Liars Club

Show and Tell

by Jon McGoran on May 18, 2010

in Advice for Writers,The Writing Life

Okay, that last post was mostly facetious (although hugely important).

It’s hard to say what the single most important piece of writing advice has been. The most common advice I have received has been the literary equivalent of a discrete wince and a shake of the head, but those admonitions, as numerous and useful as they were, referenced many different missteps, so they can’t be considered a single piece of advice.

You collect countless bits of advice as a writer. Some are more crucial than others, and in many ways where you are in your development as a writer has as much to do with the impact it has as the advice itself.

Very early on, I was told for the first time, “Show it, don’t say it.” I forget who said it to me first, but I was struck by the brilliance, and I immediately incorporated it into my early writing. It wasn’t long before someone else made the same suggestion, to which I replied, “What do you mean? I am already showing… Oh, I see what you mean.”

It is a bit of advice that I have heard repeated many, many times over the years, often by my own lips, and still it bears repeating.

It is essential when writing mysteries or thrillers, and even more so with procedurals, but any writing can get bogged down with exposition, and sometimes it is hard to figure out how to get the information across without just, well, getting the information across.

Sometimes writing is hard work, and that’s okay – sometimes it is supposed to be. Sometimes reading is hard work, too, but as a writer, it’s good to avoid that whenever possible.

Jon McGoran writes gritty and humorous thrillers under the pen name of D.H. Dublin.  His titles include Freezer Burn, Body Trace and Blood Poison, all published by Berkley.

Jon’s post is part of an ongoing series, where Liars each chime in on a burning question about publishing.  Check out prior posts, and look back daily for more comments from members of the Liars Club.  Better yet, subscribe to this site.


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