The Correction Bug

In my family, we have this beautiful, horrible thing called “the correction bug”. Allow me to explain with an exemplar story.

My brother is talking to me and he says, “you do that really good.”

“Well,” I correct him.

Later, we’re talking about a movie line. “Nobody kissed me, did they?

“Actually, it’s please tell me nobody kissed me.”

There is nothing more annoying than the correction bug when you’re on the receiving end, so we have worked hard to rein it in instead of letting it roam free. When someone gets on a roll correcting someone else, either they or the person they are correcting will slap their wrist/arm/shoulder/leg and say “correction bug” to remind that person that it isn’t always wise to correct other people.

Writers tend to get this way when reading other people’s work. We see a tiny mistake and we pick it apart. This can be both good and destructive. We have to be careful to not harm another writer’s feelings or resolve by picking apart everything they just did. On the other hand, it’s good to know that there is the possibility for you to be able to pick apart your own work and make it better.

Another fun part of the correction bug is that you can read or watch something and pick out what you like and how you would have done it. This is fodder for future works. Write it down. If you find yourself saying, “I would have…” then write down how you would have done it. There’s no telling when it will come in handy.

The correction bug is also good for first draft edits. You sit down, you read your work, and you tear it to pieces to fix it. It’s brutal work, and it hurts, but it is necessary. So, correct correct correct! (Anyone else have a flashback to Charlotte’s web here? “Double T, double E, double R, double I, double F, double I, double C”. I love that goose.)

Unfortunately for us, correction is a part of writing. Grammar, plotline, misspellings. I, for one, hate having to cut up the good work I’ve already done. It’s like tearing out my own heart and soul.

So, how do we deal with this?

Well, my first instinct is to sit down — just me — with a giant bundt cake and a fork. Unfortunately, if I did that every time I had to edit, I would be very, very fat. So I set up a reward program for myself (or, at least, I would like to). Here’s the general idea.

Edit first ten pages = piece of chocolate for me.

Edit first half of book = piece of cake/cheesecake or a giant cookie.

Edit all grammar and misspellings = a piece of jewelry for me.

COMPLETELY edit entire manuscript, grammar, spelling, punctuation, and fix all plot holes = BRAND NEW PAIR OF SHOES!!!

I’m not quite there yet, but I do reward myself with varying desserts and it seems to get me over the hump. Editing isn’t quite so menacing anymore. In fact, sometimes I actually (gulp) enjoy it.

So, even though the correction bug can be a bad thing when used too much, it can be a good thing for our writing. Keep it in its container until the time is right to let it out. (Kind of like those caterpillars you used to catch that never actually made it to butterfly stage).

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Need help editing or have questions about how it should be done? Comment or contact me! I’m giving out free advice this week.

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You.

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“Show, Don’t Tell”… What Does That Mean?

We’ve all heard the term “Show, don’t tell”. It’s in every book, magazine, show, movie, and article about writing. Every. Last. One. Unfortunately, not a lot of them are super good at explaining what that means. They just say “show, don’t tell”, and let us try to figure out the rest. Yeah, right! It’s hard enough to overcome writer’s block, but trying to obsessively-compulsively “show” and not “tell” while you’re doing it is SOOOOOOO frustrating!

Relax, my writer buddies! It’s really not all that complicated, and I’ll give examples. Never fear!

What is telling?

Simple as that. “Telling” is when you’re reading that book and all is going really well (and by “well” I mean it’s all going downhill so we can eventually get to the climax) and then, that dreaded sentence:

“(Insert character name here) was furious.”

Wait, what? How furious was s/he? How did they react?

Don’t lie to yourself, you’ve been there. We all have. Admit it. Come on, say it out loud: “I’ve been there.”

As writer’s we read that and instinctively know that something is off. We’re not sure what all the time, but we go back and do a double-take. We look for that reaction that we crave and we’re more than a little annoyed when it isn’t there. Then we go into the “what I would have done” phase of what I lovingly term “The Correction Bug”. (More on this next week. It’ll be a fun post.)

That’s when we get to the next step.

What is showing?

Showing is actually the most rewarding thing about writing. It’s when you write that perfect sentence, the one where you can see exactly what you saw in your head just by reading through it. A lovely sentence like:

“Black fingernails beat a consistent rhythm on the armrests of a gilded throne, a thin arm moving in motion with them. The porcelain skin trails up to a slender neck, which holds the imposter queen’s head atop its pedestal.”

That one’s mine, I’m really proud of it. Copyright 2014, Megan Fatheree, please do not use.

Anyway, can’t you just see the camera angle as it trails up from her feet to her face, to reveal an evil grin? I can, and I hope that’s what you saw to, or I shouldn’t be writing this post for lack of experience.

So, showing is just that. Make it DRAMATIC!!!

How do I “show” and not “tell”?

I have found that body language is prime in “showing, not telling”. Every time you go to write an emotion (e.g. “he was angry”; “she was sad”, etc.), stop yourself and ask “How would I know that if I can only see the person’s actions?”

Good question, right?

Sad is probably the easiest to show. Tears, quivering lip, frown, slumped posture. All are signs of someone whose very woebegone.

Anger is another easy one. You know how people look when they’re angry.

You can describe how anyone is feeling by their body language. Start people-watching when you’re out and about. Just wait, you’ll see what I mean.

But, “showing” doesn’t have to be relegated strictly to people and how they feel. Oh, no. It’s for settings too.

“The sunset was beautiful.”

Cop-out. Describe it, but don’t go into purple prose.

“The sun sent beams of orange and gold cascading through the sky. It reminded her of how she used to look at the world when she was young.”

Leave it at that. Don’t dish on backstory at this point. (We’ll discuss backstory proportions another time, or you can find my first backstory post here)

Describe things. Make your reader feel what the characters are feeling. One of my favorite statements is that “Sometimes, the scenes that make people cry the most are when characters are trying not to show emotion.”

(I probably didn’t quote it exact, but you get the drift.)

So, find your niche. Explore your best attempts at “show, don’t tell”. NEVER just say what they’re feeling. And stay creative!!!

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Okay, here’s the deal! This week, I want to know what YOU think about “showing, not telling”. Are you obsessive about it? Do you have no clue what you’re doing? I’m answering questions and reading every comment, so I’d love to hear from you!

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You.