I hold a degree in journalism, have 12 years experience in the business, and am still learning to be a better writer. My latest lessons taught me I write in the passive voice, which is not what readers, book editors or agents like to read. Now I’m in the process of editing my book, Silent Thunder, once again. AAARRRGGH!
I think active voice and being positive are similar in that you have to put yourself in that frame of writing/mind; what is at first cumbersome eventually becomes fluent. It’s a choice. While some people focus on writing sprints or word production, my writing goal now is to get active. It correlates with my health goals, so Be Active is my current mantra. Titan, my 3-year-old Husky-Collie, helps me stay physically active. He has grown up and our jaunts are not the full-body exercise they once were, but I do get out and walk three or four days a week. Unfortunately, activity and writing do not go hand-in-hand. When I’m on a jag, I can write for hours and days, and that means I’m not moving for hours and days. Bathroom breaks and a fridge raid are about it. Now I try to write more habitually, less in-the-moment, as a more structured approach allows me to participate in life’s other joys, like blood circulation.
About this time last year, I bought what was called a super stack of access to writing sites. Some are blogs, others are videos and still others are live, online workshops. I love it and I think my writing has improved, but on the other hand, I wonder if I’ll ever get to the point where I can send out query letters. I thought I was at that point, but between the lessons and the automatic rejection responses (no one does letters anymore) I realized I have a way to go. I learned when writing in active voice, the subject does the action, whereas in passive voice, the subject receives the action.
Active: She rewrote her entire book.
Passive: The entire book was rewritten by the author.
I saw the passiveness in my writing after viewing online workshops produced by author Jerry Jenkins. He wasn’t a part of the super stack, but DYI MFA, which is, shared his new project, the Jerry Jenkins Writing Guild. Membership is closed now, but I recommend joining it the next time membership it opens up. Oddly enough, in the last session I watched, Jerry quoted another writer whose website I follow, Joe Bunting of The Write Practice.
The guild has a monthly membership fee. The Write Practice offers many free resources, but pushes hard on the resources that it sells. I also follow David Farland’s Writing Tips, and he, too, has started a writing group. I thought about joining Farland’s Apex Writers, (also costly) but it is more intense than I can do right now. Pitch Wars also is doing a great mentor workshop with reviews of pitches and first pages.
Here is an example of how my rewrite is going. First the original rewrite:
“The plane dropped into a pocket of cold air and Lisa Cunningham’s stomach jumped into her throat. She didn’t get motion sickness, but only by sheer strength of will. She braced herself for the jolt when warmer air tossed the jet back up. The spring storm was making it a rough trip across the Atlantic.” -Silent Thunder draft.
Now the latest rewrite, done with advice on active voice; show, don’t tell; not explaining the obvious; and getting the main character introduced and into the plot as soon as possible.
“The spring storm made it a rough trip across the Atlantic. Lisa Cunningham choked back bile from the plane’s sudden drop and braced herself for the Newton jolt. Why did doing your job have to taste so badly? she thought as she took a swig from her water bottle, swished it, and swallowed. Maybe because her job was to rescue people, which nearly always required killing other people. She liked to think she worked for the good guys, but could not deny the sour truth: she was an assassin whose side benefit was helping those, other people thought important.” – Silent Thunder draft
I loved the rewrite yesterday when I wrote it, but now: not so much. I must confess, I’ve rewritten it here about 10 times! I want to know what you think. Reach out to me here on the blog comments, or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enjoy the read,