Today, I’m going to post about something that’s frustrated me about my writing recently. Why? Because Alex J Cavanaugh told me to! 🙂
Alex has set up the ‘Insecure Writers’ Support Group’, and declared the first Wednesday of each month to be Insecure Writers’ Day. I’d love to be able to say I’m not an insecure writer, but that would be completely untrue. I, like most other writers, have insecurities galore.
Originally, I’d planned for this post to be something constructive and useful for other insecure writers, but something happened today that drove me crazy and seemed like the perfect topic to seek advice on. So, here goes…
I’ve been editing my novel-in-progress Tangled for the past few months and, as part of this, I’ve been trying to ensure I ‘show’ instead of ‘tell’. As you would know, all good writing books tell us that it’s much more powerful to show an emotion rather than tell it. So I’ve been hunting out instances in my novel where I’m taking the easy way out and telling emotions. For example, I recently changed this passage:
“I expected the awkward silence to return, so I was pretty surprised when she actually asked me a question.”
“I had to stop my eyebrows from leaping off my forehead – she’d actually asked me a question.”
It can be quite difficult to show emotions, but it’s supposed to make your writing much more impactful. That’s why I’ve been spending so much time on it – to make my novel the best it can be. But today, I received a novel in the mail – the first book of a best selling series. I flipped through it, keen to get a taste of why it had been so successful, and I discovered it was riddled with telling. Some examples include:
- “She was horrified…”
- “The look on her face embarrassed [character name].”
- “[Character name] threw her hands up in frustration.”
I’ve been trying so hard to eliminate writing like this from my work, yet I find it in best selling books. This has allowed doubt to creep in, and I find myself asking whether I’m being too gung-ho in my battle against telling. Am I wasting my time trying to replace almost every instance? Is it possible that I’ve actually made some scenes worse by eradicating telling? AGH! 😦
I need a reality check. What are your thoughts on the merits of showing emotion versus telling? How do you balance this in your own work? Do you think there are instances where plainly stating an emotion (such as, “She was horrified”) is acceptable? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
P.S. Don’t forget to support other insecure writers!