I have an exercise for you to try. It's supposed to be challenging and hopefully fun and will make you think a bit.
There is no time limit (I've been working on this now for over five years) and you may never be completely be finished with it, that is just fine! When/if you feel you have finished this exercise use it as a tool for your writing.
What I am referring to is an exercise where you come up with substitute words for SAID for your book's dialogue.
Don't get me wrong, the word SAID has a place in writing, and sometimes there just is not another word to use in your dialogue.
Having "said" that, I do use that word in my middle grade stories much more than in my older audience books.
The problem with the word SAID, is it can drain your dialogue of emotion, color and feeling thus making dialogue seem flat.
In one of my Warriors of Dragonsrod revisions, I was reading aloud a chapter to my then writers group. For the most-part, it flowed pretty well, the imagery and the pace was quick -- then it came.
One of them spoke up, "You use said a lot."
The others agreed.
I noticed it too while I was reading. That chapter was 75 to 80% dialogue with several characters participating in the conversation. I used SAID somewhere between thirty and fifty times in that chapter. I decided to go through the entire manuscript. Like weeds in a neglected garden, SAID was everywhere!
That was it! SAID was wreaking havoc in my pages and sucking the life out of my dialogue. SAID had crossed the line and it was time to show that dirty four letter word who the boss really was!
One afternoon, while I was preparing for my attack, I decided to build up my arsenal. I grabbed a pen and some paper and scribbled out word after word to replace that accursed SAID. I came up with nearly one hundred words in just the first week. At that point that was enough, SAID had no idea what was in store for it.
Armed with a growing list of words, I went on the offensive. I wasn't going to cull SAID's numbers back -- I was going to ERADICATE it!
I was going to hunt SAID down like the vermin that I saw it to be. Page after page witnessed SAID being scratched out and replaced with better words. I did leave SAID in a few isolated pockets across the manuscript, but its numbers were so depleted it could have qualified for protection on the Endangered Species List!
About a week later, I reread that chapter to my group and they told me it sounded much better for what I had done to it.
I have been careful with using SAID since. My list has stretched to somewhere around two hundred words now and will likely to continue growing.
Now it is your turn. Grab a pen and a notepad and write at the top of the page; SUBSTITUTE WORDS FOR SAID, and use you imagination!
Try this exercise on other commonly used words such as WALK and RUN and see what you can come up with. I have over fifty substitutions so far for these two words.
Give it a try and see where it goes, you may be surprised with what you come up with.
Success and good writing to you!