Often, writers struggle with telling readers how their characters feel, rather than letting them experience their joys, sorrows, frustrations and triumphs. To see whether you’re telling instead of showing, search your manuscript for typical “telling” words, such as “feel,” “think,” or “realized.”
Re-read the word in context to decide if you’re telling the reader or showing them. If you’re telling, rewrite it so the reader experiences the emotion. To learn more, check out Janice Hardy’s book, Understanding Show Don’t Tell (and Really Getting It).
I had the privilege of meeting Newbery winner Linda Sue Park when she visited my daughter’s school last month. In preparation for her visit, I re-read “A Long Walk to Water.” The novel is based on the true story of Salva Dut, one of thousands of Sudanese “Lost Boys” who were separated from their families during the country’s civil war in 1985 and traveled on foot for hundreds of desolate miles to reach a refugee camp in Ethiopia. In the story, Salva’s uncle motivates his nephew to keep putting one foot in front of the other by breaking up the daunting trek into smaller, manageable parts. Continue reading
When it’s time to tighten a scene, study your characters’ thoughts and feelings and ask yourself what purpose they serve. If they don’t help your readers understand the character’s motivations, consider cutting those lines.
Every writer has strengths and weaknesses. A writer who is a natural at dialog may struggle with action or description or something else. My Achilles’ heel is narrative summary—in all its many forms. (Arrrg!) That is a problem, because every book has narrative summary.
When it’s done well, readers don’t even notice the summarizing. It just seems like a natural part of the story. But if it’s not done well, it sticks out—like mustard on ice cream. Continue reading
Another month has passed since our Write by Midnight challenge ended. We hope you’re still sticking to your daily writing habits. In May, think about how to make the most of the writing time you have. Try this technique:
- Determine how much time you want to write on any given day. 30 minutes? An hour?
- Now, set a timer for half of that time. Write freely until the timer lets you know to stop. Just get the scene on the page.
- Then, reset the timer for a second round. This time, go back through what you wrote and make it make sense. Flesh out the scene with description, introspection, dialogue or whatever else you think the scene needs to be worthy of your name on the cover.