PublishHER Podcast Episode 116: Writing Tip: Showing vs. Telling with Sara Letourneau

PublishHER Podcast Episode 116: Writing Tip: Showing vs. Telling with Sara Letourneau

Alexa Bigwarfe interviews Sara Letourneau of Heart of the Story on this episode of the PublishHer Podcast, where they discuss a key writing tip; showing vs. telling in your writing and when it's appropriate to use one over the other.

Sara Letourneau is the book editor, writing coach, and workshop instructor at Heart of the Story Editorial & Coaching Services. She works with authors and writers to help them develop the skills, knowledge, and confidence they need so they can finish their manuscripts, polish them for publication, and stay focused and motivated as they reach for their writing goals and embrace their creativity. Sara is also an award-winning poet and the cofounder of the Pour Me a Poem open mic in Mansfield, Massachusetts. Her debut poetry collection, Wild Gardens, will be published by Kelsay Books in 2024.

Showing is all about description. It's a way of writing that allows the reader to experience what is happening in the story and to help them feel immersed in the scene. – Sara Letourneau

In this episode, we discuss:

    • Sara's upcoming poetry collection Wild Gardens, which is coming out through Kelsay Books in 2024
    • Sara's take on a key writing tip: “show, don’t tell”. She shares why it's important to use both showing vs. telling in your writing and when it's appropriate to use one over the other.
    • Her work as a book coach and editor
    • Get her special offer for our Women in Publishing Summit Community

The Art of Showing vs. Telling

Join writing coach Sara Letourneau as she guides writers through the art of showing vs. telling, weaving sensory details and immersive action to balance pacing and engage readers in this compelling exploration of storytelling techniques and valuable writing tip.

Key Takeaways

  • Writing Tip: Showing vs. Telling to Elevate Your Writing Craft
  • Achieve Balance and Depth in Your Writing Through Skillful Showing and Telling
  • Immerse Readers with Vivid Sensory Details for Enhanced Storytelling
  • Maintain Engaging Pacing in Your Narratives by Using Showing and Telling
  • Hone Your Storytelling Skills with Expert Tips on Showing and Telling Incorporation

Memorable Moments:

00:04:49 – Writing Tip; Showing vs. Telling in Writing
Sara explains the concept of showing versus telling in writing, emphasizing the importance of description, sensory details, and character dialogue. She provides examples of how to incorporate showing in different settings and character interactions.

00:10:07 – Challenges of Showing in Writing
Alexa discusses her struggles with transitioning from nonfiction writing to fiction writing and the difficulty of incorporating emotions and details into scenes. Sara offers tips for identifying and addressing the challenges of showing in writing.

00:14:58 – Emotions and Actions in Writing
Sara highlights the importance of portraying characters' emotions through their actions and dialogue. She emphasizes the impact of characters' feelings on their observations and interactions in different settings.

00:16:35 – The importance of showing versus telling in storytelling
Sara discusses the significance of incorporating actions and emotions to bring characters to life, emphasizing the need to practice showing rather than telling in writing.

00:18:21 – Balancing showing and telling in the writing process
Sara advises not to worry about balancing showing and telling during the first draft, but rather focus on identifying areas for improvement during the revision process using specific exercises.

00:19:35 – Instances when telling is the best option in writing
Sara explains that telling is suitable for sharing background information, events happening off the page, and when excessive detail affects pacing and reader engagement in the story.

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When One Thing Leads to Another

When One Thing Leads to Another

As a newer author, some days it feels overwhelming to think about the ever-growing to-do list. With all
the marketing, business, administration, and other to-dos, when do we find time to WRITE?

Sometimes just thinking about my to-do list makes me feel queasy and like I need to lie down for a nap.
And when opportunity knocks on those days, it’s tempting to say no. But sometimes, you just have to
say YES!

Back in June, I was hustling to complete book 4 in my sweet romance series. And on top of that, I had
the joy of hosting my eleven-year-old great-niece as she attended a creative writing camp. Things were
extra busy.

Shortly before this, my hometown library asked if they could create some Facebook posts about my
books. Of course, I said yes – that didn’t require any effort on my part, and it was great exposure.

Well, a local newspaper saw that post and reached out to ask if I would write an article for the paper
about myself and my books. (It’s a small town, y’all!) I knew this was a great idea, but (gulp!) write an
article for the newspaper? About myself? Did I mention I’m an overthinker?

After a few minutes of debating, I said yes. And added a task to the growing to-do list. I wasn’t given a
hard due date, so…procrastination set in.

While my great-niece was in her day camp, I found a nearby library and hung out while I waited to pick
her up. Without a Wi-Fi password I was able to FOCUS. I wrote the article.

They published it the week of July 4th and I was thrilled. I was hoping that maybe a book club would see
it and invite me for a chat (that hasn’t happened – yet). Seeing the domino effect of the FB post leading
to the newspaper article, I was hoping that one more domino would fall.

And it did!

About a week after the article, I was contacted by the organizer of an author fair at a local winery. It
would be their first author fair. Again, I said yes!

That author fair was in early October and being the first, it was modest. There were 12 authors and one
indie bookshop in attendance. By my unscientific count, there were between 200 and 300 guests over
two days. Six of those were my family members. Thanks, Fam!

Not a huge crowd, but well worth it. I sold 49 books! And I put an informational postcard into every
person’s hand that got close enough to me. I’ve seen several newsletter sign-ups from these postcards!
(The postcard had a call to action – sign up for my newsletter to get a free novella – and the book cover
and tag line for each novel).

I met a couple of authors in my genre at the fair and am working on some newsletter swaps with them,
as well.

I’m still waiting for a book club invite from this chain of dominos and I’ll keep reminding the universe of
that request.

By the way, this blog post request was part of that domino chain, too.

So, say “YES!” to the next request that you get and see where the universe takes you!

Kasey Kennedy loves reading books and writing the stories in her head. She has a B.A. in English from Southern Illinois University; is a member of the Chicago Writers Association; Chicago North Romance Writers Association; and a 2021 participant in StoryStudio Chicago’s Novel in a Year program. Learn more at
How To Make a Publisher Sit Up and Take Notice

How To Make a Publisher Sit Up and Take Notice

How to Make a Publisher Sit Up and Take Notice

Small, independent publishing companies have been increasing in popularity and visibility over the past few years. It’s an exciting time for new authors, who previously had not been able to find a publisher for their work. Indie publishers tend to offer more control to the author, and the royalties are typically larger. It’s a great time to tell your story, and make it available to the whole world.

That’s why I love being a publisher. My goal is to help mothers make their stories available for millions of people to read. 

“Mothers?” you may be wondering. “Why just mothers? Shouldn’t you be helping everyone publish their books?”

Not necessarily. As a publisher, it’s important that I have a focus and not spread myself, or my company, too thin. I know what’s important to me, and who I want to help the most. Having spent quite a few years as a single mother, I particularly enjoy working with other single moms. We have some incredible stories, and invaluable advice.

However, I don’t agree to publish every book by every author that comes across my desk. Even if it was written by a lovely single mom whom I’ve known for a long time, there are still certain criteria I look for that will make a book more publishable.

A book that I agree to publish needs to have a good story, flow well, and be well written. The following advice will help you achieve those goals.


Complete Manuscript vs. Idea

Some authors have been working on their book for years. So, by the time they approach a prospective publisher they have the complete work ready to go. This is great, but it’s also fine if an author simply approaches a publisher with an idea. 

You may have the entire idea for your book in your head, complete from start to finish. Even though you know exactly what will happen to each character, you need to be able to convey this to a publisher. 

You’ll need to provide them with one or two complete chapters, so the publisher can have an idea of your writing style. Make sure these chapters are detailed, the characters are well developed, and the scenes are set properly. You don’t want anyone wondering how old the main character is, or what she looks like. 

Make sure these sample chapters are very well-edited. You don’t want to use a period where a question mark should be. God forbid you write the word “too” when you meant to write “to.” Sure, spell-check will catch many misspellings, but it won’t catch the correct spelling of the wrong word.

A publisher will also want to see a chapter-by-chapter outline of your proposed work. Again, this is all about getting your amazing book from inside your head to a publisher’s desk. I’ve spoken with many authors who state that they prefer to write freely, without creating an outline first. But a publisher needs to have a solid understanding of your book before they decide to work with you. 


Like 99% of writers, you’re most likely writing your novel using a laptop. You probably believe that reading your work directly on the screen is just fine. I’m sorry to say that it’s not. 

If you plan to submit an entire manuscript to a publisher it is vital that before you do, you print the entire thing and read it cover to cover. Many authors I’ve spoken to think this step is unnecessary. Take my word – it is vital. 

When you’re reading your work on a screen it’s very easy to miss errors, or even phrases that just sound awkward. You are much more likely to notice these inconsistencies in a hard copy of your book. Then, you can make notes or highlight passages that you can improve. 

You might also that you already know your book inside and out. After all, you’re the one who wrote it! Again, when you pick up that print-out and read it from the first word all the way through to the last, you will notice things that you never noticed previously.

So before you send your manuscript to the publisher, make sure you complete this important step.



You might think that since you want to work with a publisher, you don’t need to market your book. They will take care of all the sales and marketing. I’m afraid to say, that isn’t true! No matter who you work with to bring your book to life, you, the author, will be expected to do a lot of work to get the word out about your book.

A good publisher should certainly help you, so keep that in mind when you’re talking to different publishers. 

But even before your book is complete and you start searching for the perfect fit with a publisher, you should be working on your author platform. Build a website. Learn how to best use all forms of social media. Build your e-mail list. 

Follow these guidelines, and then find the publisher that is the perfect fit for you. 


Diane Windsor Diane Windsor is the owner of Motina Books, an independent publisher in the Dallas area. She’s always loved books, and spent many late nights in high school scaring herself to death reading Stephen King novels. Diane founded Motina Books to help moms tell their stories, both fiction and non-fiction. There’s a special place in her heart for single moms. Diane lives in Allen, Texas with her husband and two Boxers. When she’s not writing, editing, or formatting, she’s probably baking sourdough bread – her latest addiction!


Be sure to catch Diane on the Publisher's Panel  on Day 3 of the 2020 Women in Publishing Summit.

Register for the Women in Publishing Summit Today!


(Mostly Undiscussed) Advice for Beginning Writers

(Mostly Undiscussed) Advice for Beginning Writers

Reposted with permission from Eva Natiello. At the 2019 Women in Publishing Summit, Eva spoke on Day 1, on going from rejection to making the New York Times Best-Seller List. Her presentation was one of our most popular, and she fielded quite a few questions from summit attendees. Thank you, Eva, for being so generous with your knowledge! 


One of the great joys of speaking at a writer’s conference  is meeting new authors. Many are starting their writing career, and they’re often seeking advice. While I’m certainly no expert, I seem to have a firsthand grasp of the pitfalls. From my experience, this is my advice.

On How To Start:

If you haven’t started writing your book yet, the best advice I have is: act before you think. Honestly. Dive in, and don’t think about it until later—at least until you’ve written a chunk of it. “Thinking” has often been the lethal gas which has slowly killed many a manuscript. It’s easy to do too much planning, to get lost in the thinking and outlining and researching or be so worried about where to start the story, you never do. Many would-be authors have been mired in this stage for so long they become reticent to the writing itself. Consider outlining and research for future books, but for this one, just start writing. You can only learn to write a book by writing a book, so jump in. You’ve probably heard this a million times, but don’t be afraid to write crap. Just keep going. There will be plenty of opportunities to edit, but you can’t edit something you haven’t written.

On Seeking Feedback:

In the early stages of writing your first book, it might be a good idea to make it your secret project, at least for the time being. You don’t need to share it with anyone at the beginning. At this stage, you are writing for you, figuring things out. Feedback too soon can shrink a writer’s confidence, especially if the feedback is not coming from the “right” people to give feedback. Keep writing until something makes you smile (if you’re like me, this may take a while!). Once you get to that stage, hopefully, you’ll get to this stage: “I think I’ve got something here!” This stage is like a drug. Hold onto this feeling and keep writing until your draft is finished. Premature editing on a first book can be the second “lethal gas that has slowly killed a manuscript.” You don’t want to get so frustrated by reading “crappy” writing that you give up. Don’t forget, the more you write, the better you get! Keep going.

On The Highs and Lows of Productivity:

Writing a full-length novel takes a long time. Your moods will be high and low and everything in between. At times the writing will be very hard, and at times it will be less (very) hard. It’s difficult to stay motivated and enthusiastic for your writing project, so if you have that now, ride it for all it’s worth. Write as much as you can during the “motivated and enthusiastic” stage. When you feel like you’re slipping out of this stage, and hitting a wall, read back the best thing you’ve written. It can be a chapter, or a page or a paragraph. Pick your favorite. Read it to yourself and sit in the glow of that wonderful writing. Remind yourself who wrote it. If you can write a great paragraph, then you can write a bunch more. 

On The Most Important Goal:

Your most important goal is to finish the manuscript. I know this sounds pretty needless-to-say. But, I think it needs to be said. And to be remembered, even on the tough days. Especially on the tough days. No matter what, finish it. It will feel so damn good! No matter what condition it’s in, you will feel an unbelievable sense of accomplishment. With a first draft completed, you can then dig in and edit, for however long it takes until it shines. I, personally, write in re-writes. That’s when the real writing takes place for me. I always like to say, no one writes their final draft first.

On The Best Writer’s Process:

Many writers ask, “What’s your process? Do you write longhand or on a device? Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished? Do you write everyday, in the morning, at night, on a full stomach, in pajamas, after coffee? There’s only one foolproof process. That is: the one that works for you. Try them all, and stick to the one that’s productive.

On Writing Community:

Once you’ve written a chunk of the book, join a writers group. It will keep you sane and plugged-in to other like-minded people. They will become a source of inspiration and support. Attend a writer’s conference or workshop for craft—not the kind where you meet agents/editors and learn about the business (you can do that later), but instead the kind where you write, learn and share your work.

Side note:

I’d wait until you’ve written a solid amount of the book before attending a conference/workshop. It’s easy (and possible) to feel insecure when you’re new. Some burgeoning writers struggle with when/if they’re “allowed” to “call themselves a writer.” They wonder if they have “a right to be there” or if others will think they’re not a “real writer.” Because, “what have they even produced” at this point? All those thoughts swirled through my head when I attended my first conference. I thought, “What am I doing here? I shouldn’t have come.” But, alas, after a glass of wine and the excitement (and realization of the opportunity) settled in, I became slightly less insecure. Somewhere halfway through, I realized the attendees, no matter their stage, were all seeking something different from the conference. I concentrated on what I was seeking, and focused on that, and in the end it was an important and formative experience. Remember: all writers start with a blank page.

On Protecting the Writer’s Ego:

I suppose there are “ego risks” around every corner. And while we all want to protect our fragile writing egos, we can’t and shouldn’t protect ourselves against them all, because if we don’t face the risks, we rob ourselves of formative experiences. (I should print that out and hang it over my desk.) Be brave and be bold! (I’m gonna hang that one up, too.)


On Learning Craft:

Never stop learning to be a better writer. At every stage of your writing career, study craft, and read all types of books. When I wrote my first book, I didn’t even know I was writing a book. I just had an idea that propelled me to my computer every waking moment until I was about six chapters in. Then I thought I should figure out what it was. I took a fiction writing class for a semester, and have never stopped learning since. The professor became a champion of my book, and the class gave me what I needed—both tangibly and emotionally—to see the project through.  
You will experience this, too. People along the way will jump on your *writing train* and cheer you on. They’ll buoy you and your project and shape your journey. You’ll need these people—don’t ever turn them away.
Even if they won’t stop asking: “How’s the book coming along?”
Eva Natiello

Eva Natiello

Author and Coach

Eva Lesko Natiello is the award-winning author of New York Times and USA Today bestseller, THE MEMORY BOX, her debut psychological thriller. Eva draws on her 20+ years of experience in PR, marketing and branding to coach authors on self-publishing and book marketing. She is the creator and facilitator of Self-Publish Like a Pro and Find Your Readers Book Marketing Workshops. You can catch her speaking at writers’ conferences or read her articles on self-publishing and book marketing in the Huffington Post. She is thrilled to empower authors to be successful, dynamic authorpreneurs, while helping them to create greater visibility for their books. Eva is currently working on her next thriller.

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