I recently realized in my “real job” that I need to write something up in detail before I write a summary of it. Even though in the recent case in point I knew all I was going to eventually need was the summary, I needed to go through the exercise of thinking through the whole thing.
To some extent, I have always done some version of that. For example, in five paragraph essays for school (back in the day), I liked to write the three body paragraphs to figure out what I was doing and *then* write the introduction/conclusion. I’ve done that for technical papers at work as well.
So it shouldn’t have surprised me when I realized I needed to do that in my stories, too. Having drunk from the “show don’t tell” Kool-Aid, I tend to try to describe step-by-step action to try to capture the visuals that I am seeing in my head. Unfortunately, this can generate some really, well, *boring* prose. Yes, seeing an acrobatic troupe build a human pyramid is cool, but describing each jump and flip to make it? Not so much.
So in the current short project, 173 visually awesome but boring-as-showing words have now been summarized in 23 action-packed narrative summary words. Much better.
I always thought the “show don’t tell” rule is over-used, I suspect both because, frankly, so many authors do get carried away and just assert things, but also because once you agree that “showing” is better than “telling”, you can point out that pretty much any piece of prose could have tilted more toward “showing” (unless you’re reading Dashiell Hammett).