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Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Show and Tell in a Nutshell (Book Review and Giveaway)

What do writers like to get in their holiday stockings? How about helpful writing books, such as Show and Tell in a Nutshell: Demonstrated Transitions from Telling to Showing? How many of us have had our manuscripts critiqued and have also heard during that critique, "You are telling too much. You need to show"? There are countless blog posts about showing vs telling, and I often cover this when I teach children's writing courses for WOW! So, how does Jessica Bell's book help writers learn to show and not tell in just a little over one hundred pages?

Jessica's entire idea is to create a handbook for writers that shows how to show and not tell, and she succeeds by presenting sixteen scenes to read and learn from. In her introduction, she suggests that you read each scene four times and focus on different parts of it each time. After reading it through once, then the second time, writers should  "identify the telling words/phrases." By the last time a scene is read, a writer will be brainstorming their own ways to "fix" the scene. (In the print version of the book, Jessica provides blank pages to take notes and try your own wording of the scenes.)

So, what does a scene entail? First, readers will encounter a list of attributes that a writer is trying to portray in a scene. For example, in the first scene, the list is: "amazing view, awe, feel hot, relief, feel tired." The next page has a paragraph, full of telling.

Sandy stood at the foot of the Egyptian Pyramids. Though she was hot, tired and sore, she was awestruck by the amazing view and felt a sense of relief. Finally, she’d made it.

Obviously, there's a lot of telling in that above example. Can you pick that out? The next page in the book, which I won't share with you here, provides Jessica's version of the same paragraph, but with showing details, instead of telling. Then there's a page for notes.

What I like about this book is that the author tells you what she wants to portray in each paragraph with a list, provides a simple telling example, and then she gives a good example of showing instead of telling. She is also encouraging you to do the same--in your own style. How could you rewrite the above paragraph to show Sandy was hot without telling the reader she's hot? Would you do it the same way as Jessica? Can you figure out more than one way to do it?

Each of the sixteen scenes is set up like this. There's no long explanations on why the author chose to do what she did. This is a short, concise book, but it gets the point across. In the end, the author provides three writing exercises and her e-mail address, where she invites readers to contact her if they have questions or need more writing prompts.

Jessica Bell is also the author of String Bridge (a women's fiction novel), Fabric (a poetry collection), and Twisted Velvet Chains ( a poetry collection). She is an Australian-native, living in Athens, Greece, and she hosts the Homeric Writers' Retreat & Workshop on the Greek island of Ithaca, home of Odysseus, with Chuck Sambuchino of Writer's Digest.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with showing vs telling in their writing, then purchase (for under $5.00 a copy) Show and Tell in a Nutshell by Jessica Bell!

We also have a copy to giveaway.


Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below for a chance to win a copy of  Show and Tell in a Nutshell: Demonstrated Transitions from Telling to Showing!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

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Blogger Jessica Bell said...

Thanks for the great review!

2:06 AM  
Blogger Barbara Barth said...

Sounds like a great book! Entered to win a copy, but I will be a few for my writer friends!

5:43 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I have been on a search and rewrite mission for telling, instead of showing, in all of my WIPs. It has made a huge difference and everything is so much stronger now.

6:27 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Such practical tips! This hands-on approach is ideal!

7:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like another craft book I need to add to my "to read" collection. Thanks for sharing.

8:15 AM  
Blogger Susan in Texas said...

Just struggling this morning with "seeing" a room through character's eyes. Need I say that I've just ordered a copy of this book? Thanks for the review. (And should I win a copy, I'll have a lucky writer friend!)

9:31 AM  
Blogger Susan in Texas said...

Struggling this morning with experiencing/feeling a room through a character's eyes. Need I say that I just ordered a copy? And if I win another will have a lucky writer friend! Thanks for this review.

9:33 AM  
Blogger MonetteChilson said...

As with all good writing, this review pulls us in but keeps us hanging just enough to make us want the book. We've got to see the "after" (showing) to marvel out how it shines when compared to the "before" (the telling). Great concept. Can't wait to read it.

12:07 PM  
Blogger D said...

This is exactly the kind of thing I need help with, and I know Jess is a great person to learn it from.

12:31 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I used to read the blog of a literary agent, and she "challenged" us to write a brief, descriptive paragraph (I don't remember the topic now). Anyway, the next day she did a "class" on showing vs. telling using our examples, and mine was one of the ones she pulled out as an example of telling. I was mortified!

So yes, I need this book, please! :-)

7:03 PM  
Blogger Joy Keeney said...

I'm so guilty of telling more than showing :( I am working on it...but boy could I use more help.

9:04 PM  
Blogger flip said...

Yes. Which is one of the nicer things said.

3:42 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Yes, I have unfortunately.

6:47 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

Not yet. Thanks for the giveaway.

10:43 PM  
Blogger cassandra m said...


12:57 AM  
Blogger saturdaynightfever said...

No, I have not been told that.

10:59 AM  
Blogger /\Heather/\ said...

I go in waves. For the most part, I describe in detail only the important stuff.

5:28 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I haven't had my novel reviewed yet, so I'm not sure if they'd say that. Sounds like they would though!

7:02 PM  
Blogger cman said...


8:15 PM  

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