We’ve all heard that saying, and I’ve certainly run across the problem plenty of times while editing (there’s nothing more horrible than seeing pages of tell at the start of a story), but here’s the thing: it can happen to anyone. Even me!
Yesterday in my WIP, I finished Part 1 and moved to Part 2. That second part begins five years later. I started out well enough, with a scene between the MC and two minor characters talking, and then wrote three bloody paragraphs telling the reader what had transpired during those five intervening years.
MISTAKE! ERROR! What the fuck was I doing?
I stopped cold the instant I realized what was happening and went to bed to sleep on it. At first, I had no idea how to relay that information without falling back on the dreaded tell. The next morning, however, I knew exactly how to change all that crap exposition into something far more dynamic and interesting.
Even experienced writers fall into traps when they aren’t thinking. We must be aware every minute we are writing; it’s all too easy to write pages and pages of shit before we realize it’s wrong, bad, and must be deleted or restructured.
Never, ever be afraid to delete stuff. I got rid of all the tell and replaced it with show, and the story is so much better now.