Friday, April 25, 2008

My one on one critique with Krista Marino, editor at Delacorte: Fixing "Show don't tell"


Nervous, I walked into the small room where Krista Marino sat on a pink, flowered reproduction of a victorian sofa.

What would she say? I wondered.

If honesty persist, I was expecting the worst. Only moments before I left my house the previous afternoon, I checked the mailbox where a familiar SASE manilla envelope waited for me . I need not open the envelope. My own handwritten address was the bearer of bad news. Another rejection letter.

Could this be ill omen or good?
I wondered. Though I tried to remain positive, (after all, perhaps this could be the writers equivilent of an actors "Break a leg") I sat behind the wheel of my car and headed toward Chapel Hill in a somber mood. Anger soon joined the mix when I realized that Mapquest had given poor directions. I was lost and there was only 15 mintues left until registration ended.

I fought to push the constant stream of unsettling thoughts from my mind. Just keep your mouth closed and listen to what she has to say. I reminded myself as I sat in the chair across from Krista. Even if it's bad news, I can still work to get better.

I drew in a deep breath, smiled and leaned forward as if to signal my undivided attention. But inside I was trembling. At the pit of my very core I want to be a published author. Will I ever make it?

And then Krista began to speak . . .

Or . . . I could just say "On Saturday morning I had a one on one critique with Krista Marino, editor at Delacorte."

Which is more interesting?

OK. Now, I'll get right to the point. Krista gave me a very encouraging and insightful critique. Her advice was spot on and she said she liked what she read and saw a lot of potential in my story. ~squeal~ :0)

My biggest problem was that I did too much "telling" instead of "showing".

It's funny, but I know the "Show don't tell" rule very well. Or I thought I did. As a matter of fact, I thought I WAS showing and not telling. But Krista did a great job opening my eyes to a whole new level of "telling."

I equated "action" to be the "showing" instead of "telling." Not necessarily so. It's also sometimes difficult to pick out these area's once you've gone over the same story over and over again. That's one reason why critiques are so important, whether it come from an editor or a local critique group. The outside information can be priceless.

What's the fix?: Add emotion, surroundings and thoughts into the mix. Even action can come across as "telling" and can even seem canned or contrived. In other words, don't just say your character is opening the door. What is she thinking as she opens the door? What is going on around her? How does she feel?

Her critique only covered the first 10 pages of my MS, but I have easily been able to apply her advice through out the entire MS.

The critique was golden!

Krista, if you're out there and ever come across this post, Thanks for the great critique!"

Now. . . Back to work!

1 comment:

TinaFerraro said...


Thanks for visiting my blog! And it was very interesting to see what Krista talked to you about...and yes, showing, not telling is very important.

In fact, in my book, HOW TO HOOK A HOTTIE, she encouraged me to draw out--to show--some of the scenes that I was using for transitions. So instead of, "I headed toward my locker, nodding at friends," she had me break into an active scenes with dialogue, description and feeling. When I re-read the revised version, I realized her suggestions had brought a vitality and increased sense of urgency, and kept the reader deeper in the story. So brava to Krista!

And hey, who knows, maybe she IS reading this, and if so...Krista, you're the best!