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Episode 19 – Scene vs Summary: Balancing Showing and Telling

Episode 19 – Scene vs Summary – Balancing Showing and Telling

On this episode of Coaching KidLit, Christy and Sharon dive into scene vs summary and the balancing act between showing and telling in storytelling. They discuss the importance of condensing unnecessary details through summary and shorthand, emphasizing the inclusion of only meaningful actions.

Topics Covered Include:

  • Importance of showing and telling in storytelling
  • Scene versus summary
  • The role of telling
  • Balancing showing and telling in
  • Summary and repetition in storytelling
  • Improving writing skills and revisions

Books Mentioned:

The Healer’s Legacy by Sharon Skinner

Showing and Telling: Learn How to Show and When to Tell for Powerful and Balanced Writing by Laurie Alberts.



Coaching KidLit Transcript –

Scene vs Summary – Balancing Showing and Telling


[00:00:41] Christy Yaros: Hey Sharon.

[00:00:42] Sharon Skinner: Hey, Christy, how are you?

[00:00:44] Christy Yaros: I’m good.

[00:00:46] Sharon Skinner: So what are we talking about Christy?

[00:00:48] Christy Yaros: We’re talking about scene and summary.

[00:00:51] Sharon Skinner: So I think this is a great topic. We haven’t really dug into this yet, so I’m excited to Get going on this.

[00:01:00] Sharon Skinner:

[00:01:00] Christy Yaros: I’m thinking about when writers have finished their drafts and they’re going back through and they’re doing, as we talked about, they’re re envisioning in their revisions and they’re long. Okay, we have a long draft and we have to think about what it is that we can take out. And sometimes, and we talked about this on our re envisioning episode, like it’s hard to let go of some things, but there are some other things that are pretty, like, in the grand scheme may be easier to fix or to cut without actually cutting.

[00:01:34] Christy Yaros: And I think that’s a place where scene and summary can help you.

[00:01:40] Sharon Skinner: I agree and I think that sometimes what happens is that as writers, we get kind of caught up in we can’t see the trees for the forest and that it’s the trees that we’re trying to determine which ones can be cut down to create a healthier forest, right? So when you talk about some things are easier to cut than others, most of the time writers don’t feel that way.

[00:02:05] Sharon Skinner: But these are my precious words. I spent all this time and energy writing them. They’re important to me. They must be important to the story, but they aren’t always important to the reader to get the gist of the story, and in fact, they can bog things down and they can drag things on, and they can really slow the pace, and they can be repetitive.

[00:02:27] Christy Yaros: So, you know, we’re definitely advocates of the zooming out which we’ve talked about multiple times zooming out and looking at your project from a higher view not on the page level, but from an outline or whatever it is that you want to call that your inventory of scenes, your list of scenes, where you can see kind of what is happening in each scene and what the purpose of each scene is. And. I think that’s where you can start to see, like you just said, that not every scene has a purpose, or has multiple scenes serving the same purpose.

[00:03:01] Christy Yaros: So then we think, okay, we could just cut that, but maybe not. what do we do if we think we can cut a bunch, but now we’ve got huge leaps in time, or the setting changes too drastically in between those things because we’ve cut something?

[00:03:16] Sharon Skinner: Well it’s important to keep in mind that both scene and summary both showing and telling are critical to a narrative. Because. If you were showing everything, of course, you’d be showing the character waking up in the morning, brushing their teeth, putting, getting dressed, combing their hair, and we don’t need that.

[00:03:36] Sharon Skinner: We can get shorthand for that. So unless there’s something important that’s happening. In that where maybe this person is putting on theatrical makeup or they’re putting on their superhero mask, and that’s meaningful. We don’t need to see them getting ready to go out for the day. Right. And that is where we can use shorthand, what we call telling or summary.

[00:04:01] Sharon Skinner: We want to skip the boring parts and keep in the interesting parts and the parts that are meaningful. one of the things that happens to is unless you’re writing Groundhog Day, you don’t need to show us the same stuff over and over. If you show some that somebody has a consistent breakfast ritual, and you show it a couple of times, you can summarize it later.

[00:04:24] Sharon Skinner: Once their breakfast ritual was done, they went on with their day, you know, but you don’t have to describe it in detail every time, right?

[00:04:32] Christy Yaros: Yes, that’s definitely, that’s a good example. Or, we know everybody sleeps, right? We know everybody takes showers, everybody goes to the bathroom. Unless something is happening out of the ordinary in relation to the story at those times, then we can just assume that at night people are going to sleep, they’re waking up in the morning, they’re doing all the things and we’re getting on with our day.

[00:05:00] Sharon Skinner: yeah and when you make those jumps in time like you asked about earlier, as long as you have a road signal, right, for the reader, they’ll go with you, they can make these leaps in time and space and setting and character, as long as you give them a road sign. So that’s why we either have a chapter break or we have a scene break

[00:05:23] Sharon Skinner: It’s usually signified by a little glyph or three asterisks or however you do it just or a white space, just to show there’s a shift in character or setting or time, we’re making a jump. We’re letting you know, we’re making a leap here. And then the first thing that I always want to make sure my writers do is ground us in wherever we and whenever we are now.

[00:05:49] Sharon Skinner: So if we’ve moved into a place in time, or if we’ve moved into another character’s perspective, then we need to know that. And we need to know that very quickly within the first sentence or two, we need to know where we are. Grounding the reader is really critical, but you can make all sorts of leaps in time. Otherwise, you’re showing us everything. And that would be a really long book.

[00:06:11] Christy Yaros: And I think that’s what we end up with sometimes is really long drafts because we did explain everything and like you said earlier that understanding of it’s not wasted. You needed to do it because you needed to tell yourself the story. You needed to put all of those details down so that you can then see what you have.

[00:06:31] Christy Yaros: And now we’re going to say, I needed to know this as the author so that I can understand what I’m doing here. But now like, what do I actually have to tell the reader? And it’s only enough to keep them from being confused and to keep them interested and to keep them moving along

[00:06:46] Sharon Skinner: Right. What they need, when they need it.

[00:06:49] Christy Yaros: And you are in complete control of that. I think that’s something else that writers forget. Like you are the architect. You’re the god of the story. You control what information you’re giving your reader. And by that same token your reader is trusting that you’re giving them information that’s necessary.

[00:07:05] Christy Yaros: You don’t want them to carry some of these details around with them while they’re reading it if they’re not actually relevant to what’s happening. I think the concept of showing and telling is a little confusing to writers sometimes because we’re told to show and not tell, and so we think sometimes that means writing five paragraphs of description on something and sometimes maybe it, it does, but it’s not a bad thing to tell sometimes, even on a sentence level.

[00:07:35] Sharon Skinner: Absolutely. And I think we’ve been getting this message for so long. Show, don’t tell, show, don’t tell, show, don’t tell that It does kind of get in the writer’s brain. Oh, I have to show everything.

[00:07:45] Sharon Skinner: And that’s just not true. And in fact, there are lots of places where summary or telling is important, especially to keep the pacing of the story. You don’t want to bog down your story with a lot of detail. When you’re trying to pick up speed, you want shorter, clippier sentences. You want shorter, clippier dialogue.

[00:08:07] Sharon Skinner: You want to make sure that the pacing doesn’t drag because you’re showing too much detail. I mean, if I’m running from a monster, I’m seeing very little detail along the way. If I’m the character, I am only going to notice what I absolutely have to notice in that moment, how far away the monster is from me, what’s ahead of me that I might have an obstacle that I have to get around, and whether or not there’s monsters coming from the side.

[00:08:35] Sharon Skinner: Those are probably my primary concerns, not so much. Oh, Mrs. Smith’s trash can is overflowing. Again, maybe I’m not gonna notice that little detail in the alley.

[00:08:46] Christy Yaros: Maybe you are, but if you are, then it probably should have been established that you are the type of character who does notice those things, even when these things are happening.

[00:08:57] Sharon Skinner: Well, I will say that if I decide to knock over that trash can to make an obstacle for the monster, then having noticed that it was full or overflowing is a good thing. Or if I want to use the trash can to climb over the wall to get away from the monster or out of the alley, then having it overflowing might be helpful because then I have more of a boost to get over the wall.

[00:09:25] Sharon Skinner: So if it’s important to the scene, yeah, absolutely. If it’s important to the character in that moment, that’s what we really want to focus on that’s the key to it. And that brings me to what’s the point of your scene. Why is it included? does it have a point because if it’s important, if there’s something important happening in it, then yes, we want you to show it to us because we want to experience the importance of it. We don’t just want to be told that it’s important. We want to share in that experience and have that journey.

[00:10:01] Christy Yaros: And that’s something we talked about when we were talking about emotional truth, too, right? Like, you’re taking something away from the reader sometimes when you tell them how they’re supposed to feel, or how your character is feeling by saying, she’s scared, She’s tired, she’s whatever, like, what does that mean? That’s where, we understand, we can connect more into the character. And what I do see is oftentimes in earlier drafts, writers will do both. They will show the emotion, show the thing happening, and then like, just to make sure, they also then summarize it, at the end and tell you what happened.

[00:10:41] Christy Yaros: And then there’s the choice of we can’t keep both, so which one do you need the reader to have?

[00:10:48] Sharon Skinner: I see the same thing only reversed a lot, especially in fantasy where, they tell what’s going to happen and then they describe what happens. And that one’s an easy one because typically that’s a scene that we need to see so we can just strip out the telling and get rid of it, typically.

[00:11:08] Sharon Skinner: But again, the scene needs to have a reason to be there. There needs to be something that happens. so if you do have somebody who has a commute, for example, if you have someone who drives to work and they drive the same way every day. We don’t need to see them do that every single day.

[00:11:27] Sharon Skinner: But the day that something happens during that drive, we do want to see. We want to be shown that. We don’t want to be told. She had a flat tire. We want to maybe see that because that might have some meaning, right? So if it has meaning, if there’s a point, we want to show it.

[00:11:46] Christy Yaros: So what if,my character is waking up in the morning, everything is normal as it is every day, but then mom says something that Is out of the ordinary we deal with that and now we’re going to school and everything on the way to school is normal and when I get into class is normal. What do I do with that kind of situation.

[00:12:05] Sharon Skinner: It depends, right? If everything’s normal on the walk to school, then I would probably cut that down really, really tight and either, or get rid of it and make that jump into school and say, after what mom said, I don’t even remember the walk to school, right? Or something that refers to the fact that okay we’ve had this walk to school we’ve we’ve traveled in time and space, and now I’m sitting in my seat or I get to school and the bell rings, but you don’t necessarily need it you can have that space break.

[00:12:41] Sharon Skinner: You can have, or you can have them thinking about it, you could certainly have the character mulling over what happened with mom to some extent, but You don’t want to prolong that.

[00:12:52] Christy Yaros: And I’ve seen, sometimes, where maybe something like that happens, and then the character does want to reflect on it and ruminate on it and they do that standing in place. And then they walk to school where let’s think about it while we walk to school like accomplishing two things at the same time and she needs to get to school and she can think about it because realistically, if you do reflect on something after it happens, you’re not going to stop and then walk to school and not be thinking about it like it’s still going to beon your mind as you’re walking.

[00:13:23] Sharon Skinner: Right. And you can use the walk to school as a contrasting setting for what’s going on with the character, because now nothing has changed externally, but everything has changed for the character, maybe because of what mom said, right? That is a really great way to use setting against the emotion of the character.

[00:13:46] Sharon Skinner: so you’re not going to have the characters standing there, you’re going to have them doing something. By the same token, this may not be a full on conversation with mom, this may be a single piece of dialogue, but dialogue also has to have meaning.

[00:14:01] Sharon Skinner: There has to be a reason for it to be there. It can’t just be, Hey, Tony. Hey, Bobby. How’s it going? I’m great. What are you doing? Oh, I’m just standing here. I mean, that does nothing for the story It doesn’t reveal character. It’s not telling it’s not showing us anything about the story at all.

[00:14:23] Sharon Skinner: So you want to make sure that your dialogue also has a point and that when you’re showing it in scene that it has meaning

[00:14:32] Christy Yaros: or if Bobby is going to stand there and say, I’m great, but he’s slamming the drawer. While he’s saying, I’m great. then you are showing us the contrast right that juxtaposition between the words that are coming out of your mouth, and how you’re feeling internally.

[00:14:48] Sharon Skinner: In that case, you’re actually making it right. means something. It means something because you’re showing the contrast of the character’s actual mood and what they’re saying. That not only tells us a lot about what’s going on in the scene, but it also reveals this person’s character.

[00:15:04] Sharon Skinner: This person’s angry, but they don’t want to talk about it. that’s a way to reveal who they are to us in that moment.

[00:15:10] Christy Yaros: I think we end up with, like pseudo details sometimes where it’s things we feel like we have to put in there because that’s what the reader wants to know everything that is happening, what everything looks like. But if I can take that out and the scene still moves forward and I still know what everything I need to know then you don’t need to keep those pseudo details in there like don’t tell me what color and especially me is or I’m gonna say me, especially as a reader. I don’t care what color the curtains are what color the walls are unless I need to notice that for later so the burden you’re putting on the reader by giving them too many details about things that makes them feel like they need to remember that and hold on to that later.

[00:15:59] Christy Yaros: Is a lot for you to keep track of as the writer to make sure that you then put that in later to make it make sense. And it’s a lot for the reader of like, wait a minute,

[00:16:08] Sharon Skinner: Yeah, that goes back to if you put a gun on the wall in the first act, it has to go off in the second act. that’s because people’s brains have noticed there’s a gun on the wall, there must be a purpose for it right so if you’re establishing all this information for the reader, then their brain is going to go okay, what’s going to happen with this and what’s going to happen with that and this has to show up again and if it doesn’t, they’re going to be like, wait, wait, what happened to the gun or the curtains that happened to be a weird color of mustard. You know, is it, are we not going to see that? Why, why did I remember that?

[00:16:39] Christy Yaros: we would notice that if we were watching TV or a movie where the camera is forcing our eye to notice things, right? If the camera, lingers on something for an extra second or zooms in on something or aims in a certain way, it’s telling us like, Hey, pay attention to this. And as writers, that’s the same thing that we’re doing. The more time we spend on something in our words, the more we’re telling the reader that they’re supposed to pay attention to that. And if it’s just for the purpose of trying to make it feel more vivid or make it feel more realistic or trying to show every second of time that passes, it’s just, it’s not necessary. And it might be hard to see in your own work.

[00:17:22] Sharon Skinner: I think a lot of times it’s hard to see in your own work, but it goes back to that whole, I wrote all these words because they were important to me. I mean, when I was writing Healer’s Legacy, I wrote this entire second chapter that, ended up on the cutting room floor and parts of chapter three on the cutting room floor.

[00:17:43] Sharon Skinner: And it was because I was writing my way into the story and getting to know my character. These were things I needed to know, but not that the reader didn’t need to know. It slowed down the story. It slowed down the pacing and some of it confusing because I was not doing a really good job of describing what was in my head.

[00:18:00] Sharon Skinner: but it took a while for me to realize I had to have a beta reader tell me. I’m confused here. Why are you telling me this? And it finally hit me that, oh, that was for me. That wasn’t for you.

[00:18:13] Christy Yaros: And, and I’ve seen writers who get worried about that, about cutting those things because then they’re afraid that they’ve taken out too much and the reader can no longer follow what’s happening. But I think that again with a beta reader or a trusted critique partner or a coach or something can tell you, Hey, this is the part where I was confused.

[00:18:34] Christy Yaros: And then you can just go back. And if you need to add another detail or two to make it make more sense. I don’t know. I feel like I would err more on the side of cutting than, than not.

[00:18:44] Sharon Skinner: And I think it’s important to the reader, you know, you need to trust your reader that they’re going to get it. Right. And as long as the information is there, they will be able to follow along as long as you ground them in the scene, give them enough information that they can get to the next scene and the next scene and the next scene as you go along.

[00:19:07] Sharon Skinner: So giving it to them when and as they need it. And however much of the information that they need is, it’s a kind of a tightrope that you’re walking. And a lot of times we do want to put in all this extra information because we don’t want them to misconstrue or miss the intent, but you got to trust your reader,

[00:19:29] Christy Yaros: I think that especially comes up because we’re talking about writing for younger readers. And as adults, we worry that maybe the child reader won’t be able to follow us, but you’re right. we have to trust them and if we’re giving them the right things in the right way and making sure that the stuff that we do tell them serves more than one purpose so that it has more meaning than they can follow along.

[00:19:51] Sharon Skinner: So when you talk about it serving more than one purpose, really what we’re talking about is that it drives the story along. It reveals character. It has a point. Everything that you put down, all the words on the page need to be lifting some kind of weight. They need to be carrying the story in some way, shape, or form. And that goes back to character lens and seeing through the characters eyes and what is important to that character in that moment, because yeah, sometimes in the movies you’ll see a couple of swordsmen and they’re having a sword fight and they’re swinging at each other and then they’re having this conversation at the same time.

[00:20:30] Sharon Skinner: Oh, that’s really good form. Well, I like your style. that’s not how people really fight because right now I’m swinging a sword and I’m keeping my breath and I’m kind of watching you and I’m trying to focus on what’s going on.

[00:20:43] Sharon Skinner: And the only kind of dialogue that I’m probably going to have with you is to say something to try and throw you off your game. We’re not going to have this long drawn out conversation. We’re not going to pause between swinging at each other to have a paragraph of dialogue between us. That’s got to keep the pace going.

[00:21:02] Sharon Skinner: You’ve got to keep the energy up. you’re having a sword fight, right? The other thing is, is that what are your characters paying attention to in that moment? Whether it’s a sword fight or that drive to work. If that drive to work is important, it’s because they must be seeing something along the way or experiencing something along the way that’s important.

[00:21:22] Christy Yaros: So let’s talk more about that, about character, perspective and how that informs us of what kind of details we should be including in a scene. And that is probably a little more difficult in that first draft, because you are still figuring out for yourself, right, exactly who that character is. So maybe you are putting more, like we’ve said you’re putting more on the page, because you needed to tell it to yourself.

[00:21:46] Christy Yaros: But then once you really have a good grasp of who your character is, and The way that they see the world you want to this is your chance through your descriptions to show us the world that your character sees. you and I can exist in this room together at the same time, but we exist in two different rooms because you see one room and I see a different one so I’m reading about Sharon, I want to know what Sharon notices, and that’s going to help me understand what kind of person Sharon is and Christy’s probably not noticing anything because she doesn’t.

[00:22:17] Sharon Skinner: but it also informs us as to not only what kind of a person Sharon is or who that character is, but how they’re feeling at the moment. Because everything we see and everything we experience is colored by our emotional lens as well. So, I always give this example when I’m teaching classes about this when I’m talking about character lens and setting.

[00:22:39] Sharon Skinner: And it’s this example of, I’m a collector. I have All kinds of collectibles. Lord of the Rings, my husband likes Godzilla. my living room is shelves of collectibles. And on a good day when Sharon goes out into the living room, I see my collectibles, they make me happy.

[00:22:59] Sharon Skinner: I see the Godzilla and the Mecca Godzilla and the Mecca Godzilla is wearing the finger puppet of Godzilla and mocking him. And it’s pretty funny, and it’s like it fills my soul. Because this is him in the world and it’s reflected back at me and the sun comes in the window and I’m a happy person, right?

[00:23:17] Sharon Skinner: And I like this. And these are the little details I’m looking at. On a bad day when I’m in a grumpy mood or a sour mood and I walk out into the living room. What am I going to see? I see all the stuff I have and the dust that’s on it because I hate to dust and it’s hard to dust all that stuff and the sun coming in through the window.

[00:23:36] Sharon Skinner: I can see the cat hair filtering in through that ray of sunlight. So it’s no longer a happy place for me. So not only does what I see, show you something about who I am as a character, but the emotional lens through which I’m seeing it and viewing it and the details that I’m focusing on as that character in that moment matter.

[00:24:00] Christy Yaros: Absolutely. And that reminds me of a, of an, of an also a real life example. My husband and I had gone to vote at our town hall for a budget And it was still kind of COVI-y and I wasn’t feeling well that day. And I had my mask on. And whenever I had my mask on, it just like brings me more into myself like I feel very claustrophobic. So we go in I’m just like, where do I go? What do I have to sign? How am I doing this? And get me the heck out of here, because I want to take this mask off. And we get outside and my husband’s like, Oh, did you see so and so and so and so and so and so is there?

[00:24:34] Christy Yaros: Like, I saw absolutely nothing. Like I saw, here’s where I stand. Here’s where I sign. How many people voted? Because I always check that when I’m leaving and that’s it. Whereas another time I would have noticed, like you said, I would have noticed all of the people who were there because I mean, you’re in your town you can’t go anywhere without seeing somebody.

[00:24:53] Sharon Skinner: Well, and also, also the other character in the room noticed something different than what you noticed. And that’s another thing that when we are in character perspective, when we’re in a specific viewpoint character, we want to focus on what they’re noticing. And if you need the other character to notice something different, you could put that in dialogue.

[00:25:18] Sharon Skinner: Hey, did you see so and so? No,I’m head down. I’m over here. I’m not paying attention to that. I have to be focused on this over here. And that’s a really good way to show who these people are without telling us a thing, really. It’s all about showing.

[00:25:35] Christy Yaros: Ask yourself, does this detail match what my character’s personality, their traits, their interests, their state of mind, if that’s something that they would notice, let us know. If it’s not, then the room can be full of many things, and if they don’t notice any of it, except that fly on the wall, then only tell us about the fly on the wall.

[00:25:56] Christy Yaros: And then also the emotion that’s being conveyed, if that’s not consistent with how that character is feeling right now, then don’t tell us. If it’s a very anxious moment,Maybe they’re talking really fast and they are saying a lot of words, but maybe they’re saying absolutely nothing.

[00:26:10] Sharon Skinner: Yeah. Yeah. That’s a great, that’s a great analogy right there. Great description. Yeah. I think that what happens is that as writers, especially visual writers, like I’m a pretty much a visual writer, so I’m seeing the scene when I write it. And most of my readers who are my ideal readers, they see it in their heads, like a movie when they read my work.

[00:26:36] Sharon Skinner: And that’s. Cool. I love that. That’s my whole point. That’s my purpose. That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m also working very hard as a writer to make the words disappear off the page so that experience becomes even more enhanced. So when I say make the words disappear off the page, I don’t mean that I’m a sparse writer necessarily.

[00:26:54] Sharon Skinner: I do write setting. I do write dialogue. I write action, but I try to do it in a way that makes it happen in the reader’s head.So I definitely want to make sure that I’m not overburdening them with too much detail at any given moment, unless that’s what is going to be noticed by the character.

[00:27:17] Sharon Skinner: I talk about it as glimpses and focus. So If you’re running from the monster, you’re only getting glimpses of the scenery, right? There’s only certain things that you’re probably going to notice. But if you are slowed down just walking through the alley, you’re probably going to notice everything, especially on a dark night, because you’re paying attention to everything, every shadow, every little thing.

[00:27:38] Sharon Skinner: As soon as the monster starts chasing you, your vision gets a little bit narrowed, and you’re focusing on, what are the things that are going to save me? What are the things that are going to kill me? Right?

[00:27:49] Christy Yaros: But that also is how you’re controlling the pacing of the scene, right? Those glimpses speeds up that scene, and it heightens the tension for us. The casual stroll down the alley, looking at everything, slows down time. And, and you’re giving us more where we have to notice those. That takes time.

[00:28:09] Sharon Skinner: But you can still keep the tension lifted because sometimes when you want to raise tension and suspense, you do it by slowing things down and that anticipation and that worry and all of that can increase, right? So that’s a really good way to make sure that tension is raised until the monster comes and and then the adrenaline ramps up and now we’re on a chase and we can really, really make it exciting.

[00:28:39] Christy Yaros: So speaking of, holding tension in a scene, have you noticed When a writer is building a scene and we’ve got tension and then all of a sudden, they’re thinking about something that takes up a lot of space or they’re flashing back to something and how that can break the tension sometimes unintentionally because you’ve pulled the reader out.

[00:29:01] Sharon Skinner: Yeah, you never want to pull the reader out of your story completely. there are ways to do flashbacks and ways to do thoughts and interiority. But you can also express The interiority or the emotion of the character, just by the nuance of the word choices that you’re making. there’s a very big difference between me looking out the window at somebody spinning in the rain, thinking, what a fool, that person is. And looking out there going, Oh, that person’s dancing in the rain. I want to go join them. So look at that amazing dancer in the rain. It’s lovely versus look at that fool flopping around in the rain. I mean, just the change in the words that I’m using to describe them shows you a very big difference between the two. So you don’t even have to get all that much inside their brains. Well, in YA, I think we get a lot more up in the brain and the thinking and the worry and all of that than we do in some other category, but still there are ways to show it. You don’t necessarily have to tell us.

[00:30:14] Christy Yaros: And speaking of interiority, I think that’s another place you might not be that writer that uses a lot of description about setting, but you do linger in your character’s head maybe for a long time. And, I’m going to forget who it was that said this at a workshop, but I try and get my writers to look at it in real time.

[00:30:35] Christy Yaros: If you say a sentence to me and I don’t even react to you and now I’m just in my head, unless you’re gonna call me out on me zoning out and not responding to you, like, how much can happen from moment to moment before the reader even forgets what was happening before you started your inner monologue there forever.

[00:30:56] Sharon Skinner: Yeah, it’s true. Again, it’s a tightrope. It’s a balancing act. You have to figure out what you need to put in and what you need to leave out in order to ensure that the reader is engaged, that things are accessible, that they’re getting the information they need as they need it when they need it, that They’re not being bogged down by too much detail.

[00:31:18] Sharon Skinner: I know it’s a lot to, to think about, but when you’re in revision, this is the time to think about it. This is the time to decide what details to leave in, how to manage your pacing, how to keep your conflict up, what dialogue is important, and how to nuance your language to make sure that it is also holding up the theme and the mood and the tonality of your work, or that scene at least.

[00:31:47] Christy Yaros: And that’s not necessarily one, something that you can do from the beginning as a writer that it comes with experience. And the more that you know how to write, the better you can do these things off the bat and two not all in one pass. This might take multiple revisions of I’m just going to go through this and I’m going to worry about what emotions I have on the page.

[00:32:09] Christy Yaros: Do I have too much of this?

[00:32:11] Christy Yaros: So when I was copy editing, and I know you’ve done this in the past too, I didn’t do the whole thing in one shot. I would look through a whole, like, I’m only looking for this one thing.

[00:32:19] Christy Yaros: And it go through the whole thing, looking for that one thing. Now I’m going to only do this thing and go through. And that’s how you make sure that one, you’re being consistent. If you are making changes and that you’re catching all of those things, we can only focus on so many things at a time. So this isn’t even a, Oh, I should be able to do this off the bat, something’s wrong with me. No, it’s, it’s going to take some time. And here’s a tip, that a few of my writers have brought to me recently in my group is apparently word has gotten a lot better with this, with the sound of the robot voice, but having like Microsoft Word read you your story, I mean, we should all read things aloud to hear how they are, but maybe you don’t want to read your whole novel aloud, but listening to it, having something read it to you, you really Start to notice where you’re repetitive, or you know what, make a podcast and edit yourself and see how many times you say, um, like, so, right.

[00:33:17] Sharon Skinner: Well, that’s the reason that I tell my writers all the time, get rid of these dialogue tags as much as you possibly can. And. It’s because, yes, they say tend to disappear on the page, but when you listen to an audio book, and everybody is said-ing stuff, she said, he said, he said, she said, it starts to stand out, just like, um, um, or, you know, or like, it starts to stand out in the brain because we keep hearing it repetitively over and over.

[00:33:46] Sharon Skinner: And so I recommend my writers think about, can you cut that and. Give us an action tag so that we know who’s speaking without having to say, they said, they said, they said. So that once your book’s an audiobook, we don’t have to worry about hearing that over and over and over. It’ll be better on the reader or listener’s ear.

[00:34:12] Christy Yaros: Yeah, and especially with kids books. I mean, you want your book to be a read want someone to be able to listen to your story over and over again, but there’s, just like anything, many ways to do things and, I think these are just some things that we do notice coming up often in the writers that we work with.

[00:34:34] Christy Yaros: And we’ve done it ourselves. We’ll continue to do it ourselves in our first draft. It’s not, I don’t think something that, you necessarily master and then aren’t going to do the next time you sit down to write a book. It’s always going to be a balancing act.

[00:34:48] Sharon Skinner: Oh yeah, I think of dialogue tags in a first, draft or an early draft as placeholders for something later, I don’t worry about them when I’m drafting, because I know that writing is rewriting, I’m going to revise this thing anyway. So, I want the story to flow I want to keep getting it out on the page so that I do have something to revise.

[00:35:09] Sharon Skinner: So, we’re not saying. You have to know all this and do all this ahead of time. What we are saying though, is the more that you do this with the work that you do and the revisions that you do with your stories, the actual more it will get inside your head and the less of this kind of revising that will be required later on.

[00:35:33] Sharon Skinner: The more you do this, the better you get at it. And it actually will improve your drafting as well. It doesn’t mean we still don’t do it. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have placeholders for all kinds of stuff in my right writing in my early drafts, but it does mean that I have less of that than I had 5-10 years ago when I was writing earlier.

[00:35:52] Christy Yaros: And I think all of us have different things too, you know I’m not a huge description person, but I am a huge interiority person. So I will have a lot of rambling in my character’s heads without necessarily describing the things around them. And maybe other writers don’t do any of that. And all they do is the description and that’s something that they have to, take out these and add this in, in the revision.

[00:36:16] Sharon Skinner: Yeah, and we have our favorite actions and we have our favorite things that we use. But again, Let’s become placeholders for better stuff later.

[00:36:26] Christy Yaros: So Sharon, if you had to give our listeners an action item around this topic. What would you suggest?

[00:36:34] Sharon Skinner: Well, I’m going to recommend a book this time, and the book that I’m going to recommend is called Showing and Telling: Learn How to Show and When to Tell for Powerful and Balanced Writing by Laurie Alberts. This is a nice craft writing book that will help you to figure out when to use scene and when to summarize, because basically that’s showing and telling that’s what it is scene and summary, which is what we’ve been talking about today. So this is a solid craft book.

Christy Yaros: That is a great one. Great choice. I’m gonna bounce off of something that you said earlier, and suggest that maybe you think about a few of the big emotions that your character is going to have in the story and Describe a setting, maybe their bedroom, what does their bedroom look like when they come in happy, what does their bedroom look like when they come in angry or sad or tired or distracted, and try and write it a couple of times and see what different details you notice that you mentioned and then how can you use those, especially in a setting That comes up a few times in your story. how can you reveal more to us each time you bring us into that room based on what’s happening with the character?

[00:37:53] Christy Yaros: So thank you so much, everybody, for being with us here today. And we hope that we will, well, we won’t know, but we hope you’ll listen to us next month.

[00:38:02] Sharon Skinner: Bye.

[00:38:04] Christy Yaros: Bye.


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For more information about Sharon Skinner, visit or follow her on Instagram @sharon_skinner_author_bookcoach and Twitter @SharonSkinner56.

For more information about Christy Yaros, visit or follow her on Instagram and Twitter @ChristyYaros.


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