Dialogue is the fastest way to improve a manuscript—or to sink it. When agents, editors or readers see crisp, tension-filled dialogue, they gain confidence in the writer’s ability. But dialogue that is sodden and undistinguished has the opposite effect.
Fortunately, the fixes are simple. First, make sure you can “hear” every character in a distinct voice. A great way to do this is to create a voice journal: a free-form document written in a character’s voice, talking to you, the author, on a variety of topics. Develop these documents until each character sounds unique, and then apply what you’ve learned to your manuscript. Second, compress your dialogue as much as possible, cutting fluffy words, whole lines or even entire exchanges.