is interrupted by a tag or action and the same sentence then continues. In this case, use lower case to continue the dialogue. (See example 4).
  • Dialogue tags are also known as attributions.

Action tags (an action the character does)

Action tags are used to flag which character is speaking, and sometimes to aid characterisation. They can also provide an alternative to repetitive dialogue tags.

She shook her head. ‘It’s not the same.’
‘It’s over here.’ Tom pointed to the shelf.

but when using both an action and a dialogue tag:

She shook her head and said, ‘It’s not the same.’

Notes:

  • Action tags are always punctuated with a full stop.
  •  Action tags are sometimes called action beats.

 

Dialogue without tags

If it’s clear which character is speaking, it’s not necessary to use a tag at all.

David and his brother stood looking at the broken window while their father glowered. ‘Which one of you kids did this?’

 

Direct Speech – Indirect Speech – Internal Dialogue

Direct speech is dialogue spoken aloud and is enclosed in quote marks:

‘Good job, David,’ she said.

Indirect speech is reported speech and does not require quote marks.

Jason said he would be there, but Susan had her doubts.

Internal Dialogue is the equivalent of thought and requires no quote marks.

Mark wondered if this was such a good idea. What if it all went wrong?

 

Interrupted Dialogue

When dialogue is interrupted by either an action or thought, use em dashes to set off the interruption, but do not use commas.

Interruption by action

‘When I applied for this job’—she pursed her lips to calm herself—‘you said you would support me.’

Interruption by indirect thought

‘Take three drops of rose oil’—he wondered if he had the amounts right—‘and blend it with the other ingredients.’

Interruption by  direct thought

I should have eaten when Mum offered—now that my stomach is grumbling—but I hadn’t been hungry then.

Interruption by another character’s dialogue

Gerry grabbed his satchel and turned to Kathy, who was balancing the cash register. ‘So when you’ve finished doing that, you’ll—’
‘Yes, yes. Bank the takings, and lock up the shop,’ she said. ‘Get going or you’ll miss your train.’

Trailing off dialogue

When a character trails off their speech, use an ellipses with one space prior.

Mary’s brow furrowed. ‘I don’t know what I was thinking. Maybe if I …’ She bent to pick up the broken plate, then sat on the kitchen stool weeping.

Coming next:

Quotes within quotes

Image source: Pixabay

negative_reviews

Ouch! Negative Reviews and Criticism

Or Dealing with Other People’s Poo

One of the realities of becoming a published author is that people outside our supportive circle of friends and family will read and publicly comment on our work. Fabulous! Isn’t that why you write? To affect people? To make them think, to stir their emotions?

But what happens when those comments are constructions of uninformed bile or troll fodder? And all you want to do is stab yourself in the heart? Or better still, stab the reviewer in the heart? How satisfying would that be?

As writers, we know not everyone will fawn over our work, and that’s okay. Potato Potarto. But when we come across a review that’s absolutely stinging and deliberately misconstrued, it can stick in our writerly craws for weeks, months sometimes wiping out every good review we’ve ever read about our work (so sometimes we’re drama queens). Damn it! I hate that. Get out of my head!

Logically, we know this person doesn’t know us, and probably doesn’t know our work well, so it’s not personal — it’s NOT — even though it may feel like an attack. A very, very personal attack. But unless we’re prepared to line ourselves up against a social media firing squad wall, we often have no recourse against these kinds of attacks apart from bitching to the only other people who understand — our writerly buddies. We have no voice to share our pain, to defend our work, or educate someone who thinks they’re in a competition to read fifty books a month and spew forth bile rather than read a book carefully, absorb its subtext and story arc and only then give a considered, informed review — even if they don’t like it (the word is subjective here, not personal).

The only action we can take is to MOVE ON. Block the person from our feeds, our social media, our minds. Don’t go giving them emotional real estate. While you’re stewing and fuming, they’re not even thinking about you. They’re probably sitting in their tracky dacks and stained T-shirt, stuffing their faces with peanut M&Ms and coke, illegally downloading crap movies. It’s the way of the digital world.

Move on! The moment we think about trying to defend ourselves, we’re at risk of falling on our own sharpie pens (or bashing our heads in with our keyboards). Want we really want is an apology, and a troll is never going to apologise, never going to understand the days, months, years and risks you took to wring those words onto the page, or the humungous effort it took to get published. (Have they written a book? Have they been published? Probably not.) So there you are stuck with the bitter taste of powerlessness in your mouth and a broken heart.

Or are you? Perhaps you were smart enough not read those reviews in the first place? Or you arranged to have friend vet them for you first? It’s not such a stupid idea. In fact it’s a brilliant idea. What’s the point of crazily poring over someone’s vitriol, line by line, over and over, trying to understand why they don’t like your book? Why they seemingly don’t like you?

Are we, as artists, drawn to punishing ourselves? Why is it we can have fifty fabulous reviews but that one, uninformed piece of hate is the only one that sticks in our minds, haunts us into sleepless nights and sometimes smashes our confidence? What is it we’re looking for when we insist on reading, then rereading negative reviews, continually churning the words over in our minds, dissecting and seeking to understand? Perhaps we’re looking for fault in our own work. Perhaps we feel we deserve to be shot down. Maybe our own lack of belief in ourselves is seeking a slap across our literary faces.

How do we stop? How do we deal with our fragile egos? I think Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat pray love fame nails it when she says:

I don’t look at it, and I don’t look for it.

I will not put those words in my head. I will not put those images in my head. To do so is an act of violence against myself, and I do not commit acts of violence against myself anymore.

That’s smart. But is it smart to completely ignore all criticism? Probably not. When we’re too close to the trees who’s going to help us see the plot holes in our paper forests? People we trust of course. Here’s Elizabeth’s take on it again:

I DO listen to negative criticism about my work, however — but only from certain people, and only at a certain time.

The people who I listen to about my work are people who have earned the right to offer me criticism. There aren’t many of them, but they are precious. They are a few of my closest and most trusted friends, family members, and colleagues.

 As for WHEN I listen to criticism? I only listen when there is still a chance to fix or change the work. After the book is published, THERE IS NOTHING MORE I CAN DO ABOUT IT — so why would I go digging for criticism after the book is already printed, and it’s too late?

But what about the good reviews? Should we be avoiding reviews altogether? Of course not. We deserve to hear some happy news. We’ve worked bloody hard to get where we are, and that work never stops. Enjoy the moment. Roll around in it like you’re a sparrow enjoying a dust bath, like a puppy who’s found a roll of toilet paper, a chook that’s found worm. Go for it. You earned it! Every little bit of it.

Just don’t trawling through Goodreads, looking for that negative review to counterbalance how good you feel before moving onto the next project, putting yourself on the line again. And if you do accidentally stumble across a piece of poo, well, look away. LOOK AWAY! QUICK!. It’s not your poo, it’s theirs. You don’t own it.

Of course, it’s impossible to avoid negativity entirely, but understanding why we feel the way we do, and being able to control our reactions to it, goes a long way to padding our fragile egos.

Here’s the link to Elizabeth’s article. I highly recommend reading it: Elizabeth Gilbert – Dealing With Criticism

 


speed_date

Speed Dating Demons

I’m about to face my demons

This week I have cut myself off. From everyone and everything not writing related. It’s intense, euphoric and gloriously selfish. A week of me. A week of solid writing. Why? Preparation for today’s speed dating session. Not the romantic kind, but the literary, heart-stopping kind where I will put my passion on the line.

Held by Writers Victoria at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne, the two hour session is an opportunity to pitch to ten major players. All I will have is a strict, three minute, face to face, opportunity with each publisher, to make them fall in love with my novel. Then I will hold my breath and watch carefully for their reaction.

It’s a confronting idea: I’ve spent the last six years thinking I can write. I’ve spent the last three years actually learning how to write. I’ve spent the last year and half working on my current manuscript and hardly contributing the household finances. Bless my dear husband.

This week I barely sleep. Character dialogue is like endlesss chatter in my mind, flawless chapters seem to develop huge plot holes, and one night I stay up until 6 a.m. writing because my character won’t shut up and she warns her words will disappear if I don’t get them into my computer right now.

One thing keeps running through my head. One frustrating, self-defeating thought: I have no idea what the core of my story is. I have no idea how to verbally encapsulate the essence of it in a one (maximum two) sentence logline. I need twenty sentences. Thirty. Forty. But I’m required to deliver it succinctly, and then give the whole story’s outline in less than fifty seconds. One minute in total. (We will need the other two minutes to answer questions).

I write, rewrite, ditch it all, write again, swap pitches, get and give feedback, and all I’m doing is making minute changes to the same logline and pitch. I know the truth is buried in there somewhere; it just won’t come to me. Don’t they understand there’s more to this novel than can be captured in one freakin’ sentence?

The story has changed form, characters have come and go, storylines have twisted so far I’ve have to rein them back to reality. Where the hell was I heading in the first place? Not where I’ve ended up. And it’s not even finished!

It takes remembering one comment during an earlier hefty discussion with my weekly workshop group (I’m an addict for having my chapters read and torn apart — okay, questioned in intricate detail by other authors like myself and then sulking for a week before I realise they’re right in their assessment) for the light to go on. It’s all so simple and one wonderfully insightful friend has said it already: ‘Lauren blames herself.’

It all falls into place. Thank you. Thank You!

The day is here. And I’m too excited to be nervous. I’ve gone to ridiculous lengths: I’ve learnt my logline and pitch by heart (though in the actual moment I’m so glad to have it on paper in front of me). I have put together awesome packages ready with my CV, pitch, synopsis and first five chapters — just in case.

While I wait in queues to see each publisher, I chat with other wannabes. It’s a great way to not lose my head because everyone here is just as invested as I am. All these (mostly) women have given their moments of stolen time to write. They all want the same thing: my publishing contract.

I take a seat with my first victim. She stops me twenty seconds into my pitch to tell me she needs to know the age of my protagonist up front. Rookie mistake. I thank her and keep ploughing. She says it’s a great plot but her policy is not to look at anything until the novel is complete. She says I should enter their YA competition when it opens early next year. She doesn’t give me her business card. I think I’ve been brushed off.

My next victim says she likes my pitch very much and she will keep it to read over again later. She’ll get back to me if she’s interested. Still no card though I’m feeling a little more hopeful.

My third try strikes gold. The publisher loves it. She wants to read me. I leave her table feeling like I have a golden ticket in my hand (it’s not, it’s her regular business card).

Fourth victim: I can’t really remember; I’m too high from the success of last one. I think this publisher liked it, she sounded interested. Told me to enter their YA competition. Wait. Was that another brush off? I wasn’t really listening. Did I say I was still high?

Fifth victim: ‘That’s an excellent pitch. I’m going to hand it over to our YA department.’

And bang! Time is up. Another four publishers and one agent sits untapped, probably as exhausted as the rest of us hopefuls. Now it’s the waiting game: waiting for the response from the big one, waiting for the other two possibilities to follow through (if they ever do), waiting for my protagonist to tell me if she wants to change her ending again: happy, heartbroken, or independently triumphant.

I’ve put my heart out there. It might come back chewed up and spat out, it might come back glowing with possibility. And if it does, the next round of waiting and hoping begins. Baby steps of agonised hope. There’s nothing to do now but keep writing.


perfect_pitch

Pitch perfect

Tips on delivering the perfect pitch to a publisher

During my last semester at RMIT, where I did my Associate Degree in Professional Writing & Editing, my classmates and I were offered the valuable opportunity of pitching our manuscripts to two major publishers: Penguin and Text. I thought I would share some thoughts about the experience to help other newbie authors who feel their manuscript is at this stage.

We were all nervous, yet excited. We were given two minutes each to get our pitches across and then a further couple of minutes for questions from the publishers. Not a lot, granted, but it’s amazing what you can get across in a short period of time if you know your stuff.

The biggest lesson I took away from the event was not to be concerned about a ‘poker face’ or lack of enthusiasm from the publishers. In most cases, their reactions will have no bearing on the quality of your delivery – they’re just concentrating on listening to your pitch and where it might fit within their publication list.

And if they don’t show interest, well, you just keep on trying. It’s not the end of the world, or the end of your writing career. Chalk it up as experience. And the more experience you have, the better you will get at representing your manuscript.

Some students managed to get themselves all het up, as if this was their one big chance – forget it! Look upon this as a stepping stone. I’ve got a binder with rejection letters that I’m proud of; it means I’m moving through the stages that all successful authors have been through before achieving success. If you’re expecting to nail it first time, you’re putting too much pressure on yourself. Go easy. It’s just the beginning.

I found that knowing your story inside-out is the key to confidence. Showing that you care about your characters and their stories is what’s going to come across in your delivery.

Quick Tips:

  • remember this is a chance – not your only chance
  • be brief: make a list of around 6 – 8 key points and stick to them
  • open with genre, name of manuscript, name of protagonist
  • focus on your pitch and not your perceptions of the publisher
  • inject some humour into your delivery
  • make eye contact
  • show passion for your writing
  • don’t expect to be perfect, it’s okay to stumble: you’re only human
  • practise your pitch again and again until it rolls off your tongue
  • practise in front of a mirror
  • know your market and be able to name some comparison authors or books
  • leave arrogance at home and don’t tell the publishers what to think
  • say thank you for the opportunity

During my research on how to pitch, I came across the above YouTube video: Make your pitch! 12 finalists pitch to big Hollywood live at the Napa Valley Film Festival.  Enjoy!


diamonds_writing_process_blog_hope

The writing process – Blog Hop

Diamonds don’t start out shiny

My gorgeous friend and fellow scribe, Nicole Hayes, author of YA novel Whole of My World, has asked me to participate in a Blog Hop, called ‘The Writing Process’.

I thought it might be a good opportunity for some introspective examination — a pause to stop, breathe, and look where I am — so here are the four simple questions accompanied by my, hopefully not too waffly, answers.

1. What am I working on?

Oh god! What am I not working on?

• Literary Fiction: a novel based on the universal and ever-present need for parental approval.

• YA Fiction: a coming of age story about an abused young girl learning to face her fear of relationships as she moves into adulthood.

• Adult Thriller: abduction and slavery in the South Seas.

• Romance: love set in the turbulence of cyclonic Far North Queensland.

• Plus: copywriting, blogs, the odd short story, website content, articles, plus my editing and proofreading work. I think I just ran out of breath there.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Okay, I was asked this question in last week and I had a crap answer then, but I’m sticking to it anyway: it’s hard to define because I’m enjoying a tasting plate of genres to find out what my favourite flavour is. I have, however, heard it said again and again that there are no new stories; the difference lies in how the stories are told. So I’m leaning towards what differentiates authors themselves: their voices. I’m either grabbed from the start or it’s not worth persisting with the struggle. That’s a scary thing, knowing you have to snaffle a reader with your very first words.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Because I’m a little crazy (all writers are IMO) and it’s in my nature to stretch myself. Over time I’ve learned to trust that path. Being brave enough to write the truth of our experiences, painful or joyful, embroidered in fictional characters or made bare in factual narratives, makes the writing real for others to experience. It works, it flows. Resisting the truth arrests the story. Ooh can I quote that?

4. How does my writing process work?

I’m a polisher. I can’t move on until my words, diamonds in the rough, have a reasonable shine. That doesn’t mean my words won’t get rewritten next time I read them. I’m a literary bottle of Mr Sheen and the words are never shiny enough.

That’s it. I’m done. Next Monday I’m passing the literary baton to one of my heroes and tutors at RMIT: Simmone Howell, author of Girl Defective, Notes from the Teenage Underground and Everything Beautiful. You can find Simmone here: www.simmonehowell.com.au


TC where do you write

Where do you write?

I do it on the patio with TC

Where do you write? I once tried to do it in the bath. I visualised a leisurely, relaxed activity. I sat my iPad on a chair so I could reach over and type thoughts as they came to me. Dumb idea. Uncomfortable, wet-fingered, yoga-twisting awkwardness is what resulted. At least I can say I’ve tried it.

My favourite place to write is on our tiny front patio under a sun umbrella with one of our two cats supervising (see pic). That’s TC. He keeps his opinions to himself, even when I ask for them. He’s stubborn (or wise) like that. If he had opposable thumbs so he could bring me coffee he’d be purrrfect.

In bed first thing in the morning before distractions set in, is an incredibly productive option. Night time in bed doesn’t really work for me as I’m not a pen and paper girl and I have a noise-averse hubby (key taps can sound like whack-a-mole in the dead of the night) whose day job pays the mortgage and buys cat food. Fair enough, I need to eat too.

I’ve been told Hemingway liked to stand at a chest of drawers near a window in his bedroom, to write. *Goes off to visit good friend Google * True, it seems, and Hemingway wasn’t alone: Kierkegaard, Charles Dickens, Winston Churchill, Vladimir Nabokov and Virginia Woolf were also fans of the vertical stance. Personally, I find being seated on my well-padded butt quite satisfactory for a writing position. The art is hard enough without tiring oneself out physically as well as mentally. Having said that, I’ll probably give it a try because I can.

So where else? I used to frequent a Borders Café to write. Sadly, it’s long gone now. It was perfect for eavesdropping on conversations—essential for picking up nuances in dialogue—and being surrounded by books has a settling effect on me. The tasty coffee and banana bread was a bonus. Your local library is always available for a quiet, disruptive-free zone. Again I think it’s the books thing, plus being around like-minded others with a similar energy is inspiring. Try it. If you get stuck writing you can always read and that’s just as productive.

The weirdest place I’ve written? Not so much weird as tense: making notes by flashlight, in a Far North Queensland community sports centre, with a category 5 cyclone in full force. With no power and a flat iPad battery, I had to resort to pen and paper. I felt terribly ‘authentic’, like an on-the-scene reporter, if that isn’t too wanky a concept.

If you choose to write while up a tree, on the loo, or on a pull-down tray in an aeroplane, do what works for you; words on the page is the aim. Your readers will never know.


angry_man

Stories from Conflict

Conflict can lead to creativity

Where do stories come from?

Some writers say the ideas simply float into their heads when they’re not really trying. Others like to brain-storm and think up a plethora of scenarios before they find the one that sits best.

I think the kernels of stories tend to come from our own everyday experiences: people we meet, situations we encounter, characters on television and in books, voices we’ve heard in a café or on a train ride. All this information is percolating in our brains and once our imaginations get a hold of that jumble, it feeds into our writerly minds, presenting us with a myriad of scenarios and characters.

Sorting through the tangle

It’s not so easy though. When stories do present themselves, they’re not something tangible we can grasp. We have to sit our butts down and let our fingers channel the ideas. In an interview with The Guardian, Tim Winton uses the metaphor of hunting to describe the story creation process: “You never look in the eyes of an animal. You never look at it directly, because it knows that you’re coming and runs away”. Isn’t it the truth? If we think too hard about the process it’s like the words slip through our keyboards instead of onto ours screens.

Running with an idea

Just yesterday, I picked up a new idea while sitting in my doctor’s waiting room (I’m fine thanks, if you were wondering). Although the scene I witnessed, involving an arrogant old man and a kindly nurse, left me angry, once I’d calmed I realised I’d been given the gift of a conflict I could develop into a short story or plot for a novel.

In his book ‘On Writing’, Stephen King says “The most interesting situations can usually be expressed as a What-if question: What if vampires invaded a small New England village? (Salem’s Lot). What if a young mother and her son became trapped in their stalled car by a rabid dog? (Cujo).

I applied this What-if scenario to my old man and the nurse and this is what I came up with:

What if an arrogant elderly man, who doesn’t want to wait a lousy ten minutes for his blood test:
– decides to chuck a tanty and knocks over a toxic sample, putting people’s lives in danger?
– kills the nurse with a knife protruding from the base of his walking stick?
– is beaten by his impatient wife when he gets home because he’s kept her waiting?

You know what? I used to think I was a nutcase for constantly creating tension in my mind from imagined conflicts: the dialogue between myself and the person who cut in line for coffee, or the person who took the parking spot I was waiting for, or the guard’s reaction if I lost my train pass before reaching my city stop. Now, I just let it happen and use it. There’s story fodder in every situation. Embrace it.


kids_reading

The sound of proofreading

First Impressions Count

Nothing says ‘novice writer’ more than sloppy mistakes. I can’t tell you how often I’ve cringed because a silly blooper has crept through my work. Usually, it’s because I’ve been a bit blase. Truly, it’s a form of laziness, not bothering to go back and read and re-read your own words before setting them loose on the world.

But sometimes, no matter how careful you’ve been, there’s still an occasional slippery sucker that’s got by you. More often than not, it’s a simple missing article like ‘a’ or ‘an’ or a tense issue like ‘has’ or ‘have’. Super easy to miss. That’s when a fresh pair of eyes comes in handy and our proofreading service is just what you need.

Asking friends or workshop buddies to review your manuscript is a great way to test your writing on fresh eyes, but you should be able to bring your work to a decent standard on your little old lonesome first.

I’m not talking about big picture issues like story and structure here; I’m talking about the actual words on the page.

Have a look at this:

mistakes

Did you pick up the two mistakes? Maybe you saw one but not the other (look for ‘the the’ twice). This is a great example of how our eyes can deceive us and see only what our mind wants us to see.

 

Solution 1: Read your work aloud. Nobody has to hear you, so there’s no need to feel embarrassed. Just tuck yourself away in a quiet corner, with a coffee, tea, wine, whisky—whatever does it for you—and verbalise every word on the page. Trust me, it works; mistakes will jump out at you.

Solution 2: Get your computer to speak it for you. How? Have a look at this link: Text-to-Speech Command. It only takes a few minutes to set up this facility and once it’s been added to your Word tool bar, all you have to do is highlight your text and click the ‘speak’ command. Voila! Grab a notepad, relax and listen. Not just for errors but for sentence structure and flow

Solution 3: Use our professional proofreading service. Just let us know your word count and we will provide you with a fixed quote.


AJ Collins Facebook Feed

Geraldine

My approach to beta reading: To ask—does the book achieve what it has set out to do? Does it speak to its target reader? Are there any loopholes/developmental issues that will cause the reader to not suspend their disbelief? Are the characters rich and layered—and real? Does the prose flow, does it show and not tell?
Formal Qualifications: BA (Hons) English Literature with minor in Creative Writing; MA Publishing and Communications.
Favourite Genres: YA, literary fiction, crime fiction, true crime, academic non-fiction (literature, history, art).
Genres I’m also happy to read: N/A.
Genres/material I won’t read: Military history.
Favorite authors: Jane Austen, Neil Gaiman, Alice Munro, Haruki Murakami, Milan Kundera.
Am I an author? Yes.
Hobbies: Painting, Writing (poetry, short stories, plays), Soccer, Music, Yoga, Hiking.

Jacalyn

My approach to beta reading: Most of my working life has been training or assisting writers with their work. So I believe it’s so important to give feedback and guidance that encourages growth, not causes them to doubt their abilities. I don’t so much focus on rules; I focus on how writing makes me feel.

Formal Qualifications: Bachelor of Arts (Professional Writing), Bachelor of Creative Arts (Hons).

Favourite genres: General fiction, YA, sci-fi, drama, thriller/suspense.

Genres I’m also happy to read: Historical fiction, fantasy, chick lit.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: Child abuse, sexual violence.

Favorite authors: Please don’t make me choose!

Am I an author?: I write short stories but I haven’t been published.

Hobbies: Reading, painting and watching my stories.

Anne-Marie

My approach to beta reading:

I’ve worked with many first-time authors, so I know that trusting a stranger to read your work can be daunting. But the aim of beta reading is to nudge your book a little bit closer to publishable, and hopefully that is what I will do. I will highlight what works with your book, as well as what doesn’t work.

Formal Qualifications: Proofreading modules 1 and 2 (Society for Editors and Proofreaders), copyediting modules 1 and 2 (Editorial Freelancers’ Association), Diploma in Editing and Proofreading (New Zealand Institute of Business Studies), Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism (Massey University), Bachelor of Arts majoring in social anthropology and religious studies (Massey University).

Favourite genres:  Religious/spiritual, self-help, philosophy, memoir, creative non-fiction.

Genres I’m also happy to read:  Politics, history, finance/business, art, travel.

Genres/material I won’t read: Fiction.

Favorite authors: I tend to read by genre rather than author, but some I’ve enjoyed are Nimue Brown, Emma Restall-Orr, Bill Bryson, Brene Brown.

Am I an author?: As a former journalist I’ve had my work published many times.

Hobbies: Reading, swimming, cooking, gardening, Scrabble, pub quiz.

Fiona

My approach to beta reading: I go with my first instinctive response. I think about what’s working and keeping me there, and what can be improved. Then I think about the most useful way to convey this to the author.

Formal Qualifications or Training: MPhil (Creative Writing), MA (Writing, Editing and Publishing), BA (English)

Favourite Genres: Literary fiction, crime, thriller, YA

Genres I’m also happy to read: Memoir

Genres/material I won’t read: Horror, MRA

Favourite authors: Randolph Stow, Ursula Le Guin, Tom Franklin

Am I an author? Yes. Short fiction and creative non-fiction.

Hobbies: Bushwalking, reading, cinema, amateur field naturalism

Margaret

I read widely and constantly. I would read manuscripts with an eye for originality of voice and approach, and an ear for a delight in language the writer wants to share.

Formal qualifications: Diploma of Social Science in Librarianship and RMIT Associate Degree in Professional Writing and Editing

Favourite genres: Literary fiction, short stories, murder mysteries, creative non-fiction, books for children from birth to twelve.

Genres I’m also happy to read: Romance

Genres/material I won’t read: For adults: None. For children: Gross out humour (poos, wees and falling down)

Favorite authors: Mohsin Hamid, Penelope Fitzgerald, Margo Lanagan, Rebecca Stead

Are you an author? Yes. I’ve co-written three books for babies, and I write about books for literary journals.

Hobbies: Patchwork and crane-watching

 

Melanie

I value transparency and will offer my thoughts honestly but with optimism. Character development, authenticity of voice and motivations behind character action interest me, and I’m always looking for solid storylines and fresh perspectives and style. Genre matters little when a story is told well by engaging characters.

Formal qualifications: Graduate RMIT Professional Writing and Editing.

Favourite genres: Literary, Paranormal, supernatural, YA and general fiction.

Genres I’m also happy to read: Thriller.

Genres/material I won’t read: Historical fiction, self-help, religious.

Favorite authors: Christos Tsiolkas, Maxine Benebe Clarke, Glen Duncan, Markus Zusak, Hugh Howey, Laurell K Hamilton.

Are you an author? Yes. YA, literary, paranormal, poetry.

Hobbies: Writing, reading, movies.

Robyn

My approach to beta reading: Growing up, I was known as the girl who was always reading. I recall walking to the local library on my own at five years of age. I love a good story, be it true or fiction, especially when it resonates in some way.  But more than that, I love coaching/guiding an author to make their story something special.

Formal Qualifications or Training: Cert IV Training and Assessment, B Ed (Upper Primary/Lower Secondary), Grad Dip (Ed Counselling), Post Grad Cert Editing and Electronic Publishing.

Favourite genres: Creative nonfiction and science fiction.

Genres I’m also happy to read: Autobiography , memoir.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: Pretty open to considering all genres.

Favorite authors: Thea Astley, Andrew Miller, Geraldine Brooks, Richard Flanagan, Tim Winton.

Am I an author? Yes

Hobbies: Writing children’s stories, learning Spanish, travelling, enjoying time with family and friends.

Merridy

My approach to beta reading: English literature studies gave me an excellent grounding in book structure, language use, tone and genre. A lifetime of incessant reading means I quickly gain a feel for a work, its characters, plot pacing and integrity. It’s a pleasure to use these skills to help other writers develop their books.

Formal Qualifications: BA Hons (English Literature), Dip Ed, Grad Dip Psych Studies.

Favourite genres: General fiction, children’s and YA, fantasy, humour, creative non-fiction, poetry.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: Violence, forensics, gore, horror.

Favorite authors: Ursula Le Guin, Alexander McCall Smith, Alain de Botton, Michael Bond, Lian Tanner, Jandy Nelson, TS Eliot, AA Milne.

Am I an author? Yes. I write and publish humorous novels about guinea pigs.

Hobbies: Books, yoga, upcycling, travel, swimming, photography, guinea pigs.

Mary

My approach to beta reading: Each author is different – each manuscript, therefore, can’t be compared with another. However, the character development, the ‘page-turning’ effect of the narrative, the prose, dialogue and descriptions should all, in turn, keep the reader satisfied and this is what I’ll be looking for. I enjoy reading new authors and particularly debut authors; currently, I’ve read three this month.

Formal Qualifications: HBD Nursing, BN, BA Hons, Diploma of Editing and Proofreading (ECU).

Favourite genres: History, memoirs, non-fiction, crime, adventure.

Genres I’m also happy to read: YA.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: sci-fi, alt history, fantasy, porn.

Favorite authors: Tolkein, Hillary Mantell, Stieg Larsson, Peter Fitzsimon, Paul Ham.

Am I an author? Yes. Non-fiction and academic writing, currently compiling.

Hobbies: reading, knitting, gardening, walking, glamping, birdwatching, history and writing an oral history project for Bridgetown’s 150th anniversary of its gazettal.

Margie

My approach to beta reading: As a writer I know feedback is invaluable. It should, though, be couched in a supportive, constructive manner. Writers’ egos are usually fragile and writing is a very personal business; we bare our souls. I’ve learnt a great deal from having others read and comment on my own work.

Formal Qualifications: TAFE editing. Numerous editing and writing workshops.

Favourite genres: Literary fiction, memoirs, autobiographies, some chick lit, the classics.

Genres I’m also happy to read: Sci-fi, poetry.

Favorite authors: Sebastian Faulks, Ian McEwan, William Dalrymple, Donna Tartt, Tim Winton, Amitav Ghosh, Kate Grenville, Geraldine Brooks, Liz Byrski, Hanya Yanagihara, Jane Harper.

Genres/material you won’t beta read: None.

Am I an author? Yes.

Hobbies: Reading, yoga, walking with my dog, films, talking.

Lainie

My approach to beta reading:  I always keep a notebook beside me, day and night, so I can jot notes on queries or thoughts that come to me as I read. I’m passionate about books and stories and I’ve never failed to finish reading a book I’ve begun!

Formal Qualifications or Training: Bachelor of Science (Australian Environmental Studies), Postgraduate Diploma in Geographic Information Systems and Graduate Certificate in Environment (specialising in Education for Sustainability). Short courses in writing, editing, etc.

Favourite genres:

Genres I’m also happy to beta read:  Medical reference.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: Erotica, overly religious or spiritual self-help, horror.

Favourite authors: Rachael Treasure, Rachael Johns, Kate Morton, Fleur McDonald, Fiona McIntosh, Di Morrissey, Monica McInerney, Freda Lightfoot, Nick Earls, Nikki Gemmell.

Are you an author? No, but I write, edit and produce newsletters, etc.

Hobbies: Reading, recycling/repurposing, arts and crafts (painting, papercrafts), photography, producing goods and information for others.

Kelsey

My approach to beta reading: I like to give honest but sensitive feedback on how events and characters made me react, focusing strongly on believability and offering suggestions that may have come to mind during reading.

Formal Qualifications: BA Hons (English and Linguistics); Subbing and Indesign course w/ Alliance/Walkley Foundation Training for Journalists; Professional Editing and Proofreading Course w/The Sackville Academy.

Favourite genres: Fantasy, science fiction, paranormal erotica, YA

Genres I’m also happy to beta read:  Traditional romance, chick lit, literary fiction

Genres/material you won’t beta read: Crime, horror, biographies, non-fiction.

Favorite authors: Robin Hobb, Terry Goodkind, Gena Showalter, Nalini Singh, JR Ward, Paullina Simons.

Hobbies: Reading, fitness, yoga, writing.

Are you an author? Journalist.

Kat

My approach to beta reading: My job as a beta reader is to give authors an overview of what is working in their manuscript and what is not. I am friendly, honest and constructive in my responses, helping authors to look at their manuscript in depth and improve it.

Formal Qualifications or Training: Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing, Bachelor of Professional Writing and Editing.

Favourite genres you are solidly familiar with:

Genres I’m also happy to beta read:  Women’s fiction, literary fiction, spirituality, new age.

Favourite authors: Louise Cooper, Robin Hobb, Raymond E. Feist.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: Evangelistic manuscripts.

Are you an author? No.

Hobbies: Learning (anything I can!), reading, writing, cooking.

Imelda

My approach to beta reading: I aim to give the author genuine feedback, including any emotive response, in a nurturing, supportive fashion. I like to note areas of brilliance as well as the disparities and areas for improvement. These can be in relation to plot, character, setting, pace, point of view and authenticity of voice.

Formal Qualifications: Assoc Degree Professional Writing and Editing, Dip Mgmt, Dip Bus Admin, Cert IV TAE, Cert III Small Bus Mgmt.

Favourite Genres:

Genres I’m also happy to beta read:  science, agriculture, travel.

Genres/material I won’t beta read:  Erotica, medical, self-help, abuse.

Favorite authors: Jackie French, Markus Zusak, Miles Franklin, David Metzenthen, Jane Austen, Le Ly Hayslip, Thomas Keneally, Tom Clancy.

Are you an author? Yes.

Hobbies: Bushwalking, photography, reading, films, art, genealogy.

Alix

My approach to beta reading: I’m honest and communicate the manuscript’s positives as well as its drawbacks. I try to articulate how I felt as I read the manuscript, how I wish I’d felt and whether the two align.

Formal Qualifications or Training: Ba App Sci (HMS), Ba Bus (Accy), MTax, CPA, CTA, MArts (completion Nov 2018).

Favourite genres: Romantic comedy, cosy mystery, young adult, science fiction, action, easy reading in general.

Genres I’m also happy to read: Memoir, biography, technical.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: Erotica, horror.

Favorite authors: LM Montgomery, Ursula leGuin, Tim Stevens, Denise Grover Swank.

Are you an author? No.

Hobbies: Reading, running, baking, crochet.

Beth

My approach to beta reading: Because there’s vulnerability in letting others comment on your work, I look for things to praise as well as to query. I consider the pace of the story and its context. I also ask whether a particular action feels authentic for a character — would they really act as described?

Formal Qualifications: (Hons) in Political Studies, Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing (in progress at RMIT), short courses by Editors Victoria including structural editing. Member of the Institute of Professional Editors and the Australasian Medical Writers Association.

Favourite Genres: Historical fiction, women’s stories, mysteries, drama.

Genres I’m also happy to read: Young adult, memoir.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: Sci-fi, horror, erotica.

Favorite authors: Diana Gabaldon, Liane Moriarty, Paullina Simons, PG Wodehouse, Jane Austen, Lian Hearn, Kate Grenville, Julian Fellowes, Julian Barnes.

Are you an author? Yes. I write reports, grant applications and web content. Most of this is in the health field. I particularly enjoy translating complex medical information into plain English. Why refer to ‘unanticipated mortality events’ when you mean ‘sudden deaths’?

Hobbies: Reading, swimming, kayaking, bushwalking

Evelyn – 20

My approach to beta reading: I like to fully immerse myself in the narrative and try to constructively identify details that hinder that experience, in the most encouraging way I can.

Formal Qualifications: Currently a university student. Year 12 Certificate.

Favourite genres: Memoirs/biographies, YA fiction, romance, drama.

Favorite authors: C.S. Lewis, Agatha Christie, Nicholas Sparks, Dale Carnegie, Jodi Picoult.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: Horror, Fantasy, Erotica.

Am I an author? No.

Hobbies: Reading, cooking, sewing, going to the gym.

Chloe – 14

My approach to beta reading: My approach is to be open to what the author is trying to create with their writing and to assist them in finding the best version of their work they can. I believe that listening to feedback is a crucial stage in producing something with potential.

Formal Qualifications: Year 6 English Award, distinctions in English (Years 7 and 8)

Favourite genres: YA, dystopia, action and adventure, romance.

Genres I am also happy to read: Science fiction, mystery, fantasy, drama.

Favorite authors: Scott Westerfield, John Green, Veronica Roth, Melina Marchetta.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: Erotica.

Hobbies: Photography, netball, reading, makeup.

Millie – 18

My approach to beta reading: I believe beta readers should be honest and give true opinions of the book, though they should also be mindful of the fact that they may not be the intended readership and that there are multiple ways to interact with the text.

Favourite genres: Literary fiction, YA.

Favorite authors: Alice Pung, Helen Garner, Dodie Smith, Virginia Woolf.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: erotica.

Are you an author? No.

Hobbies: reading, playing guitar, riding.

Ari – 19

My approach to beta reading: I give authors honest feedback. I like to help authors who are planning to publish by giving my opinions on what worked for me and what didn’t, in their work. I enjoy such a broad spectrum of fiction and have read many styles of writing. I can always find feedback to give.

Formal Qualifications: Currently studying graphic design.

Age range: 18

Favourite genres: anything LGBT, young adult, literary fiction, poetry, thriller, and speculative fiction (incl. science fiction, fantasy, etc).

Genres I’m also happy to read:  Horror.

Genres/material you won’t beta read: Graphic sexual abuse (especially children), blatant homophobic or transphobic material.

Favorite authors: Donna Tartt, Margaret Atwood, Megan Abbott, Benjamin Saenz, Gillian Flynn, Cassandra Clare, Elliot Wake.

Are you an author? Yes but mostly unpublished (except for some poetry).

Hobbies: Reading, creating art and graphic design, playing video games, watching films, music.

Carly

My approach to beta reading: I feel it’s important to leave any personal agenda at the door and figure out what the author’s own vision is. I use a combination of general impressions, assessments of the strengths and weaknesses and suggestions for improvement to form an honest evaluation of the story.

Formal qualifications: Graduate certificate editing and electronic publishing; Graduate certificate food writing; Certificate professional editing and proofreading; Structural (fiction) editing for editors.

Favourite genres: General and literary fiction, memoir, comedy, historical fiction, YA, dystopian.

Genres I’m also happy to read: Science fiction.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: Nothing.

Favourite authors: Jeffrey Eugenides, Tim Winton, Elizabeth Gilbert, Liane Moriarty.

Am I an author: No.

Hobbies: reading, writing, weaving, embroidery, gardening

Lauren

My approach to beta reading: is to provide clear, considered and constructive feedback that will give the author an insight into the reader’s experience and help them to achieve their writing aims.

Formal qualifications or training: Graduate Certificate in Editing and Electronic Publishing (Macquarie University, 2016, won course prize for outstanding achievement), Bachelor of Laws with Honours (University of Adelaide, 2011).

Favourite genres: Adult fiction, literary fiction, historical fiction, non-fiction history, biographies and memoirs, crime and mystery.

Genres I’m also happy to read: Fantasy, science-fiction, YA, true crime, self-development, educational.

Favorite authors: Graeme Simsion (and Anne Buist), Anthony Horowitz, Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler), Alan Bradley, Jane Austen, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Richard Fidler, Alexandre Dumas.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: Horror, erotica, romance.

Are you an author? No

Hobbies: Cooking, reading, dancing and watching classical ballet, listening to classical music, visiting art galleries and museums.

Kellie

My approach to beta reading:  It’s not about my preferences, but about how the book will play with target readers. A writer myself, I try to give feedback that covers aspects of writing craft, which can affect the reader’s experience, while remaining constructive, encouraging and kind.

Formal Qualifications: I am in my final year of studies for a Certificate IV in Professional Writing and Editing at Victoria Polytechnic. My Diploma in PWE is also underway.

Favourite genres:

Genres I’m also happy to read: relationship-based or character-driven fiction, young adult, memoir.

Favorite authors: Kate Canterbary, Eve Dangerfield, Penny Reid, Kylie Scott, Barbara Kingsolver, Tim Winton, Vikram Seth, Kerry Greenwood, James S A Corey.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: horror, violence, child abuse.

Are you an author? Yes, I’m a writer and online-published fan fiction author. I’m yet to publish original fiction.

Hobbies: writing, sewing, reading.

Connie

My approach to beta reading: I love to offer insights and productive feedback to authors. I’m not a critical person by nature and will always see the best in someone’s work whilst making honest suggestions for improvement. I know the struggle authors face and the considerable contribution constructive feedback can make.

Formal Qualifications: Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing (RMIT), Bachelor of Social Work (Monash University).

Favourite genres:

Favourite authors: Melina Marchetta, Jane Harper, Alex Miller, Ellie Marney, Jane Austen, John Green, Jennifer Donnelly, Cath Crowley, Maggie Stiefvater, Louisa May Alcott, Jandy Nelson, Harper Lee, Liane Moriarty.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: Extreme graphic violence, paedophilia.

Are you an author? Yes. Emerging author.

Hobbies: Reading, keeping fit, paddle boarding, eating chips and watching Netflix.

Jo

My approach to beta reading: I love snuggling down to enjoy the luxury of being a reader. I note anything that strikes me – what’s absolute gold and compels me to keep reading or what jars me from the story.  I then put the manuscript aside to allow the narrative settle in my bones before writing my report with deep respect for all that the author has achieved. I’m passionate about story in all its forms and love to support fellow writers as they create their unique brand of narrative.

Formal Qualifications: Assoc. Degree Professional Writing and Editing, RMIT.

Favorite genres:

Genres/material I won’t beta read: Gratuitous violence, horror, sexual abuse.

Favorite authors: Margo Lanagan, Ellie Marney, John Green, Cally Black, Lian Tanner, Kate DiCamillo, Tamora Pierce, Katherine Paterson, Martine Murray, Linda Sue Park, Moya Simons, Jen Storer, Mo Willems, Bob Graham, Maxine Beneba Clarke.

Are you an author? Yes. Currently represented by Jacinta di Mase Management. I have two manuscripts under submission – a memoir and a picture book.

Hobbies: reviewing children’s literature and interviewing authors for KBR, curating SCWBI newsletter, reading, writing, editing, walking and swimming.