Go Back and Show Don’t Tell

Something I noticed rereading the first book that I wrote, and often also notice in the first books of other scribblers, is that we should probably sometimes rewrite the first quarter of our first book. We often overwork those very first chapters to death in our newbie angst to get it all in there. There’s that fabulous moment when you realise that you’re actually going to write a book. Your eyes widen, and a whole flotilla of butterflies do an exciting rendition of the Macarena right beneath your solar plexus.

Then you get stuck in, and those first pages flow right out, and you do happy dances, and refuse to bath or cook dinner. Because this is suddenly real. Real writers don’t need to get wet all the time, and neither do they need to eat to live. You’re a WRITER. That’s all you need. Well. That first joy is indeed something that should not be forgotten, but unfortunately it is, right about when you start to believe that unless you let your readers know, without any shadow of doubt, that your heroine has blue eyes, blonde hair, is just an inch short of six feet tall, and is about to ingest a large quantity of chocolate ice-cream—unless you tell them ALL of that, they’re going to lose interest and think you’re a rotten writer.

So off we go with the newbie telling. As in: Sheona felt the warm air of the summer January day in nineteen eighty four, blow through her blonde her, while she turned and walked towards the door before opening it, and turning left to go to the kitchen, where she turned her almost six foot tall frame to the right so that she could—aaargh!

Fair enough. That is a particularly nasty example of telling rather than showing, but I doubt that there are many new writers who get it all right first time. It’s very common to read books that get off to really hiccoughy starts, but then suddenly you can see the author hit his stride, and the words flow a story through your mind, rather than make you feel that you’re looking at a list of activities. Why not go back and have a little look at your first scribbles while between books?

After you have a couple of published books under your belt, probably the last thing that you want to do is go and fiddle with the very first one that let loose on the world. You want to be forging ahead with new books, not wallowing in history. The thing is though, as you get more readers with your new books, many of them are going to like your stories well enough to look for more from you, and so you’ll find that directly after reading your latest, most polished book, in the throes of proper fanly adoration, they will zoom over to Amazon and see if you have any more for sale. They won’t check publication dates, and being readers and not writers, they probably won’t be as forgiving with newbie writing in the first bit of your first book.

So, as your backlist grows, consider heading back and giving some of your first work a bit of a polish for new readers, with your new knowledge and experience. As Indies this is indeed a wonderful bonus. You get to change anything you like, anytime you like.


Image Courtesy Pixabay


Author: jorobinson176

South African writer.

7 thoughts on “Go Back and Show Don’t Tell”

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