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How to show (not tell)

The tricky line between ‘showing’ and ‘telling’ in your writing 

I could tell you what’s in this newsletter... Or, I could show you.  

FREE WEBINAR: Live editing with Harry Bingham – Open to non-members! 

19 November. Want to see what happens if you get your work edited live on-screen by Harry Bingham? Harry will take a selection of your work and show what he would do with it if he were self-editing it. Open to members and non-members – bring your friends!  


This week at Jericho Writers: 

MASTERCLASS: How to write a sentence (FREE for members)


Join Hal Duncan as he delves into the inner workings of sentence structure, including how to master rhythm and avoid too much ‘showing’.  



BLOG: Show, Don’t Tell 

What exactly is the difference between Showing and Telling? Is “Showing” always right? And is Telling always wrong?  


WEBINAR: Show Don’t Tell LIVE (Exclusive to members) 

TODAY! Join editor Rebecca Horsfall as she workshops member’s problem passages to help you master that all-important ‘rule’ to show, not tell.  



The problem with writing ‘rules’  

Show, don’t tell. Write drunk, edit sober. The road to hell is paved with adverbs. 

We’ve heard these writing rules so much they’ve become cliché. And whilst they all hold a nugget of useful truth in them – rules are there to be broken.  

The purpose of the rule ‘show, don’t tell’ is that new writers tend to fall into the trap of telling the reader what’s going on, rather than showing it to them. As kids, we wrote diary entries beginning: ‘today, I went to the park and it was fun’. Whereas as writers, we should be going for something more like: ‘the wind stung my smile as I swung higher’.  

It's the same with ‘write drunk, edit sober’. Of course, a glass of wine on your desk can be a great motivator, but this rule alludes more to the idea that first drafts should be uninhibited. And I’m with Stephen King on adverbs.  

Sometimes though, we need to tell. We need to let the reader know some important bit of information, without turning it all into a whole paragraph of description, or backstory. Sometimes we need to sober up and reconsider the direction our wacky first-draft is going in. And - okay - maybe the odd adverb is okay for dialogue? (She said, quietly). 

So – over to you. What do you think of writing rules? Which ones do you follow, and which ones do you delight in breaking? Sign up for free and join the writer rebellion in the Townhouse here.  

Sarah J x 

Plus, don’t miss: 

Self-Edit Your Novel tutored course bursary now open 

Entries are now open for the already sold-out Self-Edit Your Novel tutored course in January with Debi Alper. All under-represented writers are invited to apply for this free place.  

Manuscript Assessment  (Discounts available for members) 

Our most popular editorial service matches you to your dream editor and gives you tailored feedback on your work. It doesn’t get better than that. 

Complete Novel Mentoring (Discounts available for members) 

Write or edit your book alongside one of our expert mentors, including multi-bestselling authors and commissioning editors. 

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