Tag Archives: INKWELL

INKSPILL – INKWELL Session 2 – Show Don’t Tell

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SUNDAY 27th October – DAY 3

AWF circle Inkwell 2 – Show Don’t Tell – your questions answered. Research, polls and questions posted on the blog in the summer.

Welcome to the second INKWELL session.

inkspill crit.

AWF circle

The 2nd of our sessions is about that old adage SHOW DON’T TELL…

Let’s break it apart.

Showing allows the reader to follow the author into the moment, to see and feel and experience what the author has experienced. Using the proper balance of showing and telling will make your writing more interesting and effective.

You may understand, but be at a loss at HOW to do it.

These tips are from Erin at ‘Daily Writing Tips’ I have edited them slightly as she teaches college students and makes reference to this.

1. Use dialogue

Dialogue allows the reader to experience a scene as if they were there. Instead of telling the reader your mom was angry, they can hear it for themselves:

“Justin Michael,” mom bellowed, “Get in here this instant!”

Dialogue can give your reader a great deal about character, emotion and mood.

2. Use sensory language

In order for readers to fully experience what you’re writing about, they need to be able to see, hear, taste, smell and touch the world around them. Try to use language that incorporates several senses, not just sight.

3. Be descriptive

I’m sure everyone remembers learning to use adjectives and adverbs in school. When we’re told to be more descriptive, it’s easy to go back to those things that we were taught. But being descriptive is more than just inserting a string of descriptive words. It’s carefully choosing the right words and using them sparingly to convey your meaning.

The following example is from a short story I wrote.


: He sits on the couch holding his guitar.

There’s nothing wrong with that sentence. It gives the reader some basic information, but it doesn’t create an image. Compare that sentence with this:


: His eyes are closed, and he’s cradling the guitar in his arms like a lover. It’s as if he’s trying to hold on to something that wants to let go.

The second example takes that basic information and paints a picture with it. It also uses figurative language—in this case, the simile “cradling the guitar in his arms like a lover”—to help create an image.

When using description, it’s important not to overdo it. Otherwise, you can end up with what I call “police blotter” description. For example:

He was tall, with brown hair and blue eyes. He wore a red shirt and jeans, and a brown leather jacket.

4. Be specific, not vague

Don’t use vague, fuzzy language. “I had never felt anything like it before in my entire life,” take the time to try and describe what that feeling was, and then decide how best to convey that feeling to the reader. Your readers will thank you for it.


AWF circle

Many articles I have read over the past year of my writing journey warn against over-using adverbs and keeping descriptions tight. It amuses me because it is the opposite of how we teach writing to children. But too many wordy, thesaurus filled, adverb heavy paragraphs will highlight amateur writer and will be slush piled by editors.

Additional links and articles-



INKSPILL – Are You A Writer? Quiz

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SUNDAY 27th October – DAY 3

Every good retreat has an element of fun – here is ours.

Whilst researching historical fiction and research for the INKWELL session yesterday, INKWELL

I discovered Caro Clarke. On the website there are many writing resources, including this quiz.


Thank you Caro for permission to use this quiz as part of the INKSPILL retreat.




Are you a writer? Take the quiz

Most famous writers claim that they always knew they would be a writer when they grew up. Despite set-backs and struggle, they had confidence in their own innate talent and creative instincts.

But not all writers have that rock-solid confidence (or, as it’s known in the writing business, ‘arrogance’). How do you know if you’re truly cut out for the life of a novelist or if you’re actually some sad wannabe who’s pitied by friends and family?

Just take the Clarke Patented “Am I Really a Writer?” multiple-choice test below and find out once and for all if you’ve got what it takes!


(Asking your writing group, tutor, or best friend to help you fill out this test is cheating. So is asking a writer to do it for you, such as Margaret Atwood.)

A. I think I’m a writer because:

1. I enjoy writing

2. I enjoy reading

3. I enjoy typing

4. I enjoy knowing that I am a creative being


B. I tend to get my ideas from:

1. the world around me

2. the fantasies within me

3. the TV in front of me

4. the concept of “idea” is so, you know, anal retentive


C. I try to write:

1. one sustained period a day

2. one sustained period whenever inspiration strikes me

3. you mean I actually have to write something all the time?

4. only when it won’t violate my imaginative flow


D. I believe that adjectives and adverbs:

1. should be used sparingly

2. should be used vigorously, fulsomely, and without stint

3. are what, exactly?

4. are pathetic attempts to limit my creative energy


E. I structure my novel-in-progress by:

1. writing to a prepared plot outline or a driving story arc

2. writing whatever comes into my head from moment to moment

3. writing that cool idea I came across somewhere else today

4. how mundane actually to have a “novel-in-progress”; I have a concept


F. I achieve the self-discipline to write by:

1. forcing myself to work whether I’m in the mood or not

2. letting guilt finally force me to do something, anything

3. jotting down half a page now and again and rewarding myself with ice cream

4. self-discipline is the enemy of creativity


G. I deal with difficult, blocked or ‘dry’ periods by:

1. working on something else to retain good writing habits

2. panicking and bingeing

3. wondering if I shouldn’t take up decoy carving instead

4. only real writers are really blocked


H. I strive to make my work:

1. as good as it can be by rewriting and polishing

2. as good as that first true inspiration will allow it to be

3. as unembarrassing as I can before going to my writing group – they’re  really mean

4. as unintrusive in my creative life as possible


I. I approach the task of finding an agent or publisher by:

1. researching the market thoroughly and learning how to make a professional submission

2. sending my manuscript and a very nice letter to my writing tutor’s publisher

3. sending my manuscript to the publishers of the latest best-seller

4. they’ll be knocking on my door begging me for my manuscript


J. I accept rejection slips:

1. with a pang, then move to the next submission

2. with a little sigh: I secretly knew it was no good

3. with a howl of unbelieving rage: ignorant jackasses, don’t they know true talent when they see it…

4. I’m too sensitive to put myself through such a negative experience


K. I see myself in the future:

1. finding satisfaction in writing novels my readers enjoy

2. becoming a rich and famous best-seller and appearing on TV

3. winning the Pulitzer, the Booker, and the Nobel Prize for Literature

4. being the most famous person on the planet. Hey, in the universe!


L. I want to write because:

1. I have characters and stories bursting to come to life

2. I like the idea of having a book published

3. I like the idea of being a writer

4. I didn’t say I wanted to write, just that I know I’m a writer,  and this is a dumb test, anyway


inkspill questions

How to score this test:

Count up the numbers of the answers you have selected.

If you have a total of:

12-16: You seem to have what it takes. I’ll see you in print one day.

17-25: Time to get serious. Take one giant step towards a professional attitude.

26-35: What a dweeb. Quit dreaming and get a life.

36-48: Jerk extraordinaire! Out of my sight, thou posturing ninny!


Having taken the Clarke’s Patented “Am I Really a Writer?” Test, you now know if you are a real writer or not. If you are, congratulations! If you aren’t, contact me for some useful websites on needlework, photography or windsurfing.

But seriously, folks: the basic test of whether someone is a real writer or not is if they really write. There’s no magic to it. Either you write or you don’t. It’s that simple.

Copyright Caro Clarke – http://www.caroclarke.com

It pains me to have to say this, but this article is meant to be funny (although it’s a real test and will tell you the truth). I have had indignant responses from those who took it deadly seriously. I fear for those people in this harsh world. I mean, geez.