It may seem strange that, as writers, we put down words on paper, but then are told we need to ‘show’ what we mean. Isn’t the use of words telling the story? How on earth do we ‘show’ our stories to our readers? We’re not painters. Well here is one tip for showing, not telling.
Think about this: the weather was terrible.
Now all you need to do is ask yourself: Why? Why is the weather terrible? What makes that weather terrible?
The sky was filled with dark clouds which let down an unceasing rainstorm. Lighting cracked through the darkness occasionally, lighting up the sky as if creatures of light fought a ferocious battle above. I shivered under an awning, a freezing raindrop occasionally falling on to my shoulder.
Now that is how you show the story while writing. Stating that the weather is terrible, is just telling the reader something. But who cares? Weather can be terrible but it doesn’t mean anything… right? By showing the reader how bad the weather is, will make them will feel the cold, sense the forlorn dampness surrounding the character. This is how you pull in your readers and keep them.
Of course, there are times when telling is perfectly alright. Showing should be used on ideas that you want to capture your reader’s attention. Use this approach on ideas you want them to dwell on and that help them immerse themselves in the story. At other times, there are ideas that are not so important and you can tell them, without forcing the reader to spend time contemplating it.
For example: I hate the cold. This is likely not a massively important detail and doesn’t need to be thought about much.
Even though I understand the concept of showing, this is still something I need to work on myself. I need to go back over my work, find those times when I am telling the story, and instead needing to show.
Here are some examples that you should try. These examples are being told. Show them instead:
Scarlett Van Dijk
There are many points to consider when creating a protagonist. What do they look like? What are they good at? Are they smart, or funny, or kind? But considering all of this, the one thing I believe should be avoided at all costs, is the Mary Sue (or Marty Stu if male).
The Mary Sue character is the ridiculously perfect, perhaps overpowered character, whom you cannot fault in any way. As an author, it is easy to fall into this trap. We love our main characters and want them to be perfect. We want our characters to woo our readers with their brilliance just as they are wooing us within the setting of our minds.
So why is this a bad thing?
Mary Sue is boring. Yes, she may have incredible abilities. Yes, they may be smart, and beautiful, and loving. But, no one wants to read about perfect people, at least not for long.
Such perfect characters are not relatable. No one is faultless in reality, so why should your protagonist be any different. Your readers will not be drawn in and captured by your character unless they have traits that make them human. So brainstorm. Do they have a physical illness or disability? Are they easily angered, paranoid, or selfish? Perhaps they are inhibited by their environment, such as their socioeconomic status? There are many ways in which you can FLAW your protagonist and in doing so, will instantly make them a more relatable and a more interesting person to read about. You will give your protagonist areas to learn and develop as a character, and hence will hold the attention of your readers who will now want to watch them grow.
So, when creating characters for your stories (not just your protagonist), give them issues. Scar that shiny image you have in your imagination. Your stories will be all the better for a bit of roughing up!
Scarlett Van Dijk
I have been writing since 2003, and every year since I started, I have been in some form of online writing community. When used well by the members, they are invaluable. Here are my top pros and cons for writing communities…
Positive Reasons to Join an Online Writing Community
1 Grow and Manage Your Professional and Personal Writers Network (and make New Friends)
One of the strongest ways a newly published author can grow awareness of their book is through their professional and personal network. If they’ve done their preparations right, they will have started growing this whilst still in the first draft stage of their book’s production cycle. Once you know other authors and writers, there are several ways they can help you grow awareness of your book(s).
2 Open the Doors to Cross Promotion
One of the things knowing other authors and writers can result in is cross promotion across their readers/followers and yours. The guys at Sterling and Stone do this very well with their podcast, as they often invite others onto their show to share experience for writers. By doing this, you and your friend can grow awareness of your own projects to a larger group of people. Ways of cross promotion include guest posting (like I am here), being on podcasts, promoting each others’ books to email lists, sponsorship and sharing valuable content of others.
3 Discover Valuable Resources (with Less Work)
Ever had to scroll through several pages of Google for the most recent answer to a question? Me too. Often participants of a writing community will share links to online resources that can help other members of the group.
4 Get your Questions Answered
When people get stuck, they are more likely to ask someone they know than a stranger for help. This happens in online writing communities - members have the ability to ask others (that they can then check out to see if they know what they’re talking about) for answers to their questions or difficulties.
With the proliferation of open mic nights and spoke word events, there are now many opportunities for writers to perform their work. Even if you would rather drink battery acid than read for an audience, I encourage you think again. Reading your work is a wonderful way to reach a wider audience, doubling as an occasion to develop confidence in yourself and in your writing.
I first began my writing career as a playwright, and am a great fan of actors. In my experience, the reading nights that work best are those in which actors read. It makes sense, then, that when preparing for performance writers could do worse than turn to the actor’s craft of performance. What is it that makes actors such engaging storytellers? Of course there is the stage experience, but there’s more to it than experience. The best actors assume professionalism in all performance, and that means preparation and rehearsal – of the voice, of the script, and of the work.
So here are some practical tips based on the actor’s craft designed to help you prepare for performance, so that you will be your dynamic best when standing in the spotlight:
As a fiction writer, I feel incredibly lucky being able to let my imagination run free. I can stretch the limitations of reality and take my reader on journeys through distant places and times. I create characters and communities and have even conjured up the odd planet or two. But amidst all of this wonderment and fantasy, I do still have a responsibility to my reader: to consciously support their suspension of disbelief. The moment their curious mind suggests that something in my story doesn't add up, all of my creations might just as well drift into one of the black holes they dutifully avoided.
This need not mean a tireless justification for every odd occurrence in the story, but references back to the world as we know it must remain true to the commonly accepted laws of science or contain justification. For example, in my upcoming novel the characters embark on a tour of the universe, including a pass through the sun in our solar system. Imagine our sun for a moment. If it's a clear day, peak outside and catch a glimpse. Depending on the time, you might see a bright, golden orb hanging in the sky, radiating light and heat. We often hear descriptions about golden light and energy, linking back to the sun's power.
To describe the sun in such terms as my characters enjoy a closeup view would be inaccurate. The atmosphere of planet earth is what attributes that golden hue to our nearest star. From the perspective of space, that star glows white. As an author, I can choose to have it simply appear as white light to my characters or I can contrive a means for it to appear golden just like on earth. Either way, it is my duty to address the truth of the matter in the fiction I am writing.
Similarly, taking time to review what you have written is crucial because suspension of disbelief also relies on tight continuity. This could boil down to something as simple as describing your protagonist's car with plush black leather seats in one chapter and having that same car feature a chocolate brown interior several chapters later. Keeping tabs on the world you are creating is vital to making sure your reader stays with you right to the end.
Maybe your character was born in a specific year, but the events of their childhood indicate they were born earlier or later. Again, this comes down to research. Choose a year now, any year, and search for markers of that time: major events, available technology, popular fashion and music. Everybody is unique in how they relate to the world with their own preference for sight, sound, touch, smell or taste. Using as many of those senses in your prose will illuminate your fictitious world and captivate readers with each of those preferences. For example, I am not well versed in fashion through the ages, so would struggle to read a passage that heavily described someone's attire. However, if their environment includes some familiar music, I will enjoy the ride.
Whatever your journey, investing time to make sure your details are plausible will make your story stronger and earn the trust of your reader. You might even end up tinkering with those facts to create something completely new and exciting: imagine a planet where the creatures are phosphorous based instead of carbon based like you and me... or grab a copy of my new novel, Hazel of Angeldom, in 2016 to discover what my version of that is.
About A J Le Roy
Andrew Le Roy was was born and raised in Sydney, Australia. Since that time he has lived in Darwin, where he hosted a popular Drive-time radio program before moving to his current home in the Adelaide Hills.
He published a novella, Gordon's Apprentice, in 2013 and is due to release his first novel, Hazel of Angeldom, in 2016. The novel is a prequel to Gordon's Apprentice and explores the main character's journey from death on earth to finding her place in the afterlife.
Andrew established ALR Publishing in 2013 to release Gordon's Apprentice and now makes publishing available at low cost to independent authors who are ready to bring their books to the big wide world. If that sounds like you, Andrew would love to hear from you.
ALR Publishing on Facebook
Gordon on Facebook
Le Roy's Creations on Facebook
Purchase Gordon's Apprentice:
By now it will be all over.
The winners will have won, the losers … well, they’ll have won too.
I don’t believe there are any losers in NaNoWriMo. Everyone who enters National Novel Writing Month is a winner. They have all taken the plunge. They have decided to do something that many people talk about, even more people think about, but not so many actually do. They will have committed to writing a novel.
The idea of writing a novel in a month may seem a bit far fetched, and, in actuality, it would be. To write a completed, edited and polished novel, proofread and publishable in one month, is a bit far-fetched. Hats off to anyone who manages to do that!
But the idea of writing 50,000 words of a novel is not far-fetched. It has been done. It has been accomplished by hundreds of thousands of writers every year since NaNoWriMo began 25 years ago, in 1991.
Some NaNoWriMo facts (partially taken from the NaNo site):
To be a NaNo winner, the entrants have to write 50,000 words of a new novel in the month of November.
The reason I say that even those who don’t achieve that goal are winners is because, unless they give up before they start, they will probably have written more words in the month than they usually do, and they will have gone with the flow.
In my experience, when you are up against a deadline like that, you have to turn the inner critic off, that little voice in the back of your head that says things like, ‘This is rubbish. No-one is going to want to read such a load of drivel.’ You have to give yourself permission to write badly, to get the story out of your imagination and onto the page just as it comes to you.
And that’s true even if you have plotted meticulously. Your story plan is unlikely to be 50,000 words long, so you are going to have to flesh it out. You are going to have to write, and write, and write without taking too long to choose the perfect word, the perfect phrase. That will come later. That will happen in the editing process, the next draft. During NaNoWriMo, you just need to get that all-important first draft written, you have to go with the flow.
Someone famously said, ‘You can’t edit a blank page.’ I have said it so often to other new writers that I feel like it’s my quote, but it’s not. I read it somewhere. So, if you’re out there, reading this post and you coined the phrase, kudos to you. It’s such a concise way of telling all would-be authors, ‘Get that first draft written, whether it’s good, bad or indifferent. Just go with the flow.’
Words are not meant to stand alone, they are designed to be used in sentences, in paragraphs, in speeches, in conversations, in stories. They naturally flow. They flow.
If you want to get that novel written. Just let them.
Just go with the flow.
In my experience, that is exactly what NaNoWriMo pushes you to do.
So, November is over.
The winners have won, the losers … have won too.
This November may be over, but there’s always next year. But you don’t have to wait till then. There’s always http://campnanowrimo.org/sign_in
Follow the link and find your way to writing that great novel you have in mind in the first half of next year.
Or pick a month, any month. Commit to writing 50,000 words of the first draft of your new novel. Commit to yourself. Commit to others. Tell your friends, your spouse, your parents, your Auntie Beanie. Tell them you’re doing it, that you want to be held accountable for doing it. You want someone to ask you every day what your word count is.
Just have a go. Let the words flow.
You can always write another novel next November, next NaNoWriMo.
You just have to …
About Christine Campbell
Christine Campbell lives in a small village outside of Edinburgh with her husband, and whatever assortment of children and grandchildren happen to be visiting at the time.
When she has a moment of peace, and is not distracted by the varied wildlife currently taking up residence in her garden, Christine writes novels or for her blog at
You can also find her onFacebook
She is currently working on the third instalment in 'The Reluctant Detective' series, the follow up to 'Searching for Summer' and 'Traces of Red'. You can find these and her previous works, in paperback and ebook, on Amazon.
I get asked often: How do you find time to write? For a while, it was with great difficulty. Trying to force myself to write when I didn’t want to made the task feel like work. I seemed to have so much on my plate with my paid job and other commitments that there was no time for it. Lately however, I found my mojo again and writing is a part of my down-time. I think the trick is to make writing fun, not a chore.
No one likes to work. No one wants to put time aside for work unless it is necessary. For me, writing is a hobby, not my job. It can feel like I don’t have time or that I don’t have the energy to work on such a project. But, when you enjoy doing something, you will automatically find time to do it. You’ll find time you didn’t even know you had!
Now that I am working on book 3 of the Sky Stone series, my current inspiration and excitement levels are high. I am surprised by how quickly it is taking shape. I have been writing at least one thousand words a day for the last few weeks. My word count is already exceeding 30,000. This is mostly because I am writing during my ‘me-time’, for fun, because I want to be writing. I’m even finding that I enjoy writing even when I only have small pockets of time to do so; times I wouldn’t have thought I could utilize.
In a nutshell, writing is supposed to be fun. You write because you want to. Things that you want to do should come easily and you’ll find time to do them, almost without effort. If you’re in a slump right now, don’t worry; find something that you want to write about and I’ll guarantee that you’ll suddenly have the time to do it.
Scarlett Van Dijk
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Today I am introducing Andy Peloquin, a speculative fiction author. For something different I asked Andy a series of questions and he has given some wonderful answers! Read on to find out about Andy, his writing, and learn from his experiences.
So, what have you written, Andy?
1) A fantasy/sci-fi/historical/metaphysical fiction set in Atlantis, called In the Days: A Tale of the Forgotten Continent. I had a lot of fun writing it, and I know it's a rollicking fun time of a read. (I'm giving it away on my website, if anyone is interested)
2) Blade of the Destroyer, the first part of a dark fantasy series. The main character is a half-demon assassin anti-hero, so you know it's going to be one heck of a great read.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
He's an interesting mix of human and inhuman. He's half-demon and has lived for thousands of years, but his memories only stretch back about 50 years. But those years have made him cynical, mistrustful of everyone, and a bit of a cold-hearted bastard.
Yet he has a soft spot for certain people--beggars and the outcasts of the city. He sees himself as a protector of sorts.
What are you working on at the minute?
I'm in the middle of finishing up Book 2 of the series, as well as a secret side-series set in the same world. This side series is a trilogy that will be published all together once this dark fantasy series reaches its conclusion--4 or 5 books from now.
Why do you write?
It's my way of giving the world a window into my heart and soul, but it's also my only way to be artistic. I've always envied artists, painters, and anyone who can create something out of nothing. Writing is my way to let out the inner creativity that has been bottled up for so many years.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
I've come to understand a lot more about what makes a book "good" or "great". In reading, reviewing novels, and writing my own, I've realized that the plot is nowhere near as important as the character. If you have a good character, he/she can hook people, no matter how much of a bastard they are. Look at Loki from the Marvel movies--he's the fan favorite, not Thor.
What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
Waiting! I had it ready to self-publish back in November 2014, but I wanted to shop it around to traditional publishers. When it got picked up in January of this year, I was hoping for an April launch date. And here we are in August!
Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors?
I read voraciously, but not as much as I'd like. I listen to audiobooks while lifting weights, read while at the beach, and read e-books while on the treadmill. My favorite authors are Brandon Sanderson, E.R. Burroughs, and Scott Lynch.
How are you publishing this book and why?
I'm going the traditional route of using a publishing house (J. Ellington Ashton Press). I knew this book/series had the potential to be amazing, so I needed more eyes to go over it and make sure it was up to snuff. It's all about putting out the best product possible!
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
The best advice I can give is "keep at it". If it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at anything, that means you've got to invest at least 15 years of writing 2 hours per day in order to reach that level of expertise. Better start now, right?
What do you think makes a good story?
A good character. Plot is not as important as the character. Suffering and failure are also key to making a story good. They are what make people human, and thus relatable. The more your characters fail, the more your audience will root for them, and the more their eventual success will mean.
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
You can find me at ALL of my links, listed below:
Special Note: I'm giving away FREE copies of my first novel In the Days: A Tale of the Forgotten Continent on my website. Pop in there and grab a copy of your own!
I have been working on a book series, Mysterious Warriors, since I was about thirteen-years-old. Now, fourteen years later, I have expanded my first book into a quartet and have several quartets to follow. The biggest lesson I have learned through this experience is to accept critique from those you trust and edits from those who will be brutally honest with you. When I was in high school, I didn’t want to get feedback, especially from my viciously direct older brother. After several years of not knowing how to fix the story I had “finished” when I was fifteen, I finally rewrote Mysterious Warriors into something much closer to how it is today. I had my mom, sister, and best friend read my draft and give me helpful feedback. About a month before I wanted to pitch my new draft at my first writing conference, I asked my brother to edit my book. I received it back from him less than a week before the conference, and he had a lot more feedback than anyone else had previously given me. My brother, who has a degree in Radio/TV/Film and works with incredibly creative people, gave me feedback like: all of your characters have the same personality and turn into you, you have too many characters, plots, and none of them are deep enough, and my “favorite” part of his critique: your book should be four instead of one. Yes. That’s exactly what you want to hear before you’re planning to pitch a book you’ve been working on for HALF your life at your first conference… However, my brother was completely right, and he gave me the most brutal, hardest to “fix” advice anyone had ever given me. And he was completely right. I reworked my book, which is now told in four books: Mysterious Warriors: Unity, Broken, Alone, and Redemption. When people ask me for advice about writing, I always say two things: just keep on writing because you can’t edit a blank page, and find someone who will rip your book apart so you can put it together better than it was before.
Mysterious Warriors: Unity is the first of a quartet about a group of young heroes who must come together and trust one another to protect the town of Whitehaven against the criminal organization of the Xanites. Unity will be free on Kindle, August 1-5, 2015.
About T. N. Hayden
T. N. Hayden and her husband live in San Diego. T. N. Hayden works for the San Diego County Library System as a Library Technician. She has dreamed of being a published author since she was nine. She is the author of the Prophecy Series and Mysterious Warriors Quartet.She is a member of the San Diego Christian Writer’s Guild.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13
I've always been drawn to series – from my early love of Nancy Drew to Tolkien to Lois Lowry's The Giver quartet (and many others). Maybe it's just that when I get into a good story, I hate for it to end.
It's only natural that my writing follows suit. To date, the only novels I've ever finished are parts of series. I'm currently editing the middle novel of a trilogy. After revising the first book four times, I thought I could safely concentrate on editing its sequel – until I woke with a middle-of-the-night brainwave.
While I usually welcome brainwaves with open arms, this one will necessitate a complete fifth revision of the first book, not to mention hefty changes for the unedited second. I could just ignore it… but the more I think about letting this new idea go, the more I realize what a mistake that would be.
It's during this part of the writing process that I wonder if the likes of J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins, Rick Riordan, or C.S. Lewis ever went through forehead-slapping moments like these. "So, Jo," I'd like to say to J.K. Rowling, "when exactly did you come up with the vanishing cabinet bit in The Half-Blood Prince?"
How do the writers of great series do it? The one I finished reading most recently, Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Cycle, is a series he started writing when he was 15 – 15! While Paolini did a lot of growing as a writer over the years his series was published, he certainly knew where his story was going from the start. Little bits of relevant information are sprinkled throughout all four novels. Viewed as a whole, these seemingly thin threads hold this vast work together.
Of course, not all authors of series are created equal (which is sometimes painfully obvious). For example, three or four books into a series, the protagonist suddenly has a peculiar birthmark. Shouldn't it have been mentioned before? Well, it would have… if the author had thought of it when writing the previous books. Whoops. The opposite of Chekov's rifle hanging on the wall that doesn't go off, it's the gun that wasn't there but appears out of nowhere to kill the bad guy – the worst kind of Deus ex machina.
In my moments of doubt (am I the good kind of serial writer or the bad?), I remind myself that no matter how many millions of copies they've sold all over the world, the greats are mere mortals, too. They've admitted to being frustrated by difficult characters. They've suffered through writer's block. They've even had second thoughts after publishing. (I love the interviews when an author says, "I wish I'd written…")
Wouldn't it be funny to hear someone like J.K. Rowling say one day, "I thought I was done, and then I realized that Snape was trying to protect Harry"? Okay, I doubt that, but wouldn't it be interesting to know if the part of the story that we take for granted, that makes everything come together, was the last piece to fall in place for a particular author's plot puzzle?
It's little things like that that continue to make the writing process both harrowing and rewarding – and that makes great stories. I can only hope that someday, I can say the same about my own books.
About Sarah Cotchaleovitch
Sarah Cotchaleovitch is a freelance writer and editor who resides in Northeast Florida with her husband and two young sons. She is a founding member and editor of the University of North Florida's online literary journal Fiction Fix. She posts a weekly blog atfulltimewritermom.com. She wrote and illustrated a children's book,Hero, with her son, Peter. Most recently, she collaborated with educator Karen Saltmarsh on This Tree Has a Story, a creative writing book for kids K–12.
A Writer's Tale
Scarlett Van Dijk
Writer of young adult, fantasy series, the Sky Stone series, poetry and short stories.
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