By Karen Cioffi
I've written about showing and telling before, but it’s such an important topic that I think more information is always helpful.
Writing is an ongoing adventure…always something to learn and tweak and hone. A while ago I wrote a children’s story and found I still had a bit of showing in it. This was noted by writing coach and children's author Suzanne Lieurance who gave it a critique.
I was toying with the idea of submitting my story as a picture book, but was advised it would work out better as a children’s magazine article, unless I wanted to rewrite it specifically for a PB.
Anyway, I noticed that when I write, and I think this goes for most of us, my thoughts precede my reading and writing ability – so I don’t catch my own errors.
This happens because I know what I wrote and what I intend to convey. This makes it almost impossible for a writer to edit her own work. You can get close, but as the saying goes, Almost Doesn’t Cut It.
What do I mean? Well, let’s look at a simple sentence:
In a daze, Pete stumbled to his feet.
While this isn’t the exact sentence in my story, it is similar. I revised my article and reread it numerous times and didn’t notice that “in a daze” is telling, not showing. And, what’s the KEY to writing in today’s fast paced, no time to waste world? FOCUS AND TIGHT WRITING.
In fact, the fast-paced reader of today is getting even more impatient and ready to move on in the blink of an eye. So, we need to take this into consideration in our writing and marketing.
Okay, back to the focus of the article…
So, how do we change the above sentence into a showing only sentence?
Dazed, Pete stumbled to his feet.
Really simple when you are able to actually read what is written rather than already know what you intended.
What are the important tips to take away?
1. Make sure you are part of a critique group. These groups can be super-helpful. If you’re a children’s writer, you can find one in the forum of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrations (SCBWI). There’s a yearly fee, but it’s worth the investment.
2. Belong to writing groups in the genre you write. You can usually ask questions and get answers.
3. If your budget can afford it, get at least one grammar editing tool. I use Grammarly and ProWritingAid. They may not specifically tell you you’re ‘telling’, but they will tell you if you’re using passive writing.
Just be careful not to depend on these tools solely. I’ve had both tools miss an ending dialogue punctuation on a client’s work.
4. Do not submit your work to a publisher or agent before you’ve edited it and proofed carefully. It’s important to have someone who knows how to write to review or critique your manuscript for you (if you’re not already a part of a critique group).
5. If it’s in your budget, have it professionally edited.
For more on showing versus telling visit:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author and children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and coach with clients worldwide. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move and an author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing.
Karen’s children’s books include “Walking Through Walls” and “The Case of the Stranded Bear.” She also has a DIY book, “How to Write Children’s Fiction Books.” You can check them out at: https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/karens-books/. If you need help with your children’s story, visit: https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com.