I took a long walk this morning. Wrote an awesome blog post in my head. The entire time I wished I had my laptop to write down my thoughts. Let me tell you, it was awesome. Of course, as soon as I got home and started to actually write it, well…..the words came out differently. Not as witty. Not as eloquent. My punctuation was off. But trust me. The original in my head? It was awesome. I’m telling you.
See, my blog post was all about my feelings on the subject of telling vs showing. One of those things every fiction writer needs to learn to write a well-written novel. I apparently haven’t been able to figure it out yet. At least that’s what the latest round of contest remarks tell me.
Of course, I can’t show you their comments, so you’ll have to trust me when I tell you this.
So I took my walk to clear my head because somehow these comments have rattled me. I feel (again I’m telling you here) like giving up, stopping, throwing the entire book away. And I’m not sure what to do about it.
I’ve received lots of feedback over the past four years on my writing journey. I’m usually really good about taking it in stride and learning from it. But this time around it has punched me in the gut and taken all the motivation out of me.
And I’m not sure why.
Ironically, most of the feedback I’ve received, has been over the same set of pages. So really, the feedback isn’t just on my writing, it’s on the however many other contest evaluators and writer friends who have taken their time to give me their honest feedback. Each time I’ve made adjustments and changes, I’ve felt like I’ve gotten closer and closer to a solid beginning. So I find it interesting that what’s been pointed out makes my pages sound worse than where I was before.
I’m telling you, it’s enough to make me really confused.
So as I wallow in my own negative emotions, I reflect back to how I got here. Even in high school my English wasn’t great. I scored higher on my math portion of my SAT then my English. I can spell like the best of them, but making sure I’m staying in either present or past tense throughout the entire sentence is a challenge for me. As well as telling vs showing. That’s what I’m being told.
You’ve probably noticed it all in this post.
I do have a BA in Communication. I landed a great job out of college and my first two bosses were previous English teachers. Go figure. Every assignment I turned in came back with red marks everywhere. But I learned. By the time I went to graduate school to get my MBA, I scored higher on the English then the math. But since I embarked on this fiction writing journey I’ve learned something. Let me tell you – copywriting and fiction writing are two completely different things.
The writing I did in the business world mostly came in bullet points. I told people why they needed to buy a certain product. What that product could do for them and how it would benefit them. In catalogs, flyers, packaging, presentations and brochures. We had to be succinct and to the point. A customer needed to be able to know within a few seconds what this product was and what it could do for them. No room for interpretation, no room for feelings or fluff words as we called it. Just the point.
I was in charge of writing, proofing, and editing our products within our customer catalogs – for thousands of products. To create consistency with my team, I created a catalog copy strategy. Here’s what I instructed them:
For the actual copy block:
Example in bullet form of copy block:
Now here I am writing a novel and my mind is trained in a completely different way. I’m having a difficult time writing the showing parts. I’m pulling my hair out trying to get it. I’m crying over the fact that I have 350 plus pages to go back and redo and think I have it correct, but then find out I don’t. (Did I do it? Showing? Wrong tense, though. Sigh.) I’ll keep trying but the task feels daunting.
So, I need someone to tell me what happens next? I’m stuck. Frozen. Not sure if I can keep going. I know, I know. I just need to keep plugging along. I guess that’s why I wrote this blog post. I needed an outlet to process things. And to write something that’s in my own words, my way and I don’t care what anyone else thinks about it. And when I circle back around to accept things and move on, I still have a manuscript where apparently I’ve been told I’m telling too much. I guess only time will tell if I can show them they were right or wrong.
Denise M. Colby loves learning about history and reading fun, uplifting, encouraging stories that cherish and warm the heart. Combining two of her loves, she is working on her first inspirational historical romance, featuring Olivia Carmichael, a young lady who loses everything, including her faith, travels to California to teach and finds love in many different forms along the way. Passionate about all types of stories – whether they are from songs, theatre, movies or novels, Denise loves sharing these passions with her husband and their three boys. You can follow along with Denise on her writing journey at www.denisemcolby.com
I would think that your professional experience writing copy would serve you well. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Without knowing anything about your novel (always fun to comment about things I know nothing about) here’s what I’m wondering- does your “telling” involve trying to share backstory? Or- are you writing in 1st person & it might be easier for you to write in 3rd person or vice versa. Or maybe what you are writing about needs some excitement? Oh well, thanks for letting me chime in. I’ll wander off and get back to my writing
Thanks for the comment. It’s a combination of all of that. Plus getting different feedback from different people. I have to learn enough to trust my gut. I just took Linda Carroll-Brad’s online editing class and learned a ton. Excited to apply it all.
Denise, I love this post. I think everyone who has entered a contest or asked for feed back on their writing will get a critique that knocks them for a loop. We all the the tendency to see the negative comments and none of the positive. Look for the positive! After you see all the great things you’ve done, then look honestly at the negative comment. Is there really merit in the complaint? Sometimes, there isn’t. Sometimes, it’s just a cranky judge. Did more than one judge say the same thing? If more than one did, then I would pay more attention to the critique. Whatever you do, don’t stop writing!
Thanks for the encouragement!
Denise, you and I are in a similar place. I have a background in magazine writing and catalog copy writing as well, and just wrote a post on cutting the ‘fluff’. Which is why I seem to have the problem of not writing enough description. So many years of cutting the fluff that I have to work hard to use more words, yet of course I don’t want them to be unnecessary words that slow down the story, or tell instead of showing.
Anyway, I can commiserate, but I know we can do this!
Thanks for your comment. Yes we can! Writing the blog was very freeing for me too. I tried not to overthink it. I think the more comfortable I am on expressing myself, the more I can push myself to write my fiction with more emotion.
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