How Do You Write Text Conversations In Your Story?


Supposed you have two characters in a story that are texting back and forth to each other.

Like people do in real life, only with the boring parts removed.


I’ve seen it at least three different ways, and each one looks wrong.

Somebody has to know!
Somebody has to know!

I tried this (excerpt from my upcoming comedy “Poggibonsi”):

When I went back into my office, there was a new Real Time message from Sam.

I know you’re still up looking at my amazing reports on Italy. Go to bed.

I smiled. The lady knows me too well.

I messaged back. Can’t sleep.

Her reply was immediate. Too excited about Italy?

ME: Among other things.

SAM: You’re lucky. There’s a lot to do.

ME: Is there? Monique has us going to Rome for three days. Rome should be about a three hour trip. Coliseum, Parthenon, Vatican, done.

SAM: You mean Pantheon. The Parthenon is in Greece.

ME: Two hours, then.


Yeah, something about the ME/SAM thing doesn’t quite look like real writing. Blame somebody else, though; I snagged the pattern from a book I read last week.

But it was a mediocre book, so maybe that was a tipoff.

Good writers borrow, great writers steal - from other great writers, dummy.
Good writers borrow, great writers steal – from other great writers, dummy.

My friend recommended putting “beats” between the lines, like you would in regular dialog. That helps but just draws the conversation out. I’ll try it, though, because ME/SAM doesn’t work for me.

What do YOU do?

Post your examples in the comments section. Feel free to use lines from your own books, and to link to them as well. Then vote for the one that looks best.

We’ll all benefit!

Writing challenge! 7 things about my writing…

Here’s a simple, fun challenge for a Sunday: list 7 things about your writing. You can use the examples below or do your own. Have fun, get creative, go crazy. And be honest; we all might learn something!

I can think of seven, no prob.
I can think of seven, no prob.

Post yours here as a reply and then copy it to your own blog with a link to this one! Then Tweet, post, share! Thanks!

1) My books start as… (What do you like in an opening line? How do you like to start your stories?)

2) I am an (insert genre or style here) writer. Explain.

3) I do/do not write from an outline. (What is this outline of which you speak?)

4) I use notes to… (Notes? What are notes?)

I was sick that day at writing school!
I was sick that day at writing school!

5) My characters come from… (Hamlet? My friend and family? They’re secretly all me?)

6) When it comes to dialog… (Are you good at it? Bad at it? How do you come up with what your characters will say?)

7) I write because I want to/I’m trying to… (Escape? Work out my demons before someone gets hurt?)

My therapist says writing is good for me.
My therapist says writing is good for me.


1) I like to start a book with an urgent, short piece of dialog. I’m told that creates confusion, but I disagree, and I doubt I will stop doing it. My new book begins with “Daddy?” – come on, how confusing is that? The next line explains that it’s a 4 year old girl who is interrupting her father while he’s shaving. Where’s the confusion? (This may be my rebellious streak.)

2) I’m trying my hand at each different genre, which sounds insane, but I am learning from each (including romance – shudder), and I believe very few good stories are just horror or just mystery; they contain some elements of each genre but have one main focus. So if I can write decent stories in each genre, my overall books should be better, right? Let’s hope so!

3) Outline? Nope, no outline. Not really. I start with a cool idea and what would be interesting scenes, which I go ahead and write – but there eventually has to be a cohesive layout, so I jot down my main plot points: archaeology students discover an area lost in time for 10,000 years. They are amazed at the ancient, living civilization. The inhabitants won’t let them leave once they’ve seen the place, for fear that others will come and destroy it. The students have to flee… So that’s kind of an outline, right?

4) I wish used notes more. I create a cheat sheet so I can remember the MC’s wife’s name, and who the evil power company executive is, but usually not much more than that. I have a folder full of ideas for scenes in that story instead, some of which get used but many do not.

5) In one story all the main characters were secretly me! Well, a few were made up. I create composite characters from bits and pieces of real life, but they’re largely made up people. Except the ones that are secretly me.

6) I’m pretty good at dialog. I love witty banter in books and movies, and try to move my story along through the dialog. I try to write the way people really speak, but in real life my personal vocabulary sounds a little lofty at times, so when a character says what I actually have said, it can sound fake. Also, I’m casual about a lot of rules because I wrote a lot of family humor books; as a result, some characters come off as immature. So I’m lofty and immature? Probably.

Well, maybe that last one...
I can finish that report OR work on my chase scene…

7) I write for fun, not so much for escape. I get a kick out of taking you down a new road and surprising you or making you laugh or cry. It’s fun for me.

NOW post your 7 here as a reply and then copy it to your own blog with a link to this one! Then Tweet, post, share! Thanks!



Enjoy more of my writing brilliance on my Author Page HERE

and find out about the release of my new book “25 Great eBook Marketing Tips You Wish You Knew” by emailing me at and I’ll let you know when you can get a free advance copy! Shh! Don’t tell.

Grill Fight: How I lost My Grille

In the old days, we had a tiny grill right outside the back door. In the summertime, you could barely get out there and flip a burger and get back in the house without getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. But when we added the pool, the screen enclosure made all that space into living area – at least during the more moderate times of the year, like football season. With a big sun umbrella covering it in summer, the grill was a terrific place to cook year round.

But a space like that makes a previously large grill look suddenly small. Funny how that works. A new couch makes the walls look like they need to get painted; freshly painted walls in one room will make the rest of the house look old and decrepit. That’s how you end up spending your whole summer painting the inside of your house. (And then painting the outside of the house that Fall.)

So our previously large and relatively clean grill suddenly looked small and old once the pool was finished. There was rust on it we had never seen before. The burners didn’t work properly. The little thermometer in the lid was fogged over.

And as the wife started shopping for a new grill, discussions emerged about what kind to get. Since dreaming costs nothing, somebody stupidly lets out that one of those big built-in grills with the stone veneer and the side tables, one of those would be really great to have.

Okay, it was me.

And once you start shopping for those big built in grills, you find out that they cost a ton of money. I was shocked. It’s just stones, for Pete’s sake. Rocks. Rocks are free, aren’t they? Can’t you just pick ‘em up off the ground?

Well, anyway, that dream evaporated pretty quickly once we started the actual shopping, but that didn’t fully remove the idea from my wife’s mind. Even though our existing trill worked fine, when she was at Sam’s Club she saw a “do it yourself” outdoor kitchen.

Of course, “do it yourself” means “have you husband do it.”

This thing was a sheet metal kit, painted to look like wood, but with granite tops and a big stainless steel gas grill in the middle, and a little side area, all attached.

I was in! Merry Christmas! Let’s do it.

I had already built a small wood deck for the grill to sit on, with the idea that one day we would do something grandiose out there, but when the Sam’s kit arrived, it took up the whole deck.

That was fine; that’s what it was for.

I did say it was a small wood deck, right? There was plenty of “cool deck” around the pool, and plenty of paver deck around that. All happily coexisting under the screened enclosure, so no mosquitoes.

Which may have been what was holding her back from taking it all over anyway: the bugs. But once the big outdoor kitchen was put together, a subtle transition occurred.

Men cook on grills. Women cook on outdoor kitchens.

Sure there are some guys who have a big fancy cooking area outside by the pool, but at our house, as soon as that thing got put together, I wasn’t cooking out there anymore.

I’d like to pretend that I enjoyed the extra free time, but in fact guys like grilling burgers and hot dogs. They like playing with fire. But all that was now over. The outdoor kitchen was hers. (To placate me, she eventually bought me a small charcoal grill. It fits neatly under a corner of outdoor kitchen.)

I was tasked with building the deck, and with finding a large enough umbrella to cover her beloved outdoor kitchen when it was too sunny out, so she could still cook on hot days – that actually worked well in keeping the rain off of it, so she was still able to cook out there when it was raining. Hello, baby back ribs. Touche!

(The grill sits on a deck next to a covered porch. They butt right up against each other. She doesn’t get wet; I’m not a slave driver.)

So somewhere in that transition, I kinda quit cooking on the grill and she took over. It was probably a good idea, too; she’s a much better cook than I am. And she likes it more, too. So it all works out. She makes restaurant quality ribs, and a grilled salmon that is to die for. No kidding. Me, I can do steaks and burgers and hot dogs.

Well… burgers and hot dogs. She makes better steaks, too.



To enjoy more heartwarming stories like this one, check out my Author Page HERE

And buy “The TERRIBLE Two’s” or any of the other books in the Savvy Stories series.


Find out about the new releases by emailing me at and I’ll let you know when you can get a free advance copy! Shh! Don’t tell

Tips For New Authors: Get It Out Of Your Head And Into The Computer

We all get great ideas but there isn’t always have a great way of writing them down – but why risk letting a great idea get away? After you place pens and notepads everywhere including one in a plastic sandwich bag taped to the shower door, what more can you do?

Hmm... What more can I do?
Hmm… What more can I do?

Glad you asked.

You can call your house and leave a message on your answering machine saying what’s in your head. Tell your husband that you will be leaving these verbal notes to yourself from time to time so please don’t erase them. Start each of those messages “This is a message to me to remind me to blah blah blah.” He will catch on, and you will have it in a format that you can start writing it down from.

It was the butler the whole time!
It was the butler the whole time!

Also, forcing yourself to tell the story out loud is like telling a bedtime story, which helps you round out ideas, but simply getting it down is a big deal – and this is an easy way to do it. You can play a message back 100 times if you need to, but you will get a lot of your story fleshed out.

Use your cell phone’s voice-to-text feature and email yourself the brilliant idea. I have even used a video camera to just get a particularly long story idea captured quickly somewhere. It may take you 2 weeks of transcribing but it will be out of your head.

Yes, yes. This is good stuff.
Yes, yes. This is good stuff.

If you write a note on paper (remember that stuff?) or you collect ideas in a journal, immediately take a picture of it with your phone and email it to yourself. Now you have a backup in the phone and a reminder on your computer. (I mean, you’ve never misplaced your journal have you? No, not you.)

Maybe it's at work!
Maybe it’s at work!

Then, put the spurs to the horse.

Make an Amazon “draft” version of your new story.

Maybe buy a cover (an inexpensive one) or make one, and save it with your draft on your Ammy bookshelf.

Make the new cover your screen saver.

Now it’s taunting you, motivating you.

When you list your eBooks anywhere, list it as “Coming Soon.”

Maye you have 4 titles that readers can buy now and 4 more coming soon. Maybe there’s only one book they can buy now and two coming soon. So what? It still looks better and it gives readers a reason to check back if they like your writing. Plus, they aren’t really going to hold you to it if “The Cloud Blossom” never comes to fruition as long as something does.


Enjoy my writing brilliance in all its glory on my Author Page HERE

and find out about the release of my new book “25 Great eBook Marketing Tips You Wish You Knew” by emailing me at and I’ll let you know when you can get a free advance copy! Shh! Don’t tell.



Savvy doesn’t eat apples every day, but she eats them a lot. That is, she eats the white part of the apple, not the red skin. If you “start” an apple for her – bite through the red part – she will happily share it with you. You just have to keep exposing enough white. If you slice an apple, she will also share: white parts for her; red parts for you. So she will eat a slice for a while until it gets down close to the red part, then she will hand it over.

Also, I can regulate how much apple she eats by how I prepare it. If I slice it, she ends up eating about half of it overall, because she leaves a lot of the white part on the skins. (That’s why I don’t mind sharing an apple that way. The skin-to-white ratio is still pretty tasty.) If I peel the apple, she may eat the whole thing all by herself. So, depending on how much apple I actually want her to eat at any given sitting, I just prepare it differently.

A week or so ago I bought a bag of apples and stuck them in the spare fridge. That’s the refrigerator you keep when you buy a new one because the old one still works. In Florida, it usually gets a place of honor in the garage, but ours is in the room with the workout equipment. And yes, being in there with the treadmill, it is stocked with beer and wine. I think that’s just part of the arrangement: wife gets an extra fridge; husband keeps beer in it. Especially if it’s near the treadmill. It holds a few vegetables, too, and some other stuff, but mostly beer and wine.

And for the last week or so, apples.

Not every day, but probably every other day, Savvy and I have shared an apple for either breakfast, lunch, or a snack.

Today we went to the spare fridge to have an apple for a pre dinner apple-tizer, and there were two apples left in the bag. Savvy picked one up.

She informed me we are only to eat this one and then we’re not to eat any more apples.

Usually there is a reason why we have to do something – but not always. Sometimes she just makes stuff up.

“Dad, we can only step on the red tiles!” as we walk to a store in the mall. The red tiles were 12” apart, but there were a lot of them. And we had to step on ONLY red tiles, but also we had to step on EVERY red tile. It slowed things down, but it wasn’t a deal breaker.

“Dad, I have to watch Spongebob because my pretend sister will cry if we don’t!” That one’s a maybe; I can go either way on it, if the Spongebob limit hasn’t been reached for the day.

But when the pretend sister joined in the green bean rebellion, I had to intervene and put the down the uprising.

So I waited patiently for the explanation about the apples as we walked from the spare fridge to the kitchen.

It’s still not unusual for her to like Spaghetti-Os on Monday and hate Spaghetti-Os on Tuesday, or to like green beans and meatballs on Wednesday and hate them on Thursday, only to love them again on Friday.

So during this short walk, I thought I should prepare to head off any kind of apple insurgency.

And it’s me doing the explaining, because Michele went out of town on Tuesday for a business trip. We have Skyped or spoken on the phone each day that she’s been gone. (By the way, Savvy is getting less and less thrilled about going to the airport; every time we go, somebody she loves goes away for a while.) Thursday morning, when Savvy asked Michele when she would be home, Mommy said she’d be back on Saturday. I took the liberty of explaining what that meant, in terms a four year old can understand.

“That means when we go to sleep in our beds two more times, and wake up two more times, then it will be Saturday and we can go to the airport and pick Mommy up. Get it?”

Savvy nodded.

I have to add in that part about sleeping in our beds because otherwise she will wake up from a nap and demand to see Michele. Two quick naps and I can bring Mommy back! Well, no, that’s not quite how it works – and explaining that to a groggy kid who just woke up from a nap is a lot harder than it sounds.

What’s also cute is, Savvy doesn’t 100% put two and two together about going to the airport and an airplane taking you someplace else. We thought she understood it when we all flew to California, but maybe not. She kind of thinks Mommy is just staying at the airport. During the last business trip a few weeks ago, she asked if we could go to the airport to visit Mommy.

Luckily, Mommy doesn’t travel much these days. These two trips so close to each other are just a fluke.

And right now, another explanation about how airports work, can wait. I am anticipating the argument for not eating any more apples.

“Dad, I don’t want you or me to eat any more apples for two times that I go to bed and two times that I wake up.”

That seemed a little stricter than usual, but she wasn’t finished.

“And then Mommy will be home, and I will eat that apple with her.”

Her tone was serious, but not sad. This was something she would be looking forward to.

That’s fine. I think we can get by without apples for that brief period of time, as long as there’s a good reason – and that sure sounded like a good reason to me. And trust me, I will get an apple advisory every day, right through Saturday morning. That’s just how the kid operates. I’m okay with it.

Hurry home Michele; you are missed! Travel safely, and bring an appetite for apples with you when you arrive. Our daughter will probably request for me to have the last one all cut up and ready to be eaten in the car on the way home from the airport.

If you wonder if Savvy thinks about you all the time when you travel, she does. In a good way. So, I expect that apple will taste extra delicious on Saturday, for both of you.

I think she might even let you have some of the white part.



To enjoy more heartwarming stories like this one, check out my Author Page HERE

And buy “The TERRIBLE Two’s” or any of the other books in the Savvy Stories series.


Find out about the new releases by emailing me at and I’ll let you know when you can get a free advance copy! Shh! Don’t tell

Tips For New Authors: Don’t Get Distracted – Unless

There’s nothing wrong with banging away at the keyboard on your Great American Novel and suddenly getting a hot new idea – and veering off to write a few thousand words on it.

Or 5000.

…Or 25 pages…

I got carried away!
I got carried away!

It happens to all of us. Take your inspiration when it comes. But be disciplined.

Create a new folder and a new document for every single good idea that comes to you, no matter when it comes. This may seem to fly the face of staying focused and disciplined and not getting distracted, but good ideas are good ideas. If you don’t scratch that itch, it will get worse and become a different kind of distraction. Who needs that?

I don't need that!
I don’t need that!

Besides, you never know when writers block may strike, or when you’ll be so completely frustrated with your current project that you need a little distraction. Going into some of those other folders will be a welcome relief – and will also remind you of just how creative you are.

Everyone has to figure out what system works for them. Some people can lock themselves away for 48 hours and do nothing but write. Other people – called “normal” – can’t do that.

If you take a one-hour or three-hour (or one or two day) distraction to write a 25 page mini -book that you can go ahead and publish – with another day spent doing a little bit of artwork for a simple cover – you may have released some pressure and satisfied an itch and allowed yourself to return to your real work without the frustration.

I did that when I put out “Night of the Colonoscopy” in the middle of trying to edit and publish “The Long Cutie” while also writing “FOURthcoming.”

This is good stuff. I'm in the zone!
This is good stuff. I’m in the zone!

That’s just how the creative process works sometimes.

Let it happen and be prepared for it; just have a system for it – and then get back to work. Unless you need to meet a hard deadline, there’s nothing wrong with attacking a big fat juicy story idea.

On the other hand, if your folder of Great Book Ideas is 10,000 pages long, you may have a different problem. It’s time to stop. You have lots of ideas; you don’t need more. See a few through to the finish line or stop pretending to be a writer. Or post them on your blog as fodder for other writers to have contests with. That can be fun and benefit you in a different way.

When you look back at the awesome ideas in that folder later, you’ll see that not every one was a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Some, you’ll even wonder why you wrote down. “Binkie’s Big Monkey Heist” only needed to make sense to you at the time. An itch that had to be scratched, nothing more.

And, once scratched, allowed you to refocus on the Great American Novel that I know is in you!



Enjoy my writing brilliance in all its glory on my Author Page HERE

and find out about the release of my new book “25 Great eBook Marketing Tips You Wish You Knew” by emailing me at and I’ll let you know when you can get a free advance copy! Shh! Don’t tell.