Show, not Tell

There are 3 rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.

Archive for the ‘Lessons’ Category

Lesson 21

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Continuation from Lesson 20. Once again, my inspiration is fictionpress. Today, I did my usual reviews and I stumbled across a writer with a very unique way of sounding out words. I commend them for their creativity in spelling. However, we’ve got more important fish to catch.

Vocab Wizard

First things first; the almighty there, their, they’re. You’ve got to love the way English is, right? (We all know it’s the easiest language to learn, of course.) There is a direction. One trick you can use to remember this is by remembering other directional words, such as here and where. Of course, this method is problematic if you can’t remember those… but we’ll assume you can! Notice how here, there and where all end with “ere”. When going through the choices, just keep in mind that the word ending with “ere” is the one you need for direction. Ex: It is over there.


Their is possessive. The best way I can think of would be to just remember the other two and do a process of elimination, though it’s not very exciting.

They’re is the contraction of they are. Just like with the last lesson and it’s vs its, the easiest way to check if this is the right one is to break it down. If you go into the sentence and say, for example, “They’re coming to visit.” –> “They are coming to visit.” Simple as that!

Sticking with th words, let’s move onto through vs. threw. Most often when I’m looking over fiction press posts, I notice that these two get mixed up. It’s a common mix up, sadly. Threw is the past tense action of throwing. Example sentence in present tense: “He throws his baseball bat.” Past tense: “He threw his baseball bat.” Threw is a verb.

Through is where something/someone goes into something on one side and comes out the other. Ex: “We went through a tunnel.” Not much more to it, really.

Hope this clears up any confusion people might have had about some of these! There are more homophones out there that I could go over, but this is it for now.


Written by Devin Bond

December 1, 2010 at 5:30 am

Posted in Lessons, Punctuation

Lesson 20

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Each day I go through fiction and try to find interesting stories to read and review. Of course, sometimes I’m not in the mood, or there isn’t anything near 1000 words (my minimum) and sometimes I just forget. I try do 2-3 reviews and I try to be as constructive as possible–it’s good practice for critiquing. A skill that I definitely need to hone more, but that’s off topic. As I go through, I’ve noticed that there are quite a few people that forget apostrophes, spaces, hyphens and more. I think it’s common to do that at times (Jessie’ll be the first to tell you that I’m horrible with let’s vs. lets and it’s vs its.)

So, just to get it out of the way (and to show I really do know!) let’s vs lets. Let’s is a contraction of ‘let us’. Lets is the present tense of the verb let, which has quite a few meanings! The best way to make sure you’ve got the right word is to undo the contraction and see if it works. Ex:Let’s go to the store.” –> “Let us go to the store.” Or, you can check and see that it’s wrong. Ex: “She let’s go of him.” –> “She let us go of him.” Let’s doesn’t work there, so it has to be lets.


The Monster

Alot by Allie Brosh


It’s is the contraction of ‘it is’ or ‘it has’. Its is possessive. Just like with let’s/lets, you can use the same trick here! Ex: “It’s a tree.” –> “It is a tree.” Wrong would be: “It’s face.” –> “It is face.” That isn’t English, so you know it has to be its.

Sometimes we all forget, or don’t press the apostrophe key down and we end up with a word completely different than what we were going for. I often see “wont” and “cant” in the place of “won’t” and “can’t.” Wont means accustomed or used to, where as won’t is will + not. Cant is whining or begging and can’t is cannot–notice it isn’t can + not. Cannot is one word. (Also take note that can + not is legal, but it doesn’t equal the contraction “can’t”.) These seem like silly mistakes, but people make them a lot.

Speaking of a lot…

I’m going to bold this sentence because this really is the most common mistake I’ve ever seen. There is a space between the A and the word Lot. Alot isn’t a word! (Allot is, but that’s not what we’re talking about.) A friend showed me this lovely post about the wonders of Alot. Hopefully it will remind you Alot lovers that there is a space.

I could go on and on about more things like these, (like their, they’re and there, which has been beaten in since elementary school) but these are the biggest things that I see. I hope this helps at least some of you!

Written by Devin Bond

November 17, 2010 at 5:30 am

Posted in Advice, Lessons, Punctuation

Lesson 19

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Yesterday, author Elana Johnson wrote about her writing process. Since I’ve already detailed my hardcore student life, I thought maybe I could share my writing process as well!


The Writing Process

The Writing Process


Jessica’s Writing Process

In the style of Ms. Johnson, here are my disclaimers:

  1. I type about 100 words per minute, if not more, on average. (I often have to backspace and correct typos, though.)
  2. I don’t turn off my internal editor. (But it’s not very good, either.)
  3. I usually don’t stop until I’m done. (Makes sleeping hard.)

The more I read how other people write, the more I think I might be a rare lemon. I never write without an idea of what I’m writing already. So I have two processes, and another for editing.

When I have the entire scene in my head:

  1. I open up a new document (separate from the entire WiP) and write. I can easily write about 2,500 words in an hour.
  2. Every time my flow is interrupted, I’ll reread the last few paragraphs or the last page to reorient myself in the scene in my head. And continue until I’m done. (That’s right, I don’t stop until I’m done. Yes, I am insane.)
  3. While I do take time to avoid my crutch words, avoid unnecessary words, and consciously choose words, I always scroll back to the beginning and reread everything. I make quick changes for everything I see (I often don’t see much).

When I have the first part of the scene in my head:

  1. I open up a new document and write until I reach a dead end. This is where the scene goes all black and I have no idea what to do next. Life sucks.
  2. I play out the scene until it progresses in a reasonable way. What if my MC says this? What if my MC says that? What would be the reaction? I write down the best thing I can come up with. Sometimes it takes several tries, sometimes it takes several minutes (or a lot of minutes).
  3. I follow this pattern until I see the end. Again, I don’t stop until the whole thing is written.
  4. Then I go back to the beginning and edit, sometimes rethink entire paragraphs, but try to just make the whole thing coordinate in some way.

And then my process for editing:

  1. I open up the WiP, all scenes written inserted into their proper place. I will only revise scenes that have context–surrounding scenes. This is for consistency.
  2. I reread the last page of the scene right before and then continue reading the to-be-edited scene.
  3. I pay close attention to the whole and its parts. If something sounds awkward, I’ll rephrase as many times as needed. I pick new words, I take out or put in commas and other punctuation when necessary. I usually rethink paragraphs and sentence order. Dialogue, and clarity of speaker and pronouns. I usually do this in increments whenever I have time, so I never work until I’m completely done.
  4. When I’ve finished revising the entire thing, I’ll go back to the beginning and reread it as if I’d just written it.

Now, as for whether or not I write out of order–I do. However, Devin and I have our entire WiP planned out scene by scene. We can write in order if we want, and sometimes when we feel particularly inspired, we’ll jump ahead and write something else.

And the last thing I do? Save. And then show off. After that, it’s for the critters to dissect so I have more work to do!

Written by Jessica Lei

November 10, 2010 at 6:00 am

Posted in Lessons, Writers, Writing

Lesson 18: Symbolism – Orange!

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Another symbolism post. I bet you can guess what color the one after this is going to be! (Hello~ Roy G. Biv) Anyway, welcome to the world of orange! Orange is very similar to both of its creators. Orange is attention getting, happy, stimulating, and playful. There isn’t much you can do to go wrong with orange. Orange, like red, is used in marketing to grab your attention. In excess, say for instance painting an entire room bright orange, it can create anxiety. Orange is also great for lifting your spirits.

The positive:

  • Orange is vibrant, warm and creative.Orange Marigold

Your main character wakes up and grabs a glass of OJ–liquid sunshine. It’s the perfect way to wake up! Just seeing orange gets us rearing to go, so imagine drinking it! Orange is warm in ways red and yellow can’t be. It’s a mix of the two (yes, we all know) and takes the best qualities of both. It’s fiery without being too intense. It’s attention getting without disturbing the peace. Imagine a dull person wearing an orange top, bottom or even an entirely orange outfit. They’d instantly be transformed into someone that, if you didn’t know them, you’d think was outgoing and had life going just right for them. Orange can denote youth and creativity because it is so vibrant. What artist (of any type) doesn’t want to get noticed? None! Vibrancy gets attention. –Just take a look at all those natural red-heads out there. Can’t stop the stares at their orange hair~!

The negative?

Actually, there isn’t much! Besides anxiety in excess, orange is a pretty perfect color. One either loves or hates it–and hopefully you’re on the liking side.

Different oranges can mean different things, though:

  • Dark orange can indicate deceit and distrust.
  • Red-orange relates to desire, pleasure, domination, and aggression. (Yes, this was last post, but it’s still a shade of orange!)
  • Orange-brown is associated with harvest, fall and decay.
  • Light orange is soft and friendly while still being energetic.
  • Yellow-orange (or Gold) relates to prestige, illumination, wealth and wisdom.
  • Copper-orange is sensual and musky but can also indicate dirtiness and the impoverished.

Orange is a bit harder to incorporate in than red, but try it out–whether it be orange hair, clothing, accessories, rooms, who knows! The possibilities end when your imagination stops. Orange is perfect for showing energy, creativity and warmth. Let orange wake up your writing and watch the amazing results.

Written by Devin Bond

November 3, 2010 at 5:30 am

Posted in Lessons, Symbolism

Lesson 17

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Agents agree that everyone who isn’t an agent and doesn’t have an agent has no idea what an agent’s average day is like.

Well, what about the average day of a writer?

It’s going to look very different for all of us, but the bottom line is the same: we’re busy! We often have day jobs, or night jobs, or both–kids, siblings, husbands, wives, parents to deal with–school, homework, papers, midterms, finals. It’s incredible how much we manage to pack into one day’s worth of hard work.

I’m a full-time student working unpaid at a psychology internship I started over the summer. On a day where I had my internship, two classes, a midterm, and a writing assignment due for creative writing, this is what happened:

A Vigilant Writer/Student

A Vigilant Writer/Student

The Day in the Life of a Writer/Student/Intern

I stayed awake through 7am to write over 8,000 words on my manuscript to turn in for my English assignment. I took a shower and slipped into bed at 730am. I woke up at 1030am, clipped out an 11-page snippet of what I wrote the night before, read it over quickly and turned it in online. Went back to sleep until 1120am. Dressed, brushed my teeth, tried to make myself look presentable (probably failed in hindsight), packed food for the entire day, and took a 15-minute drive into Seattle (when President Obama was in town, even) to arrive at my internship at noon (okay, maybe 3 minutes after).

My supervisors fished around for 15 minutes trying to think of what I should do. I honestly told them I’d love to go back home to study, which they decided I could do that and come in tomorrow to make up the three hours. I took another 15 minutes to drive home, slipped into pajama bottoms and back into bed. I reorganized the Contents page, added a few pages to the list even, started this post, tweeted, read up on the blogosphere. Around 130pm I cracked open my textbook and started taking notes on what I knew I really needed to know.

Around 2pm I took a break and continued writing this post.  At about 230pm I hit the textbook again for another 30 minutes, keeping track of only the most important items that’d be on the test. I planned on going to my next class but decided to skip it (sorry, professor) in favor of more studying. So I took the next two hours to study and talk to Devin about the writing process.

Seattle Rainy Traffic

Seattle Rainy Traffic

At 5pm, I changed back into a pair of jeans and packed up for class. I drove 30 minutes to the other side of Seattle to my university–in light traffic (although it was 5pm, don’t know where everyone was). I had a double shot of espresso as I drove. It didn’t take me long to find parking and 5 minutes to walk to my first class. I waited in the hall for half an hour with a classmate before my next class started–my dreaded midterm. Instead of studying, we mostly talked about an English teacher we shared, about applying to graduate school, and how hard we thought the test was going to be. At 6pm, the test started.

I took it in an hour, drove back home at around 645pm, make a quick dinner of left-over chicken-flavored rice. I talked to my mom for about an hour, exchanging rants and bonding over stories of my freshman year. Then I opened up my manuscript and worked on my first chapter so I could send it to my crit partners–at 815pm.

By this time, I had been awake for 32 hours and had two shots of coffee. I worked on my manuscript until 3am, when my eyes were burning so bad I didn’t have any choice left to sleep.

So, what’s the lesson here?

Writing is rarely the only thing a writer does.

Written by Jessica Lei

October 27, 2010 at 6:00 am

Posted in General, Lessons, Writers

Lesson 16

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So you’re in the middle of your book or  in the middle of writing a chapter. And then voila! You’ve got another idea that won’t be able to fit into your story. What to do?


Adorable Puppy

Train your ideas, ladies and gentlemen~


This happens to me sometimes. Most often when I’m the middle of class or in the shower (oh the inconvenience!) and the idea will niggle and nag at me forever. Then when I go to write something I’m supposed to, I just can’t write it because that other darn idea won’t let up. It’s like a hyperactive puppy in face of a treat, suffocating the presence of your patient, old dog. Well, can’t just ignore the puppy. You’ve gotta give it some attention. Get that idea on paper (or a word document) and get it out before it festers.

Along the same lines, what about those scenes that just can’t get out of your head. You want to write chronologically, but you’re just so uninspired for this next scene. That pivotal scene in chapter sixteen though… It’s already got itself planned out and it just keeps expanding. If a puppy’s taking to learning to roll over, are you going to continue trying to teach it to shake? No. You’re going to do what he’s better at! Otherwise that puppy’s never going to get trained. (Just like your idea!)

So, keep that puppy in check but don’t forget your beautiful old dog! Give them a little love and they’ll give you some love.

Written by Devin Bond

October 20, 2010 at 5:30 am

Posted in Lessons, Opinions

Lesson 15

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The world is completely different if you look at it in a different way.


Point of view. It’s one of the most important things to your story. I am, however much I love writing, not an English major. I was recently informed that PoV is much more detailed than 3rd omniscient, 3rd limited, 2nd and 1st. I’m going to focus on third person.


Third person omniscient helps writers create huge, epic stories with complicated stories involving many characters. It can hinder the ability to connect with the characters. The best example of this is J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Omniscient means the reader knows everything and everyone’s thoughts at all times. There is no limitation. My example below:

Sally stepped into the gym with Emily at her arm. Sally had a baby pink gown with sparkles all over it and her blonde hair tied up in a bun. She thought she looked beautiful. Emily thought she was pretty too, as did her crush John. Emily was wearing white and had her brown hair in curls. She felt self conscious with cleavage, but she was told it looked cute. There was a gaggle football players in the back hanging out with their girlfriends, more than a few wondering if they were going to get some. The prom queen and princesses were glittering under the stage lights, thinking of how hot it was. The seats were taken up by the misfits and a few loner girls and nerdy boys. No one would be dancing with them. John was across the way and watched both of them enter. He was in his brother’s tux and all the girls were looking at him. Especially Sally.

Limited Omniscient

Limited omniscient is almost the same as omniscient point of view. You still know almost everything, but the reader can only get into the head of one character. Good example of this is Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. Though Snicket gets into three of the main character’s heads, the reader only knows what they are thinking. All other characters are only viewed externally. My example below:

Sally stepped into the gym with Emily at her arm. She had a baby pink gown with sparkles all over it and her blonde hair tied up in a bun. She thought she looked beautiful. Emily was wearing white and had her brown hair in curls. Sally wondered if she felt self conscious with all of that cleavage, but didn’t pay it any mind. John was across the way and watched both of them enter. He was in his brother’s tux and all the girls were looking at him. Especially Sally.

Single Character Subjective

Single character subjective point of view shows the main character’s thoughts, emotions and opinions. Subjective and limited are similar with the sole exception that the reader sees the main character only from the inside instead of the inside and the outside. The reader learns as the main character does. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling is a good example of this. My example below:

Sally stepped into the gym with Emily at her arm. She thought her gown and hair were great. Her friend, Emily, looked a like a harlot with so much cleavage, but Sally didn’t pay it any mind. John, her crush, was across the way. He was in a tux. Sally caught eyes with him when he looked up. He smiled and she could’ve swooned.

Single Character Objective

Single character objective point of view only cares about the facts. With this perspective you only see actions. Objective has a “fly on the wall” feel at times. Novels using this make the character’s feelings obvious through the actions they make. A good example of this is Aesop’s Fables.   My example below:

Sally strutted into the gym with Emily at her arm. She had a baby pink gown with sparkles all over it and her blonde hair tied up in a bun. She brushed the loose hairs at the back of her neck away and smoothed out wrinkles in her dress. Her friend, Emily, was wearing white and had her brown hair in curls. Sally gave her friend’s open chest a disapproving glance before looking across the floor. John was across the way in a tux. He looked up and caught eyes with Sally and smiled. Her heart fluttered.


Detached doesn’t go into detail about motivations, thoughts or emotions of the characters. The narrator is–as I’m sure you could guess!–detached from the happenings of the story.  The best example I can think of this is The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. Just actions and dialogue. My example below:

Sally stepped into the gym with Emily. She brushed the back of her neck and smoothed out her dress. Sally looked at her friend’s dress. There was a great view of her ample chest. She looked away into the gym. John was across the way. He looked up and caught eyes with Sally and smiled. “God, he’s dreamy,” she said.

Of course, most of these are a review, but it was a good lesson for me! (In more than one way.) Hope it was for you, too!

Written by Devin Bond

October 13, 2010 at 5:30 am

Posted in Lessons, Point of View