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Let me TELL you something…

June 12, 2017 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby, Writing tagged as , , ,

Let Me Tell You Something | Denise Colby | A Slice of OrangeI 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:

  • Concise, no fluff words
  • Benefit statements
  • minimum 2 sentences, maximum 5 sentences
  • Doesn’t have to be complete sentences

Example in bullet form of copy block:

  • Benefit statement that helps to explain the product concept overall.
  • Describe how the product is used.
  • Suggest applications for the product.
  • Other descriptions of the product including other features, color, size, quantity.

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 Colby |The Writing Journey
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


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How Choreographing a Musical Led Me to Writing a Novel

February 16, 2015 by in category The Writing Journey by Denise Colby tagged as , , ,

Right now I am in the middle of choreographing a musical for my son’s middle school. We are doing Aladdin, Jr., and I am working with 60 5th-8th graders. As I draw out diagrams of who goes where and count beats, I realize that all this orchestrating I’m doing is another form of storytelling, just like writing a book. As Co-Director I’m making decisions on how we tell the story, just like writers decide what scenes they write for their book.

There are several directions a plot can take, secondary characters to introduce and specific settings to create. Just like there are several types of steps to select and put in a specific order. Where does the cast enter and exit? Do I line them up in a straight line or group them together? What are their hands doing? Their facial expressions? What are the movements communicating? There needs to be emotion, conflict, responses to other’s actions, and it all has to connect in order to get the story across properly. The choices can be overwhelming. I find I have to just go for it and pick one. If it doesn’t work I can change it if I need to. That’s what we do when writing a novel.
As I pondered this, I found more similarities between staging a musical and writing a novel. In a musical, there are sets and costumes that make the setting. In a book we write descriptions of clothes, buildings and surroundings to help communicate the setting. In a musical, the ensemble cast adds to the storytelling, helping communicate setting and interaction. In both, main characters have lots of dialogue. 
When I listen to the music and read the lyrics, I try to come up with movements that communicate the emotions and feelings in the story. I do the same when working on my novel. As I write different scenes, sometimes I find something not working. And just like watching the kids move around on stage, I seem to be able to tell if something doesn’t fit right and I’m open to changing it.
So how did choreographing lead me to writing a novel? When I was asked to do this three shows ago, I taught dance and choreographed children’s choirs in the past, but nothing of this magnitude. I had no idea if I could do something on such a large scale. Honestly, I was scared.
That musical was Little Mermaid, which consisted of 75 kids. I constructed something I was quite proud of. And the confidence that grew out of the entire experience was amazing. I stepped out beyond myself. It was so empowering. And that is what helped me cross over into the next challenge of my life – writing a novel. 
Up to that point I would read, and read, and read and when I finished a novel, I’d say to myself “I would love to write one like that.” Then I’d look at my life and think, how in the world would I fit that into my schedule? I had thought the same thing about choreographing. But after the show, I realized I had made the schedule work. Whatever obstacle my mind would make up, I pushed through. I had to. I didn’t have a choice because I had made a commitment. I somehow figured it out. And because I did, it helped me see that I can do anything I put my mind to.
The next year, I choreographed Beauty and the Beast. It was easier, even though I was still nervous. I trusted myself a little more. I’m sure that is what it feels like when you start working on a second novel. I’m not quite there yet.
So now I am working on my third show, believing in myself more than before. Sure there’s a part of me that is still scared, which keeps me on my toes (no dance pun intended!). But I’m making decisions faster and not doubting myself as much. Which I find has transferred over to my writing.
I love doing this even though it is more challenging to fit in writing time while I’m choreographing. But, instead of picking one over the other, I find that they complement each other. I can see my choreography become something tangible and it encourages me to keep writing. All the writing and edits are like rehearsals, fine-tuning the details. It keeps me motivated. 
So what’s the lesson in all this? Don’t let anything keep you from doing what you want to do. That first show ended in April 2013. By September that year I had joined OCCRWA. And I am so glad that I did. I have learned so much from all of you. It has been a wonderful journey so far, just like fun rehearsals before the main performance. Thank you for being such a great cast to work with.

If you are interested Friends Christian Middle School will be performing Aladdin, Jr. March 13 (7pm) and 14 (1 & 4pm) at Rose Drive Friends Church in Yorba Linda. Tickets are $7. Call 714-202-8410 for more information.

Denise Colby  writes uplifting, encouraging stories that cherish and warm the heart.  Her first historical novel features a young lady who has lost all hope, travels west to teach and finds love along the way.  Passionate about all types of stories – whether they are from songs, theatre, movies or novels – she loves sharing those passions with her husband and their three boys.

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