For years I have been stymied by the “show don’t tell” mantra that is so mindless repeated by too many people offering writing advice.
Like everything else, “show don’t tell” has its place. I’ve finally come to admit to myself that the place for “show don’t tell” is NOT in the planning phase or even the first draft phase of novel writing. The best place for it is during the revision of the first or better still, the second draft.
Show Don’t Tell has a Frenemy
So I propose The Telling Draft. I’ll write more later about this newest addition to the long list of drafts often needed to take an idea from first flash to polished manuscript.
The basic idea is that in the beginning it can be useful to write a draft that is almost purely telling. Lots of narrative summary. Tons of exposition. And as much static description as you can muster. Yes! Totally ignore the show don’t tell rule and tell it all.
So there! I said it. Telling is beneficial. So tell your story. And then after you’ve told it from beginning to end THEN it’s time to think about how to show the parts that will best be shared through action, dialogue, and the other showing modes.
Yes, in a lot of ways this is just an extended synopsis. But take it farther.
And to add an extra layer of potential help to the idea of The Telling Draft I’ll estimate that this draft will be about 25% of what you are planning the novel to be. So for a 100,000 words novel, The Telling Draft will be about 25,000 words.
I’m going to test this out. If you do also, please holler back and let me know how it goes.
If you want to take a deeper dive with me, work along while I unpack 16 techniques for finding your voice.