I write stuff for kids...and muse on writing, children's books, and the publishing industry in general

Monday, November 21, 2011

Physical Telling - Do you do it?

It came as a complete shock to me one day when my critique partner told me: "you're still telling." I'd already had this conversation, of course, so I'd thought I was going along swimmingly. That night I stared at my CP's email, mouth open, eyes bulging while I tried to work out what she meant. I'd spent months learning all about the "show not tell" rule, and even more months eradicating it from my writing. And I'd even added in more interiority as the doctor (*coughs* my critique partner) ordered. Of course, I dived back into the piece of work I'd sent her, and read it all over again. And again.

I still couldn't see anything wrong with it. So I began to research. And here's what I found.

"Physical telling" means something along the lines of the use of the actions of a character to convey their emotions. For example: "I took a deep breath," "I sighed," "I wiped my eyes," "I tapped my foot."

At a superficial level, these phrases aren't necessarily "telling" for the purposes of the "show not tell rule". The phrases are not saying "I was flustered," "I was annoyed," "I was sad," or "I was impatient." The problem is, however, that these types of phrases also aren't showing the reader what the character is actually feeling. They're just telling about an action the character is performing. And they're usually cliche, turning up in most peoples' manuscripts (and numerous times at that). So two big problems, actually. See Mary Kole's post on Physical Cliches here for her take on it.

But physical telling was all I knew how to write. If I couldn't say, "Verity was sad," then how else did I show she was sad if I didn't have her wipe tears off her cheeks?

It was back to the drawing board for me (well, to the internet for some research, anyway).

And here's what I came up with:
  • it's ok to have telling in your manuscript, as long as it's the "good" kind
  • "good telling" involves using story context and interiority to paint a three-dimensional picture where you make your reader feel like a part of the story experience, but you don’t exclude them from participating either (per Mary Kole)
  • for the most part, whenever you start to feel the urge to use a physical cliche, replace it with interiority instead (see here for how to do this and a definition of "interiority")
  • when you're narrating a story, particularly in first person, you're in the character's head anyway. So just tell what they're feeling, rather than trying to show it through physical telling and cliches
  • strong dialogue should convey the meaning that physical telling would otherwise give
In summary, read this amazing post by Cristin Terrill. Your writing will thank you for it. It's what finally crystallized everything in my mind, to the point where I'm finally confident I (nearly) have the showing and telling balance right in my manuscript.

How about you: Do you use physical telling in your manuscript? Have you found ways to avoid it (and does it even need to be avoided from your perspective)? What's your best tip on showing not telling?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Your Campaigner Challenge Stories - Ebook to benefit "Help Harry Help Others"

Guys, it's here! Katharina Gerlach has done an absolutely amazing job, and has published our ebook containing your awesome stories from the Challenges in my Third Writers' Platform-Building Campaign (August to October 2011). We'd like to say a huge thank you to all those who volunteered their stories for the ebook. We've ended up with 176 stories from 81 Campaigners.

The book is on sale for $2.99USD, and all proceeds will be donated to "Help Harry Help Others." Help Harry Help Others is a fund-raising organization of eleven year old Harry who recently died of his inoperable brain tumor. When his friend Robert, who had a brain tumor too, became very ill, he set up his charity. So far, he’s raised nearly half a million British Pounds that he has donated to Cancer Research UK, to help them find a cure for brain tumors. This charity and its goals resonates strongly with me, as my father suffered (and still suffers) from a brain tumor and its effects. And the charity is doing such a fantastic job helping so many in a similar position.

We'd love you to purchase a copy (but just so you know, there is no obligation to purchase it even if your story/stories are included).

Purchase details are as follows:

Amazon (US): http://www.amazon.com/Campaigner-Challenges-2011-ebook/dp/B0066UV28C
Amazon (UK): http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0066UV28C
Amazon (Germany): http://www.amazon.de/dp/B0066UV28C
Amazon (France): http://www.amazon.fr/dp/B0066UV28C

Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/104468

Barnes & Nobel: [To be advised on receipt]

I hope you enjoy, and I can't wait to hear what you think seeing your story and those of your fellow Campaigners in print :)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The end of my Third Campaign (and the Winners of the Third Campaigner Challenge)

My Third Writers' Platform-Building Campaign is now at an end, and I wanted to let you all know how much fun I've had over the last two months. I've loved getting to know you and I've made some truly awesome friends--and you all know how much this blogging community rocks! I'll be running my Fourth Campaign next year, so keep an eye out for announcements if you want to take part :)

Thanks so much to all who took part in my Third Campaigner Challenge! We had 131 awesome entries and hundreds of people voting on those they liked the best. The time has come to announce the winners, woot! But before I do, did you read my earlier post about publishing your Challenge stories? If you didn't, make sure you pop over to take a look. Cat Gerlach is compiling your stories (if you want one or more of them published) in an ebook, and all proceeds from the sale will be donated to Harry Moseley's cancer research fund. We'd love you to take part, whether you're a winner of a Challenge or otherwise! If you do want to take part, make sure you let Cat know asap, as she'll stop taking entries the day after tomorrow so she can get the ebook published.

The time has come to announce the winners, woot! Winners have been chosen in three categories:
  1. 4 People's Choice Awards - chosen by you in the voting (by clicking "Like" on the entries);
  2. 12 places awarded by the judges, who've done an absolutely fantastic job of winnowing 131 entries down to the top 11 under the supreme organizational genius of J from Concrete Pieces of Soul; and
  3. 5 random prizes (chosen by Mr. Random.org).
Before I reveal the winners, I'd love you all to offer up a huge thanks to J, who has single-handedly administered the judging for this Challenge. I also want to thank the judges, who've generously given their time to choose the entries they think best and most deserving of a prize. And my thanks go again to the awesome people who've helped me out with the prizes for this round: K.T. Hanna, Rachel McClellan, Jeigh Meredith, Claire Hennessy, and Candy Fite. They did an amazing job administering the prizes and communicating with the prize donors (who generously donated the 130+ prizes you've seen be awarded). To say thank you, would you please pop over to all these peoples' blogs and follow them if you haven't already :)

And now to the winners and their prizes...*drumroll*:

Peoples' Choice Awards

First Place (tied) – LadyJai: A Proposal (91 votes)
First Place (tied) - K.T. Hanna: Do Unto Others (91 votes)
Second Place – Jessica McKendry: Synbatic Island (69 votes)
Third Place – Alynza: The Tacise Project (54 votes)
Fourth Place – David Powers King: Ghost by the Seashore (37)

In First Place (tied) Lady Jai has won a choice of Children’s Books or Picture Books donated by Susanna Leonard Hill (in Susanna’s words: Winner can choose what they want: (1) A little kids vehicle package which would include one each of THE HOUSE THAT MACK BUILT, AIRPLANE FLIGHT! and FREIGHT TRAIN TRIP!, all hardcover or (2) two hardcover picture books of your choice (choose from PUNXSUTAWNY PHYLLIS, NOT YET ROSE, CAN'T SLEEP WITHOUT SHEEP and APRIL FOOL PHYLLIS - one each of two different titles or 2 copies of the same title))

In First Place (tied) K.T. Hanna has won a partial manuscript critique (up to 25 pages) or query critique donated by S E Sinkhorn from Maybe Genius

In Second Place Jessica McKendry has won a critique (25 pages) donated by Rachele Alpine from Freckle Head

In Third Place Alynza has won a first chapter critique donated by Sheri Doyle

In Fourth Place David Powers King has won a signed hardcover book “Hideaway” by Dean Koontz donated by Roland Yeoman from Writing in the Crosshairs (US/Canada shipping only)

Judging Round

The prizes below have been awarded based on the standard of your entries, as judged by a panel of judges (and thank you to everyone who volunteered!). Once the judges had determined the 11 Finalists, I decided which place each Finalist would be awarded. And boy was it hard, the entries were all SOOOO good!

Here are the Finalists and their prizes:

First Place: Kelly
Second Place: Avery Marsh
Third Place: Elisabeth Barrett
Fourth Place: Grillyfish
Fifth Place: The Chipper Muse
Sixth Place: Carrie Butler
Seventh Place: David Powers King
Eighth Place: Michael Haynes
Ninth Place: Barbara V. Evers
Tenth Place: Alynza Smith
Eleventh Place: Babydoll

Congratulations, you all really deserve it!!! Your prizes are:

In First Place Kelly has won:
  1. Critique (up to 30 pages) donated by Reinhardt from The Reinhardt Experience
  2. $30 Amazon Voucher donated by Matt Zandstra from Inflatable Ink
  3. Fully guided private tour of West Ireland + guest room for one night donated by Fiona Claire from The Ageless Druid (Fiona says: I am a professional tour guide, living in and writing about Ireland. I can offer a fully-guided private tour in the west of Ireland (valued at 150 Euros), as well as a lovely guest room for one night. If any of your authors are writing about Ireland, this might be a big help for them). 
In Second Place Avery Marsh has won:
  1. Editing (4 hours) donated by Bill Jones from This Page Intentionally Blank (Bill says: I can offer up to 4 hours' worth of editing services. I'm a Grammar Guerilla, probably useful to those grammatically challenged writers). 
  2. Book (PDF) “Ultimate Justice, A Trey Fontaine Mystery” written and donated by Ryder Islington from Ryder Islington’s Blog
  3. Book “Ribbon of Darkness” written and donated by Julie Coulter Bellon from LDSWriterMom
  4. $25 Amazon Gift Card donated by Cat von Hassel-Davies from Cat Rambles
In Third Place Elisabeth Barrett has won:
  1. First Chapter Critique (romance preferred) donated by Elizabeth Moss from Elizabeth Moss Regencies
  2. Book “Techniques of the selling writer” by Dwight V Swain donated by Aimee L Salter from Seeking the Write Life
  3. $25 Amazon Gift Card and “Bristol Boyz Stomp” written and donated by Doreen McGettigan 
In Fourth Place Grillyfish has won: 
  1. Manuscript Review of Three Chapters donated by Kris Yankee from Adventures that Score 
  2. $10 Amazon Gift Card donated by Brinda Berry
  3. Picture Book “Thanks to Tank” by Maureen Howard donated by Clar Bowman-Jahn from Clarbojahn’s Blog (US shipping only) 
  4. Signed Map from “The Dragon and the Crow” donated by T.B.McKenzie from Magickless
In Fifth Place The Chipper Muse has won:
  1. Critique (1 Chapter or Short Story up to 15 pages) and a digital copy of the Romantic suspense Breathe Again written and donated by Bonnie R. Paulson
  2. Book “Variant” by Robinson Wells donated by Donna K Weaver from Weaving a Tale or Two (US only)
In Sixth Place Carrie Butler has won:
  1. Critique (First Chapter) donated by Michelle from Oh! For the LOVE of BOOKS!
  2. Book “Making Waves” by Tawna Fenske donated by Coleen Patrick (US only)
In Seventh Place David Powers King has won:
  1. Book “Writing Magic” by Gail Carson Levine donated by Julie Hedlund from Write Up My Life
  2. Retro51 Rollerball Pen (choice of red, green or black) donated by Lesann Berry from Lesann Berry’s Blog
In Eight Place Michael Haynes has won:
  1. Book of winners choice (up to $10 from The Book Depository) donated by Trisha from Word + Stuff
In Ninth Place Barbara V. Evers has won:
  1. Book “A Happy Book for a Happy Baby” written and donated by Kristen Fairgrieve from Kristen Fairgrieve Write Create Inspire (US shipping only) 
  2. Ebook “Voodoo Dues” written and donated by Stephany Simmons
In Tenth Place Alynza has won: 
  1. e-ARC of Debut Novel “HUSHED” written and donated by Kelley York from Flowers for Ghosts 
In Eleventh Place Babydoll has won:
  1. Book (PDF) “The Devil to Pay” written and donated by Maria Zannini from Tales of Otherworlds
Remember, you've been chosen from 131 entries - how awesome is that!

Random Prizes 
  1. Kathy McKendry - Book donated by Scott Stillwell from Just a few lines… (US/Canada shipping if poss) (Scott says: The winner can choose one of the following: "Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline or "Peter Nimble and his Fantastic Eyes" by Johnathan Auxier)
  2. S.B. Stewart-Laing - Book “Blank Slate” written and donated by Heather Justesen (ebook if outside US)
  3. Liz A. - Book “Life, Liberty and Pursuit” written and donated by Susan Kaye Quinn (US/Canada shipping only)
  4. Melodie - Book “Without Alice” written and donated by D.J. Kirkby
  5. Patient Dreamer - Hardcover book: “Tales from China: World Favorite Fables” (first edition printing) edited by Steve Jackson and Mirando Sibo Paul and autographed by Miranda Paul, donated by Miranda Paul
Congratulations to everyone who won a prize today!!! Unless you receive an email from me, I'll be contacting the donors and asking them to email you regarding your prize.

Lastly, don't forget to check out my earlier post about publishing your entries if you haven't already.

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