Two Ways to Make your Novel Better

what does show dont tell mean in writing?
Deanne Adams, Story Coach and Mentor. Write the best book you can.
Written by Deanne Adams


You’re always thinking about how to make your novel better. You might be writing the first draft of your novel, making your first editing pass at your manuscript or fine tuning your story ready for publishing. Wherever you are in the process, you’re striving to improve your writing and your chance of success.

How to Make your Novel Better

Here are two ways you can make your novel better.

Kill Your Darlings

Do you have a paragraph (or a whole scene) that doesn’t need to be there? Have you told yourself that it’s there to create atmosphere? To develop the characters? To establish the world of the story?

Ask yourself this: does your reader need it or even want it? Maybe they don’t. 

Is it really there because you fell in love with your own power with words? Are you emotionally attached to this part of your story even though it does nothing for your reader’s experience?

The way to improve your novel on a developmental scale is often to ‘kill your darlings’. Get rid of that backstory that isn’t needed. Conflate background or supporting characters into a single character when that’s simpler. Lose that massive chunk of writing about what your character looks like and what they do in every situation in their day.

It can be hard to lose part of a story that you love. Remember, you’re not writing for yourself. You’re writing for other people.

Show Don’t Tell

This piece of advice is shared at every writing class. You might be sick of hearing it. 

‘Show don’t tell’ is said so often because it’s good advice. Sometimes telling is fine – or good, even. But showing is generally the best way. Perhaps we should say, ‘Show more than tell.’

Showing is when you present your character’s experience for your reader so that your reader can imagine what it is like. You allow your reader to see, hear, feel, smell and taste the experience for themselves. 

Telling is when you inform your reader of your character’s thoughts, feelings and intentions. Sometimes this is entirely the right way to write. But more often, it prevents your reader from feeling the story. Your reader knows what happens in the story but they have no reason to care about it.

‘Kill your darlings’ and ‘show don’t tell’ are not the full extent of the ways you can make your novel better. But they are two of the key ways for the budding or improving writer to make huge improvements to their stories and to improve their confidence in their skills.

Show don't tell free workbook

Show don't tell - Get your free guide

Would you like more guidance to show more than you tell in your writing?

Showing rather than telling can be a tricky beast to get on your side. That's why I've put together this handy guide in the form of a workbook to help you. Sign up to my mailing list and get your free copy.

You may also be interested in my online course where I delve a little deeper into the topic using video tutorials so you can learn at your own pace. Find out more about how to enrol here.

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