Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Show and Not Tell

For my writing critique group, we meet in a coffee shop every other weekend to discuss the writings of two of the group's members.  But last weekend, it was a warm, beautiful day and there was a fire alarm so we decided to sit outside.    
The two previous days, I did yard work and I diligently wore my sunscreen.  I was so proud of myself that I was finally being responsible with my skin; I was so happy I hadn't burned.  On Saturday, I wasn't expecting to sit outside for a couple of hours, and I was not armored with my 30 SPF.

I am now a lobster.  Red as I can be.  But just on my shoulders and chest, so I look like a red and white zebra!  Today is the first day I can really lift my shoulders fully (but not without pain).        

On Saturday, it was my turn to have my first critique with the writing group.  

I was nervous to show the first round of my first novel to anyone, let alone a group of writers.  
I did try and clean up the first draft a bit before I submitted the first 20 pages, but there's still a lot of my book to finish, so things will probably change once I get to the final stages and complete the manuscript.

The overall impression I got from my colleagues was that they liked the story.  
They liked the beginning a lot - I got a lot of compliments on that, so that was very encouraging.  
I was glad to learn that there are some things I can do to make my writing stronger; specifically, using the "Show and Not Tell" technique.

Rather than saying "the water was freezing,"  I should say something like "her numb fingers clung to the keel of the capsized sailboat."  
Talking about "numb fingers" indicates that the water was freezing without actually saying it.   
This way, my story become more engaging and creates a more vivid image in the minds of my readers.  

I did do a lot of "show and not tell," in the story but I hadn't consciously made the decision to do that.  It just sort of came out that way.  

I know that when I go through and edit my story, I will be a lot more deliberate in how I deliver a scene, but if I can finish the book with this in mind, I won't have so much to fix when I go back through in my second draft.  

I do want to be careful to not make every single sentence SO flowery and rich that it becomes difficult to read and it's still my unique style.  I think there's a balance I need to achieve.  Sometimes I do want a short, succinct telling, indicating a fact without room for interpretation.  I think there are times when that could be very useful.  

There are many things that I don't know about writing.  I just know what I like and how I want to tell my story.  Do I know what a dangling participle is when I'm writing?  No, not really.  And I do want to learn that, but for now, I need to finish the first draft and then worry about grammar.  

I may come to the conclusion that I don't really care if everything is grammatically correct.  
Maybe I want it to sound more natural, like the way people actually talk.

It's all up to me.  It's my book and I can write it however I want.  I think that's the main thing to remember when getting critiqued.  

I was at Michael Kintz's book signing a couple of weeks ago (a writer in the group), and I met his publisher, EJ Thornton, of Thornton Publishing.   She said something to me that really helped: 
"Critiques don't have anything to do with the writer, they have to do with the person who is critiquing the writing."  
She explained that each person has their own hang ups and things they look for in their own writing and project those feelings into how they critique the work of others.  
This is something I will hang on to.  It helps me not be so sensitive when others tell me something I may not find particularly nice.  It's just their opinion.  I take what I want from the critique and leave the rest.     

Thankfully, everyone in the group was really encouraging and I am no longer scared to share my work with people.  I think this is a much healthier place than I was in about critiques and writing only a month or two ago.  I've learned so much in a short amount of time and I am so grateful for that.  

Update on Axle: 
We picked him up at the hospital today.  His left rear leg was opporated on with a proceedure called "TPLO" - it basically fixes the angle of his leg since he ruptured his CCL (dog version of the human ACL).  His meniscus was not damaged, so that is a HUGE blessing.  He is bruised and on pain medication, but he's already putting a little weight on the leg, so Matt and I are encouraged.  

House Update:
We are really starting to see things happen in the house.  We got our doors back, Matt laid the new subfloor, we picked out materials for the floors, cabinets, paint, granite, and took out a few walls while we were at it.  It's amazing what small changes can do to change the flow of a room.  We are really excited to get past the drywall phase, but we're not quite there yet.  I'll post pics as soon as there's something interesting to share.  ; )   

Happy 30th Birthday today to my big brother Bryan!!  I love you!  

Oh, and my nephew Tanner turns 1 in a couple of days too!  I can't believe it!   



CaRoLiNe said...

bryan's turning 30 and tanner 1?!?

wow that blows my mind! craziness.

BUT anyways. i love that about "showing not telling" it is so true. i'm not sure i do it all of the time, but i will most def think about it as i write. got to love it.

seriously can't WAIT to read ANY part of your story. it's exciting reading the creations of family and friends. they are so precious and in a way that person transmitted on the page.

i want to write a lot this summer. i am doing an internship at a magazine in little rock for the rest of may SO the rest of the summer (besides a nanny job hopefully) is mine!

we'll see what develops.

with much love <><


p.s. yeah dangling participles, split infinitives, comma splices....i KNOW what they are and i STILL make the mistakes or miss them in other people's papers....i can Proudly say i passed grammar fall semester...with the 5th lowest grade in the class! (out of like 20 people mind you) grammar is not my strength and as long as i recognize that...i think i'm ok

;) haha

Lauren said...

You're so smart!

I think I forget all the grammar stuff because I tested out of all lit / English classes for college.
Just dumb not to take any - if nothing else, just for the experience of taking them in college. Oh well.

I should have taken college-level language as well...tested out of all of that too. I still remember almost all the vocab, but sentence structure is starting to fade.

Use it or lose it, I guess. ; )

I am so proud that you're doing an internship this summer. That is going to be the experience that gets you a job in publishing more than any degree.