When writing dialogue, challenge yourself to let your characters speak for themselves, in any way they must.
Find ways to free yourself up. Write their words on paper using different pens for different characters – just as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn used to do - the elegant fountain pen for one character, the chewed Bic for another.
After you’ve given your characters a chance to empty themselves, cut and trim, combine, or pick a line or two that says it all. Often what people really mean is not what they say. Look for that tension. And remember, what people don’t say is often far more powerful than what they do say.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote longhand with a large collection of pens scattered liberally across his writing desk. He said 'Each of my pens is an individual with a personality of its own. I don't write with just one. When I'm using one of them, others are involved too. So I use different types of pens for different tasks and to emphasise different thoughts and nuances - thin or thick ones, this colour or that. And I know what each one is for. That's why my table's so cluttered. In fact, each pen is at work.'
What the character says reveals more than pages of description. She reveals herself through her words; her thoughts, feelings and influence.
When she says “Politicians! They should be cut into pieces and fed to the lions” you know her better than if you had just written ‘She had extreme opinions on politicians.’
Sometimes it is just easier to start at the end than it is to start at the beginning. Make a list of all the big moments in your stories and ask yourself ‘How did I get here?’
Then ask ‘What happened just before this?’ and then again, ‘Before this?’ and then again ‘Before this?’ and soon you will find yourself back at the beginning, but with no detours or diversions. This is a good way of staying on track without getting distracted.