Wednesday, 14 October 2009

That old chestnut: Show not tell! (and living with my inner critic)

I've been busy editing and fairly pleased with my progress. But yesterday I was going through a couple of chapters that displayed a terrific amount of 'telling' and not nearly enough 'showing'.
Had I regressed? Had I learnt nothing?
Trying not to panic I busily scribbled all over my 1st draft , made extra notes and took shaky deep breaths.
Yet my inner critic taunted me with:
'well you obviously haven't learnt anything'
and 'fancy making such rudimentary mistakes'.
And 'blah, blah,'re kidding yourself if you think you can write...blah blah."
If you've an inner critic like mine you can fill in the blanks. If you haven't got one of these inner bullies then I congratulate you (and wish I was you).
After my initial biting of fingernails I decided to google some 'show not tell' writing advice.
I found some reasonable advice but I was still worried that I had so easily forgotten these basics when writing my first draft.
I was finally comforted by an excellent article by science fiction writer Robert J Sawyer. He explains that in a first draft he does a lot more telling in the process of working out events and characters. That to carefully shape every sentence during writing the first draft can be disruptive and block your writing flow.
I breathed a sigh of relief.
It all made sense. Of course the editing process was the place to enhance and amend. (Duh!)
I wasn't a complete failure after all. (although maybe a little dim)
I stuck two fingers up at my inner critic and returned to my editing with enthusiasm.
Read Robert J Sawyer's useful and interesting article by clicking here. Even if it's old news and you know it already, I think it's worth a read.
Please share any of your own editing stories & inner-critic-bully stories.
Hope your writing is going well today!


  1. Hi Katina :)
    Thank you for the personal post today. It reminded me to focus on moving ahead, keep writing the story, and not to stop & edit.
    That was the way I began writing & I've been struggling to break that habit, thanks to the excellent advice I've received from the talented writers on Twitter & the posts they've shared.
    I love the two fingers to the inner critic!
    All the best,
    twitter: @RKCharron

  2. Great advice in a useful post. Nice to catch up with you.

  3. LOVE that photo!

    Switching off or listening to the inner critic - it's a real balancing act, but I agree it's best to listen only after the first draft is done and dusted. Then it becomes difficult to know where to stop. I think when your work reads back like it was written by someone else is probably the time!

    Good article too :o)

  4. RKCharron -thank you :-) Twitter is a good place to discover other writers and advice. Pleased you stopped by my blog. I'm now following you on Twitter.

    Jan - thanks Jan X

    Karen - thanks you for the advice it is very useful. Glad you like the photo. Features my new (2nd hand) desk which I'm enjoying.

    Kat :-)

  5. I've just finished my 8th draft and still my inner bully is letting me know that there are things need to go over, again.

    I did get into a panic about it all a few months ago, then someone asked me what all the rush was about, and I realized I was losing the enjoyment by worrying so much, and now - try - to remember that I'm trying to hone a craft, and that takes time.


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