A Deep Dive into Dialogue: 5 Questions for Stacey Swann

I believe that if you have always had that persistent desire to write, even if you aren’t even getting any writing done… then you were meant to be a writer.” -Stacey Swann

Stacey Swann’s debut novel Olympus, Texas—published in 2021 by Doubleday, W&N (UK), and Bompiani (Italy)—was a Good Morning America Book Club pick, an Indie Next selection, and long-listed for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize. Swann holds an M.F.A. from Texas State University and was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. Her stories have appeared in Epoch, Memorious, Versal, and other journals, and she is a contributing editor of American Short Fiction.

On Saturday, February 12th, 2022, Stacey Swann is teaching an online class for the WLT called “Anatomy of a Scene: A Deep Dive into Dialogue.” In this class you’ll explore all the major aspects of dialogue writing: how to avoid the most common mechanical errors, how to let your characters’ voices emerge through dialogue, how to handle interior monologue, and how to craft the best physical beats and descriptions to surround your dialogue.

Here’s what Stacey shared with us about her process and her upcoming class:

Stacey Swann Headshot

Scribe: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you write? How did you come to writing?

Stacey Swann: I consider myself primarily a fiction writer, though I have been experimenting with nonfiction also as of late. I’ve always been an avid reader, even as a child, and I remember wanting to write books but not being sure I had the talent for it. I built up more confidence by taking a few writing classes during and after my undergrad degree, which gave me the idea of getting an MFA in creative writing. I’ve been writing steadily since then!

Scribe: In your own work, how do you approach overcoming the challenges that come with writing, be it writer’s block or craft or business-related challenges?

SS: I’ve long been fascinated by writer’s block and have had to grapple with it a lot over the years. Dismantling my ideas around perfectionism was a great help, as was getting better at figuring out what was going on subconsciously. The best cure I’ve found for any writing challenge, business-related or creative, is simply devoting as much time to it as I can. Time to work fixes most things, I’ve found. 

Scribe: Has there been a moment of epiphany in terms of your work, when you thought, “This is it! Now I know what I’m doing?” How long did that feeling last?

SS: This question really cracked me up, as I am constantly amazed both how often I get this feeling as well as how quickly the feeling disappears. I’ve shifted to trying to just enjoy the roller coaster ride of feeling both like I know exactly what I’m doing and like I have no idea what I’m doing. Perhaps it takes both to write well?

Scribe: What piece of advice do you find yourself giving to writers again and again?

SS: I think a lot of people grapple with the fear that they don’t have the natural talent to write or that they will never be financially successful as a writer. But I believe that if you have always had that persistent desire to write, even if you aren’t even getting any writing done (or perhaps especially when you aren’t getting any writing done), then you were meant to be a writer. We often can’t control the financial aspects, but we can give ourselves permission to fully engage with what feels like our true vocation.

Scribe: What is one thing that people will take away from this class?

SS: Dialogue can feel intimidating, and people are often very critical of their own dialogue. This class will give you lots of practical tips that you can implement immediately!

Thanks, Stacey!

Click here to learn more about Stacey Swann’s upcoming class.

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