Novel Writing, Write Your Novel this Summer Challenge

Sometimes it’s okay to tell a story rather than showing it

Staring at a blank page will get you nowhere
It’s true. So stop staring and write something!

Do you ever find yourself staring at an empty page, afraid to put down that first word because you do not know if it is exactly what you want to express in your story? Do you worry about each sentence, afraid you are going to write something that (heaven forbid) tells rather than shows your story?

I know you want to sit down and write a complete and perfect story. We all do. But most of the time it just doesn’t work that way. If you let yourself get bogged down in the details of perfection in the first draft, your first draft will never be complete.

Sometimes we may feel as though we are wasting our time if what we are writing isn’t any good. We think the story should show, not tell, from word one. We agonize over each and every word because we know we’ll have to come back later and revise all those telling sentences. And isn’t it always better to do a task right the first time so you don’t have to re-do it again later?

Well, I hate to break it to you Kitten Head, but that’s not how it works in the writing world. Sometimes you have to tell your story before you can properly show it. You have to stop staring at that blank damn page and just start telling your story. You have to accept the fact that you may need to tell your story to yourself before you can show it to your reader.

And that’s okay.

Next time you find yourself staring at a blank page, I want you to say the following phrase to yourself: It’s okay to tell my story.

Then start writing. You may even choose to start with these words: This is a story about…

Then TELL your story.


That’s right. I am telling you that telling is OKAY.

Telling may not be acceptable in a final manuscript, but it is often vital to the first draft. The first draft is for you. It is not meant for an audience. Thus, I hereby grant you permission to tell in your first draft.

What’s the worst that can happen? Will the literary police swoop in and haul you off for daring to TELL? Not if you don’t let them see your first draft. Remember, the first draft is for you and you alone. It is not for public consumption. You’ll show your story in the second draft, develop it in the third, and then allow the literary police to have their say.

Yes, you must keep your telling to yourself. But that doesn’t mean you should eradicate it from your writing for all time.

I invite you to join my summer novel writing challenge at Write Your Novel this Summer. You don’t have to write a perfect draft this summer. Just sit down and tell the story from start to finish. The entire first draft can be full of telling if that’s how it comes out. That’s okay. We’ll make it show in the second draft. The important thing to focus on in the first draft stage is getting your story out of your head and onto the page.

Don’t ever feel like every word you scribble must be valuable enough to make it to the final cut. And never underestimate the value of a freewrite. You never know when a telling paragraph scribbled in a burst of inspiration might lead to something greater.

How much time do you spend freewriting in a given week? Please share in the comments below.

~Mandy Webster

8 thoughts on “Sometimes it’s okay to tell a story rather than showing it”

  1. I write everyday. Some days I write up to 2000 words with confidence other days I think ‘ who am I to think people will want to read my stuff’ then my writing dwindles to less quantity and quality. I did camp nanowrimo in April. Out of 50k words I was happy with only 10k of them the rest were just free writing ‘vaguely’ on the novel , just to keep me going and keep up the word count. I think I have signed up for your summer novel challenge. :/

  2. Thank you for choosing my post in related articles ( Interview With A Young Aspiring Author).
    It is true, when we write our first draft we shouldn’t agonize over the rule of “show, not tell”. When I write I just write, I will worry about correcting it all when I am finished with first draft. Good post by the way 🙂

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