Active Voice Vs. Passive Voice

active-passive.jpgWhen you write, you want to use the active voice. It’s clean, concise, and simple. The active voice is easy to read and understand.

Subject + Verb

  • Susie sang.
  • Michael ate.
  • Jeffery kicked.

Subject + Verb + Direct Object

  • Susie sang songs.
  • Michael ate soup.
  • Jeffery kicked cans.

These examples are basic, and can be embellished with adjectives, adverbs, modifiers, etc. to dress them up, but the Subject/Verb order should remain the same.

95% of your sentences should be written in the active voice. You want the doer/subject at the beginning of the sentence.

When you use the passive voice in writing, you have to introduce new parts of speech just to make the sentence mean the same as it would in active voice. The result is a wordy sentence that makes you wait to find out who the subject is.

Direct Object + Dead Verb + Participle form of Verb + optional Preposition + optional Subject.

The winner was written on the community board by Carol. (Passive)

Carol wrote the winner on the community board. (Active)

As you can see, passive voice is not simply a reversal of active voice. It has additions, and I haven’t discussed the fact that many passive sentences are incomplete.

The message was sent.

So the above sentence is grammatically correct, but it’s missing information. Who sent the message, and to whom was it sent?

Why would anybody use the passive voice? Well it comes in handy if you’re a businessman or politician. It allows you to avoid responsibility.

  • Your position has been eliminated. vs. I eliminated your position.
  • Your taxes will be raised. vs. I will raise your taxes.

When you’re writing a novel, you’re not trying to avoid responsibility. You’re trying to draw your reader into an exciting adventure that keeps them turning pages until the very end.

Keep your sentences active. Something to think about ūüôā

-Jan R

 

 

 

 

Active Voice Vs. Passive Voice

Dead Verbs Don’t Move

imagesWhen you are writing a novel, you want to use concrete, everyday verbs. Examples of these are jump, smile, run, look, show, and eat. You can picture the actions in your head and there is no ambiguity.

He ran down the street and jumped over the fence.

Replace weak or dead verbs with concrete verbs as often as possible. I say as often as possible, because there will be rare occasions when the weak or dead verbs are necessary.

Weak verbs usually end in ‘ate’ or ‘ize’. You know the ones. Some examples are finalize, incorporate, anticipate, categorize. They leave a vague sense of action without spelling it out. As a reader you have to reach for it, and these verbs can really way down your sentence.

The bookkeeper utilized her expertise to manipulate the numbers.

Dead verbs don’t evoke movement or images. They stop the action. They allow us to generalize instead of provide the details necessary to picture what is going on. They tell us what’s happening when we want to see. Examples of dead verbs are was, is, were, are, could, had. I think you get the picture.

Cassandra was angry.

Cassandra picked up the flower vase and threw it into the wall. She stomped across the room, slamming the door as she left.

Something to think about. I hope this helped.

-Jan R

 

Dead Verbs Don’t Move

The Hemingway Editor App-What do you think?

hemingwayappHave you heard of the Hemingway Editor App? If you’ve been writing for a while, you know about¬† grammarly and autocrit.¬† Both of these Apps focus on grammar and spelling. Hemingway takes it a step further. The App highlights lengthy, complex sentences and common errors; if you see a yellow sentence, shorten or split it. If you see a red highlight, your sentence is so dense and complicated that your readers will get lost trying to follow its meandering, splitting logic ‚ÄĒ try editing this sentence to remove the red.
You can utilize a shorter word in place of a purple one. Mouse over them for hints.
Adverbs and weakening phrases are helpfully shown in blue. Get rid of them and pick words with force, perhaps.
Phrases in green have been marked to show passive voice.
The Hemingway Editor App is like having your own personal editor on call.
Many of you may be familiar with this App, and if you are, I apologize, but I get excited when I run into something new that actually helps me with my writing, and I like to share tips that could be helpful to my readers.
The App isn’t free. It costs $19.99, but I think it’s worth it.
I’ve written numerous blogs on writing clear, concise sentences, and making every word count, but this is the first tool I’ve found that helps identify problem sentences.
When using Hemingway, don’t check your brain in at the door. The program will help improve your writing, but you are ultimately responsible for how your work turns out.
So what do you think? Have you tried the App?
-Jan R
The Hemingway Editor App-What do you think?

Write What You Mean

DanglingModifier.jpgAre you writing what you meant to write? Is your prose concise, and easy to understand? You may have one thing in mind when you write that sentence, only to discover it’s ambiguous, misleading, and sometimes quite humorous.

Dangling modifier- When a sentence¬† isn’t clear about what’s being modified it dangles. Keep in mind modifiers should be near what they modify. These are probably my favorite messed up sentences. While I hope I haven’t written or submitted any for publishing, I’m sure I’ve dangled a few in my time. They are confusing, but on the bright side, very funny.

The company’s refrigerator held microwavable lunches for 18 employees frozen in the top compartment.

Misplaced modifier- A phrase or clause placed awkwardly in a sentence so that it appears to modify or refer to an unintended word.

Lex called to talk about the meeting yesterday. Did Lex call yesterday or was the meeting yesterday? I’m confused.

¬†Ambiguous writing– It’s not spelled out. You didn’t provide enough information for your reader to understand what you’re trying to say. Ambiguous writing can leave your reader more confused than a misplaced modifier .

My older students know I say what I mean.

Are the student’s older in age or have they just been in his class a lot longer? It could mean either of the two.

Make sure you are saying what you mean. Be concise. Just something to think about.

-Jan R

 

 

Write What You Mean

So You’re Afraid of Failure-Deal With It!

courage-quoteSo you’re afraid you might fail. Truth is, you might stumble the first try, the second try, and maybe even the third try, but that’s part of the learning process. If you’re constantly¬†looking over your shoulder, you may not finish your novel. You’ll be too¬†busy battling the thoughts of it not being good enough.

No one wants to be humiliated or rejected. Your inner critic will paralyze you by telling you just how bad your manuscript really is (even if it’s not) .¬† This is an obstacle that I’ve had to overcome. It hasn’t gone away, I’ve just learned to deal with it.

I remember doing a Bible study on the battlefield of the mind. Though it’s primary purpose was dealing with spiritual warfare, it also related to many of the¬†issues that we deal with in our everyday lives. Our mind is a battlefield. In writing for example, all of us worry about looking dumb and never getting published. Fiction writers make a business out of being scared, and¬†not just¬†looking dumb.

It took me six months from the time I started writing my novel, to tell my husband what I was doing. When I finally told him, I was a mess.¬†I knew he would be excited for me and encourage me in my endeavor, and I didn’t want to let him down.

For the longest time I treated my novel as a hobby. That’s not a mindset that will get you published. When I finished and sent it out to the first few agents, I was more than a little anxious. The first few rejections confirmed my beliefs. I just wasn’t good enough.

Note that I said I wasn’t good enough.¬†Well that’s not exactly true.¬†The truth is the¬†novel wasn’t good enough. The fact is, it was filled with grammatical and structural errors, there was some serious head hopping going on, and my dragging dialogue was all but bringing the story to a complete halt. If you are not familiar with these terms, you should be. Go back and read the posts I have written addressing them, or do a google search.

I don’t know that the inner critic will ever go away. So how do you combat it? You keep moving forward and growing in your craft. Don’t stop writing. I still question my novel, but I know, that I know, that I know, that it’s a lot better than it was¬†after the first draft. I’ve learned the hard way and hope to help you avoid some of my pit falls.

-Jan R

So You’re Afraid of Failure-Deal With It!

Do Your Homework!

imagesDoes your manuscript have to be perfect?¬† If you’ve already written a best seller, your agent and editor may cut you some slack. If not, yes, that book better be pretty darn near¬† perfect, or nobody is going to look at it.¬† Agents receive hundreds of queries a week. They don’t have time to read everyone. ¬†If your work is full of grammatical and structural errors, that’s all the excuse they need to toss it to the side and move on to the next one.

I sent my first manuscript out to five different agents.  I was very excited and a little anxious to hear what they had to say.  I expected some rejections but not all.  I had put  over a year into that novel.  It was my baby.

Well, two didn’t respond at all, one said no thanks, and another said it wasn’t what they were looking for. The fifth one responded with a rejection, but also included a why. There were numerous grammatical and structural errors, I was head hopping, and the dialogue dragged.

While I was disappointed, I did take her advice to heart and began the process of editing and correcting structural and grammatical errors.¬† I was one of those people that fell for the myth that it didn’t have to be perfect, they have editors to clean that up for you.

I also took on-line courses on writing dialogue that moves your story forward. I had never really thought about dialogue moving a story forward, but I see it now, and have a pretty good understanding of what the on-line instructors were trying to get across.

As far as the POV goes, I never heard¬† of ‘head hopping’.¬† I went to google and typed it in. It’s not a hard concept to grasp, but it can be tricky at times and sneak in when you least expect it ūüôā

Truth be known, I was ashamed of myself for sending such poor work to an agent. ¬†I never realized how bad it was until I began the arduous process of editing and revising. I definitely didn’t make a good first impression.

Do your homework. When you’re writing your first novel, there is so much you don’t know. You’ll figure that out along the way. It’s a lot more complicated than just putting pen to paper. And you probably thought anybody could do it.¬†

I hope my blogs help you to avoid some of the mistakes that I have made.

-Jan R

Do Your Homework!

Outline?

Organize-Your-ThoughtsWhen you write, do you have an outline? Do you know where you’re going, or do you wander aimlessly? Maybe you do a little of both.

I don’t use a formal outline that follows each step in detail, but I do use a story arc that pinpoints the beginning, some detours I intend to make along the way, and the end. I allow flexibility, to incorporate new ideas that arise during the writing process.

However, it is possible to allow too much flexibility. In my case, I allowed one of the main characters to take charge. My story went to places that it should have never ventured. As crazy as that sounds, it happens. You start writing and you find that instead of your character following you, you are following your character.

It’s fun and exciting at first, until you find yourself backed into a corner. That’s when you realize how far off track you’ve gone, and it’s usually too late to reign the story in. You end up having to cut through the path your character took and realign it with the rest of the story.

If I had had a more structured outline, and thought things through a little more, I could have avoided a huge headache and a lot of extra work.

An outline helps keep you focused. When you have an outline (and stick to it) you won’t be as tempted to go off on a tangent, or allow your characters to steal the show, as in my case. This doesn’t mean you will NEVER deviate or come up with great new ideas. But if the outline is there, you can see how these new ideas fit into your original intention.

So what do you do? Do you have an outline or do you wander aimlessly?

-Jan R

 

Outline?