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Tell, Don't Show

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by BWFoster78, Oct 19, 2012.

  1. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    Well... I think it's the crit partner's duty to try their very best to help their partner, but you can only do what you can do. If you are working with someone with a vastly different style, say, constantly switching POV or something, and you mention it, and they ignore it, saying they like it that way... you have done your job, and I think it's alright to just move on to other things you CAN help with. Some stylistic choices really rub me the wrong way, but then, that's art. Everyone has to realize their own vision, and all you can do is be honest and say, "This jumping back and forth between people's heads is distracting to me as a reader, I'd strongly urge you to either stay in one head consistently, or write in third omniscient," or whatever.

    This is one of the reasons I seek out crit partners who are peers, people at about the same place in their journey that I am in mine. Nothing feels worse than torturing someone with mad skills with your raw manuscript full of grammar errors and bad pacing... well perhaps critting for someone who is offended by every comment. That feels pretty bad too, like you're just being mean-spirited, rather than trying to give true insight, impartially.

    Anyways, I have already mentioned how fortunate I feel for the people who have read for me, and I wish that sort of luck on everyone who truly wants to improve as a writer. I've grown in leaps and bounds since I started reading for other people, and have been able to apply a lot of my comments to my own work, as well as having several sets of fresh eyes on books I'd rather like to stab in the face, I've read them so much.

    Critique partners are a wonderful resource, and the more you develop that relationship, the more help you can be to each other.
     
  2. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    I think it's also useful to have some beta readers who are not writers.

    I've noticed that my peers tend to look for things to find fault with. Readers, on the other hand, only comment on the things that really bug them. Having both perspectives is helpful to determine if the writer viewpoint is really that important.
     
  3. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    I couldn't agree more. Readers lacking technical writing knowledge are just as valuable as those who are writers themselves. As writers, we can tend to become more wrapped up in our ideas of what good writing should look like. Readers, lacking writing experience, tend to read for the story itself while still maintaining the ability to discern what doesn't work for them (if you've chosen the readers well).
     
  4. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I think it is a good idea as well, though I think it is possible to do both. If someone wants me to read something they wrote as a "reader" and not as a "writer," I can do that for them. I read books all the time as a reader, after all.
     
  5. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    I believe that you can based on what I've read of your thoughts on these forums. Admittedly though, I sometimes have issues distancing myself from my own writing preferences when reading the work of others. Being in two live crit groups though, it's something I'm working on,trying to establish a balance. This is why I think it's important for authors to say upfront what they are looking for in the critiques they will receive.

    Does this count as a complete thread derail now?... Lol
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2012
  6. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    I attempt to do both, but I probably fail most of the time.
     
  7. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Since I'm the OP and I had the original question answered a LONG time ago, I think it's fine.

    Back to that topic: I added a bunch of emotion to my revised draft, and I think it's a much better story now (if anyone wondered).
     
  8. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Auror

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    That's really the most important thing! Our changes should make the story better.
     
  9. Weaver

    Weaver Sage

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    I have trouble finding beta readers who aren't writers and yet can talk/write at all about why they like or don't like something. Getting detailed feedback out of fellow writers is hard enough; getting it out of readers is nigh impossible. I agree, though, that having feedback from someone who is only reading for the story and doesn't give a rodent's backside about the technical stuff (as long as it doesn't interfere with enjoyment of the story) is tremendously helpful.
     
  10. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    None of my non-writer beta readers can tell me why something doesn't work. That's not their job.

    Whenever they make a negative comment about a passage, no matter what that comment is, I know that there is a problem with that passage. It's my job to figure out the problem and fix it, not theirs.
     
  11. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    I use non-writer beta readers, unfortunately, they haven't been very helpful. I sent 11 chapters of a novel to one, and her only comment was ,"It's not too hard to read."

    Hmm... did you maybe like a character? Hate one? Think my plot was interesting? Were you turning pages like mad, or forcing yourself to finish?

    While I appreciate people who are enthusiastic to help a friend, or something, I have gotten almost no useful information from beta readers who I know personally, though not well. I'd rather put my trust in perfect strangers at this point.
     
  12. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Yeah, those people are no help.

    You need non-writers who are willing to actually make some comments. I have a couple of guys who do just that. There will be long stretches of writing with no comments whatsoever. Then, when they do bring something up, I know that the section has a flaw. It allows me to focus on it until I figure out the problem.

    This is as opposed to writer beta readers who rarely let a paragraph pass without some kind of "issue." Those critiques are good too, but it requires a lot more effort to determine if I really need to address the comments.
     
  13. SeverinR

    SeverinR Vala

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    Show, don't tell is a guideline, not a rule.
    There are very few iron clad rules outside of grammar and punctuation.
    If you hear of a writing rule, usually the first thing mentioned is _____ _______ used it in their best selling book and people. If even one author broke the rule and it sold, then it is not a rule, but a guideline.

    What book have you read that didn't "tell" at all during the whole story?
    It is an overpowering spice, best used in moderation or it will taint the story, but it is a spice that can be used to add some flavor.
     
  14. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I'm not so sure grammar and punctuation are ironclad. Read some Joyce, or more recently Cormac McCarthy (for the latter, look at the lack of punctuation for dialogue).
     
    T.Allen.Smith likes this.
  15. SeverinR

    SeverinR Vala

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    I thought that when I wrote it, but there are school teachers that would disagree.
    But as you said using my "rule", if you can say a best selling author broke the rule, is it an iron clad rule or just a guideline?
     
  16. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    I understand that words have meaning and that choosing the correct word is important, especially to writers. However, I don't find the following response all that helpful.

    OP: Hey, I'm struggling with how to best apply a writing rule/technique.
    Guy at the End: You shouldn't call it a rule.

    This seems to be the default answer when I seek an in depth conversation of how and when to use techniques.
     
  17. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Auror

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    Well you didn't like us saying "it depends". If you want to go more in-depth with what you are trying to achieve and how you feel that you are reaching it versus not reaching it, then by all means do so and we can try to help. It seemed, I think to most of us, that you wanted to break your "rule" but didn't want to break it because it was a "rule".

    At least that's how it seemed to me.
     
  18. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Anytime someone proposes a perfectly good piece of writing but then says they are dissuaded from using it because of a 'rule,' a discussion of the so-called 'rules' is natural. At best, some of the 'rules' are to help rank amateurs from common mistakes plaguing writers at the very beginning of their efforts. Beyond that, a writers own good sense of her writing should be the guiding principle, not a set of rules.

    When you look at writing books, I think most of them frame "rules" more as guidelines. Also, the example of successful, published fiction writers trumps what is in a writing book. There is an old saying: "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach." That's not a swipe at teachers; I've been one myself and will be again. There is a similar saying about editors being frustrated writers who never found the success they wanted in writing. I've been an editor as well, and I'm not slamming them, either. But I think it is instructive to look at the shelves of books on how to write and ask yourself how many of them are written by very successful authors. A few are; many are not. If someone is telling you how to be a wonderful, successful writer, and they haven't done it themselves, that's worth keeping in mind.
     
    T.Allen.Smith likes this.
  19. Nbafan

    Nbafan Dreamer

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    Personally, I don't see a problem with occasionally telling the reader about a characters emotions. I prefer to describe them but there are always exceptions. That being said, I feel that the sentence could be a little better by removing the and and revising the second part after the comma.
     
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