The old chestnut of every creative writing teacher is “Show, don’t tell”, but they rarely give you much else. If you always show, won’t all your stories be insanely long? Yes, they will. Showing every last detail of information is just bad writing and bad advice. Showing can become overwhelming, overbearing, and will bog down the narrative of your story. Once upon a time, I was in love with this style of writing typically found in Romanticism like Novalis. It doesn’t work to modern sensibilities, unfortunately. If we’re really going to get the most out of this maxim, then we need to get to the heart of it.
One of the greatest mistakes a fiction writer can make is not understanding the genre they are writing in. Most writers have a general idea of genre. Some are hands down obsessed with the nooks and crannies of it. However, only a handful of writers really get the tropes, conventions, and expectations built within any genre.
Genre is expectation. It’s the audience’s expectations of the writer. From front to back, the audience wants to know exactly what they’re getting into. That’s genre.
Since the last thing you want to do is ruin their audiences experience, let’s dig into how you can avoid it. Here are some ways to help you understand your genre.
I’ve loved to write since I was in high school. Probably typical. I admired the writers I read and the books we studied in English Lit class. I got tremendously artsy overall during this time, including a deep love for music and art. I tried to play musical instruments, but I never got good enough to really take it anywhere. It didn’t even occur to me to pick up a pencil and draw. Well, no, that’s a lie. I have envied artists that can draw beautiful pictures, and I’ve tried to do it, but instantly gave up. So, I stuck to writing because I thought it was fun and it clicked.
The up and down nature of life is one of those mysteries I don’t think humanity will ever fully comprehend. And I think that’s why we love to tell stories so much because it helps us think through it, process it, feel it in a way that puts it in perspective.
The other day, I released Part 2 of my serial Orphan’s Hollow. It’s exclusively available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited. Anyway, I ran a promotion on Valentine’s day and it hit the #2 spot on one of their charts. So, needless to say, that was fun to see and exciting. At the same time, I took a trip up to Duluth as a small getaway with my wife. Also, fantastic.
It’s these high moments I try to appreciate the most. To soak all the small things up as best that I can. Because the present gets swept away by the future in a heartbeat and if you let it, you could miss all of it. So, needless to say, I really enjoyed February 14th, 2017.
In my past article How I Write 3,000 Words Per Hour, I talk about the idea of keeping the door closed when you write and keeping it open when you edit. Of course, the phrase is not entirely literal. When you’re writing your first draft you shouldn’t bother yourself with critiquing and editing every last sentence. Too many writers think the first draft should be perfect, and if it’s anything less, they have to start all over. Other writers trudge through a bog of their own making, continuously re-writing their first paragraph. They get so drained and exhausted. It’s no wonder why they give up.
Believe it or not many, many writers do this (and have done this) throughout the ages. J.R.R. Tolkien plagued his first drafts with overt perfectionism and would throw dozens of copies away because he wasn’t satisfied. In the meantime, his best pal, C.S. Lewis, wrote book after book with ease.
You’re a writer. If you want to finish your projects like Professor Lewis, then it’s time you started acting like one. Here are five tips for writing faster and silencing your inner editor: