Are You Telling or Are You Showing? Why You Need to Self-Edit.

I recently decided to go back and read a manuscript I hadn’t touched in about 8 months. It was of my first novel.

A lot can happen in 8 months. You read more books, you write more, and in the process, you learn more. What I thought was an edited manuscript, turned out not to be. As I flipped through the pages of my novel, I discovered sentences and paragraphs that needed rewriting. I realized that in some instances throughout the book, I was simply telling and not showing.

What’s the difference, you ask?

TELLING is more like an outline. It’s technical and not exciting.
Example: “The mother was frightened. The girl was scared. She wanted her mother do something about it.” (Yawn).

SHOWING keeps the reader interested. It shows them exactly what is going on and how the character is actually feeling.
Example: (taken from the book, Sarah’s Key, by Tatiana de Rosnay)
“The mother pulled her daughter close to her. The girl could feel the woman’s heart beating through her dressing gown. She wanted to push her mother away. She wanted her mother to stand up straight and look at the men boldly, to stop cowering, to prevent her heart from beating like that, like a frightened animal’s. She wanted her mother to be brave.” (Wow).

What a huge difference. I definitely prefer the second example. What about you?

Of course there are also instances when telling is better than showing. Sometimes certain things don’t need need to be described in detail. The key is to know when to use them properly.

I found a very helpful post online that I’d like to share. There are a lot of great tips and examples on how to improve your writing.

Check it out:

Self-editing is important. It’s part of being a writer. It helps us write our best, and our best is what we want our readers to read.

Keep reading books, keep writing and then keep writing some more, and edit your work. Pause once in a while and don’t touch what you have written. Go back to it in a few days, or in a few weeks, or in a few months. You’ll see the difference. And then ask yourself, “Are you telling or are you showing?”

Happy editing.

0 Replies to “Are You Telling or Are You Showing? Why You Need to Self-Edit.”

  1. I can edit my work dozens of times and still keep finding things to change. That’s when I know it’s time for my writer’s critique group to take a look at it for me. Thanks for the great advice and helpful link. 🙂

    1. I know what you mean. Editing can be never ending. Yes, having a writer’s group or family and friends you trust read your manuscript can help your editing process.

      Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  2. I recently showed a short story that I hadn’t touched for a while to a close friend and got the opposite advice; she said that my story was a little brusque and hopped around too much. Her verdict was; ‘Readers are not psychic; we need to be told who this or that person is, not left to do a guessing game…’
    It’s all about finding the right balance, I suppose!

    1. Indeed. Readers are not psychics. It is our job as writers to describe scenes, characters and emotions, among other things. A good balance of “showing” and “telling” can help narrate our story, in a way that our readers can appreciate and understand.

      Thanks for the comment. 🙂

  3. That time lapse of 8 months can be a valuable tool to self-edit, I find. I’ve picked up material I had entirely forgotten I had written and have both admired my genius, as well as cringed at my errors. But that passage of time is what lets me look at it with a new eye.

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