What's the worst writing advice you've ever been given?
Mine is "you have to write every day." Totally impractical for so many of us, but you hear this all the time! I have a writing schedule, but it is *not* daily.
(Full disclosure: I'm writing an article about this on spec and would like to mention some of your "worst advice," so please let me know if you're willing to share. If not, would still be curious to hear your worst advice!)
Indeed, it did get lost, Dana. Granted, I admire Sol Stein's career and the books he edited, but just because he coined the "show don't tell" in his book "Stein on Writing" (2000), doesn't mean it's craved in stone. Of course, when Donald Maass jumped on board a few years later (2002) and reinforced Stein's method, the 'dye' was cast and every editor since then been indoctrinated to the dictum.
If you look at the dates of these books - we're only talking 11 years! Short compared to writing history.
Actually, I was taught "Show, don't tell" back when I was working on my BA. Which I earned in 1991.
It has a specific use, however, that is being twisted out of context here.
Well, let's agree to see things in a different light, then. I am sharing Dana's views that something has been lost in translation after the so-called gurus spoke.
Remember, a few years back, the gurus also said to remove every instance of "that" in your manuscript. You'll note THAT has now changed.
However, there is never an excuse for "He looked angry" to be present. That is the exact sort of telling that needs to be shown.
Funny you should mention "that." I had stopped using it except when absolutely necessary, and my copy editor just added it back in, over and over, to my manuscript.
I agree with your example, Susan, of the improper use of tell. For me, show don't tell doesn't mean NEVER tell, it means knowing when to tell and when to show. I think the gurus have confused it for many, especially since it seems as though the "rule" (despise that term) has been taken out of context over time .
And really, the gurus said to remove every instance of "that"? I can't imagine! :)
Susan, you misunderstand. I'm not against editing to strengthen a ms. What I'm arguing is, the cramming Show Don't Tell as a style down the throat of every author by way of degrading comments and arguments.
I've been writing professionally since the mid 1980s and there has been a major style shift to Show Don't Tell along the way. I take exception to being called an amateur, unprofessional and hack by those embracing SDT because I don't adhere to every single dictum. Many name authors prior to SDT coming into favor used "ly" to enhance speech and other words than said or asked. Some of whom I pattern my writing style after. How does that make me less professional than they? It doesn't.
As you rightly point out, even SDT changes. So there needs to be tolerance and acceptance of those who don't strictly adhere to the style.