Afloat in Quotes: On Good Writing


Any writer will remember these golden words. Show, don’t tell. E.L. Doctorow’s quote, above, exemplifies this basic writing advice. When we write, we do not say what is happening. We do not say, “It was raining.” We paint a picture within the mind of the reader. We say, “Rain pattered against the window’s glass, the darkened clouds shrouding the sunlight from entering my study.” Showing evokes mood and emotion, the mark of good writing.

aec9c6be7c5d1c5ec36cc0ff296a34d9Stories must unravel at a good pace. We cannot reveal our entire backstory, exposition, complex plot, three subplots, and character descriptions on page one. Our story must unfold over the course of the novel. Not too quickly, not too slowly. Without following a model for a plot art our stories may fall apart. Even the most basic model(beginning, rising action, climax, falling action, and conclusion) suffices more so than slapping scenes together into an incoherent narrative.


Ideas pile within the head of a writer. Our job is to choose the strongest of these passing thoughts and mold a story from these scraps. However, sitting in front of a blank page can be rather intimidating. What are you to write? Who wants to read your stories? Who will ever care? These thoughts may be magnified if a manuscript starts off, well, terribly, but it must be remembered this is only the start of a flow. A trickle, rather, that increases into torrential rains if you proceed. The terrible becomes good, possibly even great, if you continue to mold and chisel at your manuscript. In essence, write. Rewrite. Edit.


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