I’m writing this post as part of Peevish Penman’s “My Best Advice to New Writers” Blogfest.
My best advice is something I’ve talked about on this blog a couple of times before, but it truly is my writing mantra: “Show, Don’t Tell”.
Some of this advice I’ve covered before, but there are also a few new little gems I’ve recently discovered.
Use All Five Senses
Don’t just tell the reader what the characters are experiencing, have them feel and experience through your character. Use sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. For example, don’t tell the reader your character is cold, show the reader how your character experiences the cold, “Lucy pulled her coat tightly around her body against the icy wind. The snow crunched under her feet.” Something I like to do when writing is close my eyes and imagine myself in my character’s place, focusing on each of my senses. I’ve even gone as far as putting my hand in a bowl of ice water to describe how my character felt as she plunged into an ice cold stream.
This is something I’ve recently been focusing on in my edits for my novel. Find the places where you’ve used the verb ‘was’ (or ‘is’ if writing in present tense, or ‘am’ if writing first person present tense), then reword the sentence without using ‘was’. This forces you to not only use stronger verbs, but turns a ‘telling’ sentence into one that shows. Take this sentence, “I was tired.” Let’s try to eliminate was and turn it into a ‘showing’ sentence, “My eyes felt heavy, I could barely keep them open.” The sentence conveys the same information, but shows the character is tired, rather than tells.
Interweave Description into the Story
Telling your reader your character is short or the building is old is boring and assumes the reader is not smart enough to figure out things from more subtle descriptions. Interweave details into the story to create a picture that allows the reader to form their own assumptions and at the same time create a stronger story. Take the above examples, the character is short and the building is old. Let’s interweave those details into a few sentences without using those adjectives. “Bill and Peter had to duck low as they passed under the arch, but Jimmy walked under it comfortably, his head barely grazing the top. The boys looked up at the building before them; its brickwork crumbled in places and ivy wound its way up the wall.”
Take Out Your Highlighter
As I proofread my drafts I use a blue highlighter whenever I come across any parts I think are telling, then when I do my edits I rework those parts to show instead of tell.
Just a few other pieces of advice to end this post:
- Keep writing, every word makes you a better writer.
- Listen to those who offer critique on your work, your writing can always get better.
- Always keep a pen and paper handy for when sudden inspiration strikes.
To check out some of the other great advice being offered during Peevish Penman’s blogfest, check out the links on this page: “My Best Advice to New Authors” Blogfest