On Editing

Harper’s Harpings: Consciously Incompetent Writer


I am wading through the edits for Breaking Jane, I have a systematic list I got through once I have finished my first draft. I don’t worry about the list until I have finished telling my story. One of the first items on the list is to check my show vs. tell sentences.

I liken my journey as a writer to the Great Wall of China. I have been fortunate enough to have walked some of the wall. The biggest surprise to me when I got there was the uneven path, the steep hills and narrow walkways. But the scenery was magnificent. Some parts I had to climb up on my hands and knees, other parts I walked easily through the turrets and along the walkways. There were parts where I had to tread carefully for fear of slipping on my arse.

When I first started writing I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, I could string a sentence together, but that was about it when it came to constructing a full-length novel.

So, at the beginning, I wrote and then had another look at the words. I had feedback and had done research on what one should and shouldn’t do in a novel.

The main area I focussed on was show and not tell. It is really tricky because in my everyday life I want (and have to) to solve people’s problems quickly and I want to give people the answers. This was reflected in my writing, I wanted to say he was angry and not show you how angry he was.

Slowly I became aware of what I was going, making me consciously incompetent. I have moved from blissful ignorance to knowing that I didn’t know how to rewrite the sentence. More research followed and I learned to search and find certain words like look; feel; saw and then reword the sentence.

It was difficult at first, really got my brain to think in a different way to how I would normally construct a sentence. I am only two years into storytelling, my brain through my chosen careers heavily relied on facts and imparting them quickly.

Once I had learned how to write a sentence showing how a character felt and not stating it, the process became easier, I became consciously competent. I had learned a new skill. It is by no means honed or perfect, but now it is natural for my fingers to stop typing when my brain says look or feel or watched or some other tell word. I automatically write differently.

In terms of one tiny aspect of writing stories, I have moved unconsciously competent. I now do this without thinking, it has taken six novels to become at ease with the show vs. tell area of writing.

The trick now is to apply this process to all areas of my books, the Great Wall of China viewpoint is still there, it just means I am better equipped to tackle the peaks and troughs of the written word.

Thanks for reading



Harper’s Motto: You will not be everybody’s favourite flavour, but that’s ok, because they will not always be your favourite flavour.   Be who you want to be and you will attract the people who will support you no matter what.