Love’s Courage is taking shape, and I have external motivation to keep working on it: an Advanced Novel Writing Class with Terri Valentine through Writers Digest University. I have submitted my first assignment, pages 1- 36, and the feedback I’ve gotten makes me wonder if I ever took a writing class. My dear friend, beta reader and editor, H.J. Smith assuaged my fear when she explained that while I’m writing, I’m using one part of my brain. Editing requires a different part of my brain. Sometimes I think the editing brain takes long vacations.
In her feedback, Terri gave me copious examples of showing vs. telling. What??? I used to drill that concept into my students’ heads. (I look to H.J. for comfort.) Here are eight words that scream “TELLING.” Like Terri did on my draft. Her comment was, “Any time you use a phrase like she knew, he felt, she heard, he saw, she watched, he realized, she wondered nine times out of ten you are telling.” If I eliminate these weak words, I tighten up my writing.
I’ll give an example of how I wrote the sentences initially, and how I revised to improve them.
“Sweat beaded on his upper lip. He knew what he was about to do could cost him his life. He looked out the window at Timothy Morley’s farmhouse where seven children lay sleeping. Tucking his knife into his belt, he gripped the hatchet in one hand the pistol in the other and took a deep breath.”
“Sweat beaded on his upper lip. What he was about to do could cost him his life. He looked out the window at Timothy Morley’s farmhouse where seven children lay sleeping. Tucking his knife into his belt, he gripped the hatchet in one hand the pistol in the other and took a deep breath.”
Jenny had never seen such a beautiful sight. She edged up on the cot to receive the welcome offerings.
Jenny heard her Uncle Jonathon’s voice in her mind, “It’s the only thing I’ll ask you to do. I promise.”
Uncle Jonathon’s voice echoed in her mind, “It’s the only thing I’ll ask you to do. I promise.”
Now, Constance’s brow creased. Jenny saw the fear in her mother’s eyes
Now, Constance’s brow creased, fear in her eyes.
Though her mother worked slowly taking great care not to hurt him, Edward moaned in pain. Jenny watched him grit his teeth in an effort to not cry out.
Though her mother worked slowly taking great care not to hurt him, Edward moaned in pain, gritting his teeth in an effort not to cry out.
*Here’s a bonus. I fixed two problems in this sentence. The use of “watched” and eyes doing something they can’t do per my editor, Julie Sturgeon . Julie is great to work with, and I could sense her wincing when I read this sentence.
She watched his eyes scan the yard, then return to hers.
His gaze scanned the yard, then returned to her.
Another promise made. Again she wondered if it could be kept, because when she saved Uncle Jonathon’s life, Andrew was with her.
Another promise made. Could it be kept? Because when she saved Uncle Jonathon’s life, Andrew was with her.
An acrid sulfur odor filled her nose as lightning began to dance around the ship.
An acrid sulfur odor filled her nose as lightning danced around the ship.
Saddened, she started to turn away.
Saddened, she turned away.
Have I heard all this before? You betcha. But it bears repeating, especially for writers whose editor brains are on vacation.
What weak words trip you up?