I started my first read through on a new manuscript today–a book by Laurie Alberts (author of three novels, The Price of Land in Shelby, Lost Daughters, and Tempting Fate, as well as a short story collection and two memoirs). This new instructive book will cover the importance of scene and summary, and will give writers instruction and advice for finding the right balance between showing and telling.
So often writers are given the advice of “show, don’t tell” and while there is a lot of validity in that old adage, I’m finding I agree with Alberts’ point that what is more important is finding the right balance. There are times when you might overdo the “showing” and you can quickly move the plot along by summarizing some information in order to get to the next big scene. The real trick is knowing when to “gloss over” the more boring details and deliver the sensory material in the places where it will matter most to your reader.
It’s something to think about when you find your story dragging. Can you work in some way of summarizing information in a subtle way to get to the real emotion or action? Give it a try.
Laurie Alberts’ book on Showing and Telling is scheduled for Spring of 2010. She has an essay on the subject in the collection Words Overflown by Stars, which is currently available.