A little while back I got (constructive) criticism from a publisher telling me that they thought the beginning of my manuscript was too “telly”. I didn’t quite understand what they meant at first, so I spent some time going over my writing. The manuscript is written in first person and in the present tense, so I found it difficult to not be “telly”. How do you SHOW more of the action when everything that is happening is in the present and you’re in the main character’s head at all times?
When you’re in the editing stages, it can be a daunting task to fix something like that. How do you change your narration from being too “telly” and start showing things more effectively? Most writers know about the rule “Show, don’t tell”, but it can be difficult to grasp. You need to find a way to evoke the right emotions in the reader without TELLING them how to feel.
Showing instead of telling could be as simple as saying “Her teeth chattered and her nose was frostbitten” instead of “It was brutally cold out”. When you show people what your main character is feeling, that comes across much better than telling them. The readers will get an understanding of who your character is and what they’re going through if you find a creative way to show it. This also helps a lot with character development.
You need to both show and tell effectively to produce a good novel. It can be very hard, especially in the beginning of a novel, to draw readers in without this balance. You need to draw the reader in during the first couple chapters, but you need to show them what’s happening and where the narrative might lead. The first chapter is supposed to set up the story, so you’ll want to tell the readers what’s going on, but you won’t want to bore them. Don’t just describe your characters and what they’re like, you need to show it.
Sometimes, when you sit down to continue with what you were writing yesterday, or the day before, it can be difficult to rediscover your motivation for it.
Here’s my 4 top tips for helping to maintain your motivation from writing session to writing session:
- When you finish a writing session, don’t finish at the end of a chapter, or the end of a section. Stop writing right in the middle of something so that you can easily pick up where you left off next time.
- Read back over what you wrote last time to get back into the world of your story.
- Find your favourite section of your writing so far, and re-read it to remind yourself of what it was that excited you about the story in the first place.
- Finish each writing session by leaving some notes of what you want to achieve in your next writing session.
The entire writing process is fraught with perils. Many writers would argue that the hardest part of writing is beginning.
When asked what was the most frightening thing he had ever encountered, novelist Ernest Hemingway said, “A blank sheet of paper.”
Other writers believe that ideas are easy, it’s in the execution of those ideas that the hard work really begins. You have to show up every day and slowly give shape to your ideas, trying to find just the right words, searching for the right turn of phrase, until it all morphs into something real.
Then comes the wait to discover how your writing will be received. Chilean author Isabel Allende once said that writing a book is like putting a message in a bottle and throwing it in the ocean. You never know if it will reach any shores.
So just how do you go about facing an empty page, coaxing your ideas into the world of form, and steering the end result toward shore? You can start by studying the tips and advice from writers presented below.
Tumblr Tuesday: National Novel Writing Month
The official blog of writing an entire novel in November, NBD.
NaNoWriMo All Year
The unofficial fan-run Tumblr that brings you inspiration 24/7/365.
Fuck Your Writing Habits
Writing advice made with much tougher love.
Go Book Yourself
Flawless recommendations for those of us just looking for something to read.
The National Book Foundation
The literary org that gives out the National Book Awards this month.
Oh thanks Tumblr!
Did you need advice?
In my experience, you’re either going to do NaNo or you’re not. Nothing we say is going to make much of a difference.
But I hope you do do NaNo, because it is a wonderful experience. And there’s some great advice up there in those links if you need it.
Thanks for your question!
failefayce asked you:
So I have this problem. To me, the first sentence is the first hurdle in writing; and I don’t even get some time to get up to a sprint before it hits me! And, like real hurdles, it’s just a tiny bit too tall for me to try and climb over, let alone actually jump! I can’t bring myself to skip it and just write the rest, but getting past it is difficult. I know it’s all the white space intimidating me, but still! Have any tips?
This is definitely the mark of your inner critic.
What the inner critic does is remind you that you have taste, but uses your taste against you. You’ve read books you love, developing your taste, but when you try to write, the inner critic fogs up your vision so what you think you’re seeing is nothing like the books you wish you could write. Then you feel less inclined to write, scared of how bad it’ll look in your foggy vision.
But, if you don’t write, you don’t get better. Seriously, this is the Writer’s Conundrum.
The first line is jam-packed with expectations, as if the whole book depends on it. First lines are a form of art in a completely separate category from writing the rest of the story, and this form in particular can take a lot of practice to hone. Here’s how I used to study up on first lines:
- Go to a bookstore and read the first line of every book in whatever section of fiction you prefer. I used to go to the teen section and read the first line of each book to get an idea of how things worked.
- Write down the first lines. Having a reference sheet to refer back to always helps, especially when you draw blank after blank or your inner workings jam up. Be wary of turning this into a clutch, however. A safety blanket is cool, but don’t let yourself become too dependent on it.
- Dissect those first lines. This is starting to sound like homework, but this part exercises your brain into thinking critically, into putting what you observed into a word problem and solving it. Ask yourself why this line works. Ask yourself why you like it and why you don’t. Ask yourself how the line serves as a hook for readers. If you’re feeling extra bold, ask yourself how the whole opening paragraph expands upon the first line effectively.
Here’s how you can take what you learned and get practicing:
- Take your story and try jotting down words that you want to go into the first line. Keep reminding yourself that these words are important, but not at all permanent. Every word you write is important, but every word is worth deleting if necessary.
- Try assembling the words into as many different versions of a first line that you can. If you mess up, don’t delete what you wrote. Hit enter and try again. If you have to, use a hard return and start over on the next page so you don’t have to keep looking back at your unfinished sentence(s).
- Repeat the above two steps as many times as you need for as many opening ideas as you have. You might be waffling between one idea and another. Try out all the ideas.
- Take the best sentence (or sentences, if you had multiple ideas), and keep in mind it doesn’t have to be perfect or even completely finished. Just take it and write it into an opening paragraph. Write multiple opening paragraphs if you have to. Tweak the first line only once you’ve finished the opening paragraph. Do it as many times as you want.
- Set it aside. Don’t look back. Keep writing if you can. Only come back to it once you’ve sat on your hands a day or two and haven’t looked at it at all.
- Reread your whole paragraph. Know that the first sentence you made might not be the first sentence at all. The true first sentence might be somewhere in that paragraph, or somewhere else down the page. Oftentimes, the first line we craft is NOT the first line of the story. Oftentimes, we don’t even know where the first line is until after we’ve finished the entire manuscript.
Try out these things, but above all else, let yourself fail. This is seriously a hard thing to do. “Failure” is one scary word. But we learn a lot more about how to be better writers from our failures than we do from our victories. Repeat the process as many times as you need to. If you fail, take a break, give yourself some space, then get right back in the chair (or wherever it is you write).
How to improve writing skills by reading different genres (Source)
Not a stupid question. Trust me, lots of writers have a line they’re not comfortable crossing (I know I do). Lot’s of times, research and practice can go a long way to help overcome these boundaries we’ve constructed for ourselves.
Then again, you don’t have to write anything you don’t want to write. That drive to expand boundaries should come from within you, not from some outside influence. If someone is pressuring you to write/roleplay romantic situations that you’re uncomfortable with, I hereby give you permission to call that person a poopy-faced ninnywiggins and uninvite them from your life.
With that in mind, here are a few posts that might help your situation:
Thank you for your question! Still not satisfied? Re-ask!