When I first began this writer's journey, my friend Donna Hosie shared this delightful quote by Anton Chekhov:
Don't tell me the moon is shining;
show me the glint of light on broken glass.
I find myself beating my head against the wall at times as I try to really get my hands around this concept. Even the way he phrases it seems poetic to me--and poetry doesn't come out of these lips (nor my fingertips on a keyboard).
When I first began A Change of Plans it was in third person. At that point in time I would never consider writing in first person because it would be too ... embarrassing as I mentioned here. Twelve thousands words into the story, and I knew I didn't have the voice right. The only alternative was go with first person, so I rewrote it, and it just flowed. I managed to get out 80,000+ (very rough--still rough) words in 30 days.
I've read tons about writing, since I began the process of editing this project (and began two others works), and in late December I joined a couple of critique groups at David Farland's Writers' Groups. All I can say is, "Wow." What I'm learning from my groups is what I'd hoped that creative writing class I took (and dropped) last September would teach me.
I submitted the first half of Chapter 1 and got back input from three other writers. I learned so much from that experience, and the main theme was 'show, don't tell.'
When I compared the first person, storytelling narrative of A Change of Plans I could never liken it to Chekhov's beautifully descriptive prose. For one thing, my main character doesn't go around talking like that. She's a regular person, who talks like a regular person.
But in the comments made (and explanations given) by my critiquers, I suddenly found myself "getting it" as far as what show, don't tell can mean--even in my first person, storytelling narrative. Maybe especially in my first person, storytelling narrative. It seems so obvious now that I feel a little stupid (that's an understatement to save my self esteem).
Nonetheless, I feel like I've made a huge breakthrough here.
Of course, it takes more words to show than it does to tell, and my manuscript at this moment is at 99,426 words. And I'm only on the second chapter replacing a lot of the telling with showing. Which means I'm going to have to do a lot of chopping in order to keep it under 100,000 words, since going above that, I understand, can be a reason for potential agents to not even consider it--if I decide to try querying.
Plus, I've been paying particular attention to the books I read, and there's a lot of telling going on. So how do you know when it's too much? There has to be some telling. We're storytellers, after all.