Tag Archives: writing advice

More Advice For Writing

I’ve often been asked (though I don’t have any idea why some people think I have the authority) about how to differentiate between ‘showing and telling’ when it comes to writing. Now, before I go on, I would like to include the fact that I’ve been working as a copyeditor for a month and a half now, in one of the most reputable publishing houses here in my place (hint: it’s a university press). Also, I have no idea how that even relates to this writing tidbit I’m about to share.

So, ‘showing vs telling’ huh? It’s every budding writer’s worst enemy. And one of the things these younglings — before I forget, May the Fourth be with you! — seem to struggle to understand. But fear no more my friends, for this ‘showing vs telling’ thing is pretty easy to comprehend, because, first of all, that’s basically what it means. ‘Showing’ means showing, and ‘telling’ means telling. When you show, you describe, sometimes, in detail. And when you tell, well, you just tell. Here’s an example of me talking about an old school library:

(Telling):      “The library was old.”
(Showing):  “The paved path leading to the library was missing bricks in places, and I couldn’t shake the feeling of a hundred invisible eyes watching me as I walked by. Once I passed the hardwood doors, I could almost swear my own ears caught the faint echoes of voices that were long gone.”

You have to understand that one isn’t necessarily better than the other. In my case, when I write, I use them both. I tell stuff that I think isn’t really necessary (Her foot hurt, so she went ahead and took an aspirin.) And I show stuff I know will be essential to my story (Her face was like a diamond, with a wide forehead and a delicate chin. Ringlets of what could have been ebony hair fell down to her waist. He could only imagine dark hazel eyes, sensual and imploring as they gazed at him, lifeless like the rest of her. As he stared, he wondered whether those cold, dead lips would feel real, if not close to real, as the statue’s hands.)

Take note, a story that is pure telling will be boring, while a story that is pure showing will be dragging — tiring, even. Right now, I can’t tell you what would work well with your story, or how much of each you should use, but I’m sure you’ll find it out soon. Just keep writing and before you know it, you’ll finally bring balance to the force (your writing. Sorry, I just had to make one last Star Wars related pun.)


Advice From A Young Reader

My seventeen year old sister has just started reading extensively late last year. From what I can recall, her interest was piqued right after reading Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince. Then, she started reading Tanya Hurley’s Ghostgirl series, but decided that it was too juvenile for her taste. So I recommended that she try the Twilight series, since she was getting into those popular YA novels that are (to my surprise) common on Kindle. When she was done with that, I told her to read Harry Potter, explaining that it was one of the reasons that I decided to choose the path of writing. Of course, I didn’t have to tell her that, but I do have this rather annoying habit of having to justify why I liked/hated something. Anyway, from Twilight to HP, she’s now trying out Murakami (starting from his collection of short stories Blind Willow,Sleeping Woman).

As I mentioned, I’m currently trying to finish my first novel. Ever since I decided to get serious with this craft (around two years or so ago), I’ve been writing mostly short stories, with my longest story so far being just around 4500 words. In my opinion, it is easier to write short stories, as most of them can be done in a sitting. While novels, they could take months, and are a bit difficult especially when that damn thing called “writer’s block” strikes. I’ve got a (fantasy) plot that I’ve been developing for almost 5 years. I started constructing the plot as a pastime (school can be boooring), before even considering to turn it into a novel. I also have two other plots under development: one is a pseudo-YA novel with teen romance as the central theme, and the other is more of speculative fiction. I started writing my YA in third-person limited, but after four chapters, I had to stop. I just wasn’t feeling it, and the whole story seemed out of place. So I asked my sister for her opinion, and here are things I have realized from her, a reader:

  • Before starting, consider your target audience first. Then, decide upon the language you will use (formal, informal).
  • First-person POV works best for YA stories, because teenagers are more concerned with knowing the character. This specially works well with romance or coming-of-age types.
  • Third-person omniscient can be distracting at times. If it’s absolutely necessary to use this POV, it’s better to just focus on a single character’s POV per chapter.
  • Names can make or break a character’s likability.
  • Unless you’re intending to write a literary piece, try to avoid highfalutin vocabulary. It’s distracting and tends to come off as pretentious.
  • Know when to show, and when to tell. Details are important, but too much of it can be dragging and boring.
  • Over-the-top characters are annoying.
  • Clumsy girls and brooding boys who fall in love, are overrated.
  • Don’t make your vampires sparkle.

I think, as a writer, knowing about what the readers like is also important. Because as a storyteller, we do not only do what we do to please ourselves, but to please others as well.  (I still suck at ending articles. X_x)

Happy New Year! Let’s all rock our 2015.


POVs: First Person or Third Person?

I am currently in a dilemma.

Nearly five years ago, I started writing down a story which was inspired by a dream. It’s a fantasy story that contained goblins and dragons. Very LOTR-ish in its setting, but not quite.

In the original document, I was able to type down around sixty pages, nearly fifty-thousand words. But then, college came up, and I had to abandon it.

So it remained untouched in my laptop, until the old thing died and I had to get myself a new one. I thought the copy was lost forever, but around three or two years ago, a friend of mine asked me how my “novel” was getting along. I told him about what happened, and he told me that he still had a copy of it in his computer (apparently, he was among the few who I sent it to when I was asking for critiques).

To make this very long intro short, I now have the copy and I am planning to continue it. But first, I believe that it is need of serious re-writing.

When I started that story, I had knew nothing about writing in general. The technicalities of it, its form etc… etc… It wasn’t until two years ago – when I finally took the path of being a writer — that I was made aware of these things. Now, I know better. And I think I can tighten a very loosely told tale.

My only problem is, I do not know if I should continue writing it in third-person or if I should revert to first-person. It is an adventure story with a female protagonist, and according to my sister (who is also an avid reader) it would sound better told in first-person. However, my friend said that it would be better told in third-person, because it was an adventure story, so everything must be explained in detail. Something which a first-person narrative might fail to do. Then, there’s my teacher/mentor’s opinion. According to him, it doesn’t matter. The story would dictate how it is supposed to be written.

I tried writing it using both perspectives, and in my opinion, I think both works great. But still, I am not sure. Personally, I am a fan of third-person POV narratives, that’s why most of my fiction are written using this POV. Most of my fiction that use the first-person POV tend to be romance-YAL-chicklit types. But this one is an adventure/fantasy/thriller so, I am unsure of what POV would work best.

If you have any insight or advice about what POV is best, please do share it. It would be an honor to hear about what other writers think about this matter.

Thank you for reading.