Writer's moments

Show Me, Don’t Tell Me…

I’ve been writing this week and that’s a very good thing. This is only big news because I haven’t been writing for a while. I’d allowed the editing gigs and the rest of my life to take over. But for the last week, I’ve been writing and editing and rewriting and editing again…  And then it’s time to turn the finished chapters over to my critique partner.

One of the most difficult things for me to do is release my work to my critique partner, Sandy www.sandy-james.com.  Not because she’s unkind. She’s terrific and always gracious even when she has to shred my work. She’s amazing—a prolific writer, who’s had several novels published and continues to crank out great work endlessly.  She writes romance too, as well as other genre fiction, but she just seems to be able to simply sit down and write—words pour out of her like water pours over Niagara Falls. I’m both envious and very impressed. She just had a book accepted at Harlequin’s Carina Press and I couldn’t be prouder if it were my own book. I want to be like Sandy when I’m a grown-up author.

Although I clutch when I send her my work, I know it will come back to me with clear, thoughtful edits that will make me a better writer.  Sandy knows my strengths and weaknesses and never fails to point out both. She understand how, even though I make my living as a copyeditor, when I write, I am so caught up in the storytelling that punctuation becomes secondary.  She graciously corrects that kind of stuff, but concentrates more on the story itself.  Often a “Too funny!” or “Love this!” comment shows up next to a scene she really likes.

But just as frequently, I get “Show me!”  Then I have to take a deep breath, get rid of whatever dull, passive description I’ve used, and create a scene where my reader can see the action, feel the emotion, or be right there in the situation. Showing, not telling has been one of my hardest lessons as a writer, but I couldn’t have a better teacher. Sandy makes me stretch and use my vocabulary to create characters and scenes that are strong and interesting. I’m growing as a writer thanks to her.

She challenges me like no creative writing teacher ever has and I love her for that. I know that when I do get published—and I will be published—part of the credit will go to Sandy for forcing me to show, not tell. If I haven’t said it lately, Sandy, thanks! You’re the best!


  • Sandy James

    OMG, Robena! You are so kind!! I’m happy you enjoyed the workshop and that it helped you!! I’m teaching “Are you insane?!” this year if you’re heading to NYC!! If you are, please come introduce yourself!! 🙂

  • robena grant

    Nan, I was scooting all around your website and then clicked on Sandy’s link. I was at her workshop on Psychology at RWA National. She is a fabulous speaker and I learned so much from her. My critique partner and I thought it one of the best workshops of the week.

    • admin

      Sandy’s the best crit partner on the planet! I’ve never heard her psych workshop, but I heard it got great reviews at RWA nationals last year. She’s doing one again in NY this year–if you’re going, be sure to catch it!

  • Sandy James

    Oh, Nan… You brought tears to my eyes with this post. How sweet!! You are a fantastic critique partner as well, and you’re never afraid to tell me the rough truth when I need to hear it! And I thank you for that from the bottom of my heart! Thank you so much for letting me know just how much I’ve helped you. That means the world to me!! **hugs**