Passive Voice Part 2

Posted by on Jan 6, 2015 in Writing | 0 comments

I must apologize, I missed the Monday deadline. However, I did write that sentence in active voice. As to the previous week’s paragraph, we’re going to dissect it here: Her eyes followed him as the gun was pointed at her chest. The chair across from her was sat on by the masked man and a chuckle erupted from his throat. It was obvious he thought the upper hand was his. She tried to pull at the duct tape wrapped around her wrists, but was unsuccessful. Her shoes were untied and her head ached. To top that off, the gun was put aside by the grease ball in front of her and suddenly, his hands were around her neck. Her breath was constricted and the struggling commenced.  The essence of passive versus active voice is whether the character interacts or the action is done to the character. There are many cases where passive voice is acceptable, most notably in dialogue, because that’s how we speak. Let’s start with the first sentence: Her eyes followed him as the gun was pointed at her chest. This could easily be written as: She looked at him, then at the gun he pointed at her chest. Instead of allowing her eyes to be the objects, we are bringing the character into the scene and making her look at both the man and the gun. The man is now active as well because he’s pointing the gun at her chest instead of the gun being pointed at her by some unseen force. Next sentence: The chair across from her was sat on by the masked man and a chuckle erupted from his throat. Not only is this passive, it’s awkward and long. We could shorten this sentence and turn it into a less awkward situation. The masked man chuckled as he sat in the chair across from her. I put the next sentence in for two reasons: First, it’s passive, second, it’s something most writers, even experienced ones, catch themselves doing.  It was obvious he thought the upper hand was his. If something is obvious, then we don’t need to write it. If it’s not obvious, we need to show the actions that will make it obvious to the reader. I’m not going to rewrite this sentence, but I will suggest if there’s something that is obvious, then delete the sentence and try to make it obvious by showing the character’s actions. She tried to pull at the duct tape wrapped around her wrists, but was unsuccessful. This sentence is fine. It is active, she’s actively trying to pull at the restraints. Her shoes were untied and her head ached. This is passive. However, since she did not do the action, and I wanted to show that it was already done to her, I would leave this sentence as is. This would be one of the few times outside of dialogue that I would allow a passive sentence to stay. To top that off, the gun was put aside by the grease ball in front of her and suddenly, his hands were around her neck. This is one of the worst passive sentences in the paragraph. In a book that requires action, and this passage would suggest the book is, at the very least, an action story, if not a murder mystery or adventure story, this sentence is a crime. Suddenly, the grease ball put aside his gun and lunged at her, closing his beefy hands around her neck. This would be a much better sentence. Now, for the challenge. In the comments below, rewrite your own version of the final sentence. Show me her actions as well...

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Passive Voice

Posted by on Jan 2, 2015 in Writing | 0 comments

Passive voice is probably one of the most difficult concepts to grasp. We use it every day in our speech patterns, in our jobs, and rarely even think about it. We use passive voice so that we don’t offend people and so we don’t sound overly assertive.  Customer service is built on being passive. Passive voice is where the subject of the sentence is being acted upon instead of the subject acting on its own. Now, there are devices available that we can use to find most of our passive voice mistakes, such as adding “by zombies” to the end of each sentence we feel may be passive and if it makes sense, we know the sentence is passive. However, it doesn’t always work, and I personally wouldn’t want to go through every sentence of my novel saying, “He shouted by zombies. The chair was kicked over by zombies. She lunged for him by zombies…” It would get tedious after a while. If that was the only way I’d be able to recognize passive voice, however, I would probably use it. Mostly, though, what we want to do is be able to recognize passive voice whenever we see it, a task that takes one thing: practice, and plenty of it. So, in this blog, I’m going to write a bunch of passive voice sentences and dissect them: Her eyes followed him as the gun was pointed at her chest. The chair across from her was sat on by the masked man and a chuckle erupted from his throat. It was obvious he thought the upper hand was his. She tried to pull at the duct tape wrapped around her wrists, but was unsuccessful. Her shoes were untied and her head ached. To top that off, the gun was put aside by the grease ball in front of her and suddenly, his hands were around her neck. Her breath was constricted and the struggling commenced.  Okay, that was difficult for me to intentionally write a bunch of passive sentences. Normally, if I’m writing, I have no problem making things passive, but intentionally doing so is another story, all pun intended. All but one of the sentences in the previous paragraph is passive. Next Monday, I’ll write the corrections. In the meantime, try to recognize and correct them and we’ll see how it...

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Just Write

Posted by on Dec 5, 2014 in Writing | 0 comments

NaNoWriMo is officially over for another year. For those who don’t know what that is, during the month of November, you are challenged by…yourself…to write 50,000 words, the length of a novel. That means, in 30 days, a person has to consciously sit down and write out a novel. He or she has to sit in front of a computer and just write. What is written is unimportant, and cheating at this is irrelevant. Though I do not condone cheating at anything, were a person to think about cheating at NaNoWriMo, there are a lot less time consuming and less frustrating things to cheat at. Not only that, the only prize a person gets is a certificate of completion. About ten years ago, possibly more, possibly less, I attempted and completed National Novel Writing Month for the first time. As I didn’t know about it until almost the middle of the month, I had a lot less time in which to complete the competition. I was undeterred, however, and I began. I still worked at my regular job, still did the other things I needed to do in my daily life, though I believe I slept less. I started on November 13, and by November 28, I had 50,000 words, a smashing headache, and an amazing sense of accomplishment. One might think that because I finished so quickly, it had to have been easy. It was, in fact, one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I sometimes sat down and cursed at my keyboard. I sometimes stared at my blank screen for an hour before I could think of something to write, and sometimes I wrote about how much I hated doing this project. The last 1000 words were both the easiest and hardest words to write. I was so close to finishing and my mind was blank. I had put ideas out on paper, short excerpts from stories running around in my head, cursing and railing at the computer, and I thought I had nothing left. I closed my eyes and just started typing. Before I knew it, I had finished the last three pages and turned it in just after midnight on the morning of the 28th. One may ask, then, why do it? Two words: Just write. The entire reason behind doing the competition like NaNoWriMo is to get a person to start writing. I didn’t bring up my experiences with NaNoWriMo to brag, I brought it up to say it can be done. Writing a novel always starts the same no matter who a person is. It starts with writing one word and adding to it. It starts by just sitting down and getting it done. I get people telling me all the time that they’re writing a novel. My response is always: “That’s great, let me know when you’re finished.” I know I’ve mentioned that before, and it’s still true today. The best way to finish a novel is to just write. We have to sit down every day, make time for our craft, and just write. There will be times that nothing comes out, nothing looks good, and it’ll feel like we’re wasting time. That’s okay. If it was easy being a writer, everybody would finish the Great American Novel in a month or less. There would be no need for editors or publishers, and everyone would have gleaming novels whose words were gold. Writing is messy and frustrating and hard. We just need to make sure we keep going forward and keep writing one day at a time, sometimes even one word at...

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Six Rules on How to Query

Posted by on Nov 1, 2014 in Writing | 0 comments

Okay, so about a week (and a half) ago, I posted a blog about how not to query. I think it’s only fitting that I write a post about how to write a query letter. Start off with a question that the book will answer. If you have a post-apocalyptic thriller about undead clowns coming back to life and terrorizing coulrophobics (yes, it’s a real word, and yes, there are people afflicted with it), you could start with a question like: What do you fear most? Answer the question in the next paragraph. Introduce the main character. Maybe your hero is afraid of clowns. This paragraph is basically what you would see on the jacket of the book. You want to entice the publisher to read whatever else they required you to attach with it. In this paragraph, though, please make sure you tell us how it’s going to end. I know I said that it should be like the book jacket, but since you’re submitting to a publisher, we need to know what’s going to happen at the end. Don’t worry, we can take the ending, we’ll be okay if we’re not surprised. Details of the book. This is somewhat subjective where publishers want it put, but I prefer it after I’m enticed. Here, you will put your word count, your title, whether you are sending out multiple submissions and if the book is complete (please make sure your book is complete). Your credentials. Here is where you can brag. If you went to school for writing, if you used to write for The Tattler magazine, if you’ve previously published another book, if you’ve won any awards for your writing; all of that goes into this paragraph. What you don’t want to do with your credentials is in the previous post. Alternative to credentials. If you’re not sure about what to put for credentials or haven’t done any writing professionally, you might consider telling the publisher why you chose his or her company or how you heard about them. If you have professionals who have reviewed your work, this is where you would put the reviews. Finish with a “Thank you.” By the time you’re ready to submit a query letter, you’ve created your baby; you let it grow up; you’ve cleaned it up and made it shine. It’s ready to go out and make you money. Your query letter is your book’s resume or cover letter. In a cover letter, you thank the employer for taking the time to consider the applicant. You want to do the same with a query. Make sure that your contact information is in your query, and that you show the publisher that you have done your research. See the previous post again for what not to do with query letters, and good luck with your...

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Five Rules on How Not to Query

Posted by on Oct 22, 2014 in Writing | 0 comments

I’m somewhat surprised that I haven’t talked about this particular subject before.Writing the query letter is one of the most difficult jobs a writer has to do, and one of the most important tasks as well. We have to try to sound interesting as well as professional, humble as well as confident, ambitious as well as nonchalant. There is a delicate balance that can be easily upset when we are attempting to write a query letter. So, let’s start with what not to do: 1. Don’t tell me how much your friends like your book.  This is probably my biggest pet peeve. Telling a publisher how much your friends love your book, is like telling your friends how much your mother likes your books. Friends and family are supposed to love your book. They’re supposed to encourage you and tell you that you need to send it to a publisher, just like they’re supposed to tell you that you need to write a book in the first place. Don’t tell me how much complete strangers loved it either. Unless those complete strangers are reviewers or critics, it’s not relevant to put into a query. 2. Don’t ignore instructions. This one should be simple. If you go to the publisher’s website and they don’t take mystery novels, don’t submit your mystery novel to them. Find another company. If they ask for ten pages, don’t give them twenty. Please don’t ever start your query with “I know you don’t accept mystery novels, but you’ll change your mind after this…” If you know that a publishing company doesn’t want something, don’t try to tell them that they’re going to want it. If they ask for 10 pages, don’t send them the first hundred. Read the instructions and follow them. 3. Don’t beg! Nothing spells amateur more than a query begging the publisher to pick up their novel. Now, don’t get me wrong, a well placed “please” or “thank you” is welcome, but if you put more than one “please” in a sentence, you may want to reconsider. Desperation isn’t pretty on anybody. You want your book and your talent to shine, not how desperate you are to get it published. Please don’t tell the publisher that you will do anything to get it published, that usually only leads to trouble. 4. Don’t tell me how much I need you. Authors are the backbone of any publishing house. Publishers know that. If there were no authors, there would be no publishing houses. However, and I don’t mean to be mean or rude here, there are A LOT of people trying to get their works published. You won’t be the first to try, and you certainly won’t be the last. That being said, publishers want to know where you would fit in their company, but don’t need to be told that they can’t live without you. Demanding to be published will get your query round filed faster than walking up to a publisher, dropping your book on their desk, and saying “Publish this, now!” We know we need authors, but telling us that we need you and would be (insert adjective here, i.e. stupid…) if we didn’t pick up your novel, makes a publisher think that you would be difficult to work with, no matter how good the book is, and it isn’t worth the time and effort. 5. Don’t make it boring. Okay, so on top of avoiding friend input and begging and being overly confident, publishers also want something that’s not boring? How is that supposed to work? What are we supposed to put in...

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Guest Blog by Jodie Cain Smith: Book Promotions:  Plan Your Attack!

Posted by on Sep 8, 2014 in Writing | 0 comments

“Just let me write!”  One of the voices in my head wants me to scream this out loud from the nearest mountaintop.  The thought is just so damn romantic – type away furiously at a laptop, hair twisted on top of my head with a pencil, three-day-old lounge pants and coffee stained t-shirt.  If I stop writing in order to market my book, then my muse may silence herself forever.  Do I risk it?  But if I don’t market my book, no one will ever read it.  Step away from the keyboard, sister.  It’s time to sell. Whether I think of it as marketing or publicity or promotions, it’s all the same – I must sell my book.  After all, there is a self-promotion clause in my publishing contract. Unfortunately, I do not have a degree in business.  So, I have forced myself to become a self-taught expert in the world of marketing. Fear not, fellow self-promoters.  My journey to world domination started with a few simple steps. Step 1:  Research! For months I scoured the Internet soaking up any marketing information I could click on and then finally decided to focus on information geared toward small businesses.  Two sites proved especially worthy of my dedication:  www.score.org  and http://www.business.gov.au.  Both sites offer marketing plan templates and information that can be applied to promoting a book. I also attended every event I could find that centered on marketing and book promotions.  Scour your local area for book festivals, free library classes, public book events, and community education opportunities.  There are nuggets to be found at every event.  Observe table displays, party themes, and sales logistics.  Steal the good ideas.  Make a note of the bad ideas so that you do not make the same mistake. Step 2:  Whittle down the excess! After completing my research, having fully splayed the dark underbelly of the book promotions world, I decided to concentrate my efforts in a four key areas:  social media, website development, traditional media, and a grass roots campaign. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus, and guest blogging would all be included in my attack.  A strong online presence through social media can only boost sales.  But developing a following takes time.  Plan accordingly. A fully developed author website with interesting content will hopefully engage my social media subscribers and Internet passerby’s alike.  The days of the stagnant author website are long gone.  No longer will a head shot, lead banner, and link to Amazon suffice.  Readers want content:  a journal into the soul of the author, writing samples, quirky content such as writing playlists, influences, and inspiration. The grass roots campaign is all about boots on the ground.  Launch parties to empower my inner circle must be thoughtfully planned.  Networking events to put my business card complete with website link in the hands of potential customers must be attended.  Schedule signings, festival appearances, vendor opportunities, and book club Skype chats. Step 3:  Construct the Battle Plan! Step 2 seems daunting, doesn’t it?  My first instinct when I looked at the jumbled marketing notes I had assembled over a year of research was to hyperventilate.  But having a panic attack will sell books almost as well as hiding in my writing cave.  So, I flipped on the left side of my brain and made a plan. First, I had to deconstruct each element listed in step two.  Planning a launch party was more than one entry on a to-do list.  The task contained many subtasks that must be completed in order for the party to be successfully executed.  So, I made a...

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