Tag Archives: speed writing

Show Don’t Tell

What does it mean to ‘Show, Don’t Tell’?

If you’re new to writing you most likely came across the multitude of articles that point out the importance of showing the reader as opposed to telling the reader the story.  The reason for the heavy emphasis comes down to the reality that readers are put off by having the story told to them.

Consider the following:

Telling:

Mellisa put on her shoes then ran to the door.  When she opened it she saw it was Jake her ex boyfriend.  He was the last person she wanted to see because he dumped her on their last date.  She slammed the door shut.

Showing:

Mellisa grabbed her shoes and ran for the door. Jake? “Seriously?”  she lashed out.  “I thought it was over?”  Before Jake could explain the door was already shut.

Most readers will find the second one more pleasing.  The reason is that it elicit’s a visual of the scene.  Readers, especially voracious readers, tend to prefer passages that paint the picture.  Fast readers tend to be more visual.  Telling causes them to slow down.  The only visuals they see are the words themselves.  This ends up taking them out of the story….and from then the likelihood they will stop reading increases.

Here’s another example.

Telling:

Mario quickly put the car in fifth gear and then proceeded to pass the other car – a corvette.

Showing:

Mario slammed the stick shift in high leaving the corvette in the trailing cloud of dust.

Which one elicits a visual?  Of course the second passage.  We can almost smell the burning rubber!

When editing your writing ask yourself if you are telling the reader what’s happening.  If so, rewrite it.  Practice will definitely make you better at this.

Of course there will be times when you will tell the story to the reader.

Here’s a passage from the novel I’m working on:

Todd’s leg was on fire.  Blood trickled down around the knife and down his leg.  He took a deep breath and then pulled it out.

The last sentence could have been written like:

He grasped the knife with both hands and felt the blade as it slid out.

It would have worked but I elected to put in the “telling” simply to change things up.  Too much colourful language will cause the reader to get tired and adding a bit of telling changes the pace.

Telling occasionally also has the effect of keeping things ‘natural’.

Try changing things up when you edit but if you have to err, err on the side of showing.

Simple Exercise to Drastically Boost your Writing Output!

There is one exercise that can:

  1. Improve your writing, and
  2. Boost your output

I will be  ‘walking the walk’ in writing this article.  I’m currently timing myself.  Why? Because I have been slowing down.  That’s right, slowing down and breaking my own rules.

You see, all of us have a tendency to fall into our Comfort Zone.  This is that zone where we become complacent. Like all areas of our life we eventually want to reduce stresses.  That’s why we would rather sleep in than get up a half hour early and go for a run.

If you imagine your comfort zone as a circle surrounding you.  When you traverse that boundary things tend to get tough.  If requires work.  However, a special thing happens when you continuously push yourself to do more than what makes you feel good.  That’s right your comfort zone circle expands.

So back to walking the walk.  What’s that about?  Well, I am pushing myself to increase my writing speed.  Normally I write comfortably at about one to two thousand words a minute.  Today I’ve been raising the bar.  I’m writing some four thousand words an hour.  Of course doing this takes work.  For starters, I had to gradually work my way up.  The way to do this is to practice, practice and practice.

To do this properly you should:

  1. Write as fast as you can for a specified amount of time (i.e. like 15 minutes)….and time yourself.
  2. To ensure you are improving you will need to keep track of your writing speed.  I use an excel spreadsheet to write down my writing speed.  Now sometimes I write for 15 minutes and other times I may go a full hour.  You’ll need to normalize your speed and so similar to the way you would keep track of your driving speed (miles per hour) you can express your writing speed as words per hour.  So if you write 200 words in 15 minutes your words per hour (or WPH) is 200 x 4 = 800 WPH.
  3. Finally keep pushing yourself to surpass your speed.  If you start off writing at 800 WPH try pushing yourself to write faster.
  4. When writing – just write!  That means no stopping to go back and fix errors.  There’s a time for writing and a time for editing.  Nows the time to lay down your first draft. There will be plenty of time later on to go back and edit.

So here’s the walk the walk surprise.  I’ve been using this method to write this article.  As of NOW the word count is 418.  The time writing is 7 minutes.  So my WPH is (418 x 60)/7 = 3583 WPH.  That’s not bad.

Now you try it.

Here’s an exercise.  Write 15 minutes non stop trying to write as fast as you can.  Tomorrow try it again but this time try to go a little faster.