Do You Know How to Show Versus Tell?

Since I don't write fiction, I might not be the best to describe the "Show, don't Tell" principle of writing. It is, nevertheless, an important writing skill to hone. It is as important to hone as learning to write in active tense rather than passive. 

Just 12 years ago or so I was tutoring a high school student. I was teaching him based on old rules. I taught him to embellish his sentences with flowery adjectives. I didn't know doing so was now passe. No, we are not to say she donned a very lovely dress--very and words that end in ly are now to be axed.

The point is, we need to keep up with new writing rules. 

So back to the show versus tell example. The manuscript I'd looked at for a woman had deplorable descriptions that went like this:

Bob picked up his toothbrush, squeezed toothpaste onto it and began to brush his teeth. Then he turned off the tap, the lights, and made his way to his room. He pulled the blanket off the bed and climbed in. He was troubled because his wife was so belligerent to him and had cheated on him.   

I didn't see the entire manuscript so am unsure the importance of this detail, but it struck me as too much detail. It also struck me as telling not showing. I'm not sure it showed anything about his character or that it was important to the story. I mean, don't we all do this at night to get ready for bed? Isn't it a little insulting to the reader to give so many obvious details? Could she not have said: The man got ready for bed?

I told her she had written a report, not unfolded a story. It was like a detailed checklist. 

Here is a quick example of what she might have written in a more showing format:

Bob gripped his toothbrush tightly, brushing his teeth before making his way to bed, "Why did she have to cheat on me? What do I do now? I can't stay at my brother's forever."

The single bed seemed small, the room dark and lonely. The thin flannel blanket would be Bob's only solace. 

Again, I'm not a fiction writer so not sure I nailed it, but the second format explains the same series of events as the first, but in a way that unfolds the story. 

What do you think? Are you willing to practice showing over telling? 

Are you Open to Learning?

I just reviewed a manuscript of a woman who is a wannabe writer. I know using that term wannabe sounds a little arrogant. But we've all been there before. We pour our heart into something and by the end we think it's worthy of publishing. But it's not. We want to be a good writer, but we aren't there yet.

We sometimes become deluded by our work not because it's great and publish-worthy, but because we've spent so much time on it. We feel we've poured every ounce of ourselves into the project and so now we're done. 

Pouring ourselves into a project can lead to another problem. We might become overly attached to it. Our writing becomes our child, so to speak. No one dares insult our child. 

Having spent so many unpaid hours on a manuscript, by the end, most of us just want to reap from it. We want it accepted by an editor or publisher or to self-publish it on Amazon, and we want to start earning royalties from it. 

But to be a writer of something that sells, we need to be prepared to hear critiques, even if it's our own. What I mean by our own is we might let a manuscript sit for months or years and when we re-read it, see it's a mess. We give ourselves a reality check

The woman I mentioned above seems to think her three manuscripts are ready for publishing. It's obvious through the short encounters I've had with her that she isn't open to critique. She's defensive, as so many of us writers are. 

To become a good writer really requires ongoing learning. We can always learn from other writers--not just from their books but from their input in online support groups or local meetups. There is also plenty of good material online and in the form of ebooks. 

My web content articles are always edited/critiqued before I can offer them for sale. I've had to develop tough skin. Sometimes the editors are off base. Sometimes an editor points out stylistic changes which aren't necessary, it's just what they individually prefer. In those cases, I get frustrated. 

Where my eBooks are concerned, I'm a little more timid. I did pay $500 once to have a critique. In the end, it was valuable, but at the time it was a massacre. I scrapped the entire manuscript. 

So are you prepared to take feedback on your writing? Or are you convinced you are stellar enough? 

Will you dedicate yourself to ongoing learning so you can improve in your writing?

Got Role Models?

Do you have some role models in your life?

Every now and then you meet someone who inspires you.  It may be their smile, their friendly personality, their concerning demeanor, their thoughtfulness, their spiritual faith...

Role models can be picked up through books too. It's amazing how certain authors have impacted my life personally. I like to follow them on social media to stay inspired. I like to buy more of their books as they come out. 

We are always drawn to others who have something we'd like to emulate or who impact us personally in positive ways.

Social networking and the Internet are great ways to pick up mentors or role models that can come right into your home virtually at any time. 

It's good to keep a few good models in our relationship satchel, even if we only admire them from afar or through the pages of a book or their blog posts.  When we get side-tracked they will inspire us.  When we are lost, visiting them in person or virtually helps us feel "found" again.

Who do you have on your list?

Reference Your Work

Popping in to write about a thought I wanted to share. 

When I had a book critique done, my writer/editor doing the critique criticized me for having dictionary definitions in my work. She said it was the sign of an immature writing. I took them out. 

What do think about that comment? 

Whether or not you want to add dictionary definitions is up to you, but at the very least--please put quotations around direct quotes and footnote or give credit as to where you got it! 

The same goes for Bible verses--apparently today's publishers prefer you paraphrase the meaning of the Bible verse rather than directly quote it. If you do quote it word for word, please also do the proper quotation marks and add the reference.  

Edit Until...

Writing is the easy part. You sit at a computer or pull out your journal and spew your thoughts. But if you want to share or publish your writing, editing is necessary. Blog posts can get away with a little less work, but articles take thought. 

When I edit something I've thrown together, I first try to decide where I can go with it. It has to serve a purpose. It has to ask and answer a question.

Then there has to be flow. The sequence has to make sense. 

That being said, I've gone back over some things I've written and published and much later see it could have flowed better. In most cases, the piece could have less words.

Cut Words

Cutting unnecessary words is an important edit. When I write eBooks, not only do I cut the unnecessary words I notice, I go to lists I've saved that professional editors say to cut (you can find lists online). I do a word search on various words or phrases and cut down drastically.

Nevertheless, time is needed between edits even if it is simply minutes. I will edit an article, leave it to work on another, and return to it later. I do this on and off until I can read an article through without making a change. Then I know it's ready. 

Of course, the perfectionist in most writers sees more to change. When this becomes problematic, I just call it quits. I say it's good enough, and I send it to the editors. 

How Much Time to Leave an Article Draft?

I read a question asking how long to let a draft article sit before re-editing it. I don't think there is a hard and fast rule, but here is a general impression from my own work experience.

If I'm writing an article to sell, it is usually 500 to 1,200 words. So it is relatively short. Often, the temptation is to just get it done and up on the Constant-Content site for sale or out to the client if it's a private project. (Less editing time would also mean I make more money per hour, always a challenge.)

But more often than not, it's better to let the article sit overnight. It's much easier to spot obvious changes the next day. 

Sometimes, I let drafts sit for weeks or months. In editing, I might totally make a new article out of it or break it into two or more articles. 

There is no time limit except it is better, in most cases, to let it sit a few hours or a day or two. 

That being said, most of my blog posts are published right after crafting them. 

Should You Take a Writing Course?

Every day there are courses offered for writers.  There are online courses and there are writing coaches who will help you walk through the steps of writing.  (I know of several if you would like me to refer you).  Do you have to take a course or have a degree to be a writer?  No.

Just get writing and see where the path leads you.

Do what suits your personality and skill level.  If you feel a course will help, sign up.  If a writing group is of interest, join one.  

Grow it at your own pace.  You should know when you're ready to take the next step of publishing a blog, writing a query letter, sending an article to a content site editor, signing up for personalized coaching, or sending a manuscript to an agent. 

The point is, there is no set path for a writer. 

The field of writing can be tough on you, though.  You will have editors rip your work apart. You will see yourself making dumb errors and feel embarrassed when important people point them out.  You will get rejections and hurt feelings.

Good writers take the pain in stride.  They take what they're dished and pour it back into their writing to be used for good.

A great way to test your skills is to put a piece past an inexpensive proofreader or editor to see how you fair.  Another way is to send it to an article site--preferably  one that has editors that will scrutinize your work before posting it.  If an editor in a situation like this offers you writing tips, take them and learn.

Writing - Where to Start

I've always loved writing and have looked for ways to make money writing.  Finally I've found it--creating web content articles, blog info and fillers, for pay. 

Sometimes the craving in our heart just needs the world to catch up to it.  Now that there is the World Wide Web there are so many opportunities for writers. 

Thank goodness for technology and virtual work!

Years ago, I started with a simple blog.  I began it never thinking I would actually publish it, have followers or get business from it.  But I have.  Not only that, blog writing has given me the opportunity to release my writing cravings.  I need to write.  I have to write.

Since then I have a few other blogs on the go and a website

So, if you're thinking of starting a blog or investigating writing opportunities, take the plunge.  Just get writing.  Leave your work to simmer (work that you plan to sell, that is) and go back to edit it in a day or two. 

This is a start.