Showing and not Telling

This is not my photo, nor do I know who this person is.  I apologize in advance for any inconveniences this may cause.Going back and reading sections of your novel you wrote months, perhaps years, before is a bit like going through old diary entries and saying, “Shit, did I write that?“  Yesterday I began my day by heading over to the local coffee shop called Molah when I discovered the place was mobbed with yapping people and screaming babies and snarling dogs and well, there just wasn’t any place for me to sit.  So I hobbled over to the Frozen Monkey which could be a really cool place if it didn’t try so hard.  You know the type of place: chock full of green vinyl couches built so low your knees have to extend directly out to be comfortable; lamps stolen from the Brady Bunch set; kitschy art on the wall that any child with a digital camera and a simple photoshop filter could create (plus, the smegheads charge for internet access 🙁 )  To their credit though they were playing Pearl Jam’s “Lost Dogs” and Radiohead’s “Kid A.”  Not exactly “independent” music, but cool nonetheless.
I bought a coffee, found a seat, plugged my laptop in and began writing.  I came across a comment in my novel.  “This is too fast.  Elaborate this scene.”  My heart began thumping and it wasn’t because of the coffee.  Since November, I had not really been writing.  I had been editing my novel.  I wasn’t adding new scenes or being overly creative, with the exception of perhaps variations and adjustments in sentence structure.  But now I was forced to redo an entire scene.

I read what I had before.  It was classic “telling,” that is, I described exactly what happened in a boring infodump.  When I first wrote the scene some months before, I had needed to get from point A to point B.  I didn’t want to bother with the in-between.  But the section now felt rushed and hasty and incongruous with the rest of the novel’s pacing.  I realized with some delight that I could really go to town, that is, I could create an entirely new and full setting because this scene was far from the usual events of the novel.

Two hours passed and I wrote a paragraph.

A man I know only from my frequent visits to Molah came into the Frozen Monkey said hello and told me they’d thinned out over there.  We chatted for a few minutes and then I waddled back to Molah, bought another coffee and started again.  Hours passed.  It was 4:30.  I had been writing for four hours.  I suddenly looked up and noticed I had reached point B, and I had done it (modesty mode off) magnificently.

Why is this important?  Well, with a few exceptions, the past two years of my writing life have been spent on one thing: my novel.  So many ideas for short stories have popped into my head, but No, I said.  Finish the novel first.  You can write those later.  Yesterday’s little creative burst, its tiny window was a taste of what’s to come.  I savored it.

I have about 89 pages left to edit.  Then another smaller rewrite of about 10 pages near the beginning.  After that, I’m done.  Needless to say, I can’t wait for that moment.