Saturday, April 11, 2009

Don't tell me, show me

Years ago, a friend of mine wanted to write a novel — basically an autobiography — to explain his relationship with his father. I told him then that he was telling me that his father was a bad man; instead, he needed to show me. He had to include the harsh words, the raised hand or whatever. I'm not sure he understood what I meant; he was surprised I knew so much about writing.

Another friend of mine proudly gave me a copy of his novel to read. It, too, was biographical, and he was certain it'd be a bestseller.

Maybe it well be; I don't know. The story line was interesting, but I noticed that he kept telling me that the lady was beautiful. He never once talked about how her brown hair dipped over an eye enticingly or how her short skirts showed off her legs. Worst of all, there was no conversation, no dialogue. It was all from his point. It's bad when a book is mostly dialogue and no action, but it's a killer to write a novel with no dialogue.

I can't complain, though. I've tried my hand at novel writing, and I find that I'm a better newspaper or magazine or non-fiction writer. I'm good at editing novels; I just haven't been able to write them.

So far, neither have my friends.

Update: Actually, my novel's beginning to come along nicely. The beginning and end are finished, and I'm working on the muddle in the middle. It's about 52,000 words, and I'd like to finish at least 60,000.

Contact: I can be reached at or Also, my Twitter handle is EDITORatWORK.

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(a book of great stories about the Intimidator)
(the book of great NASCAR stories)

More blog entries by Tom Gillispie

Anecdotes by Tom Gillispie

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