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Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Massive "Passive" Hunt

   I've met so many incredible people during these last two weeks of PitchWars. The level of community among writers is staggering. Everyone continues to humble me with their willingness to provide meaningful feedback, gentle redirection, and sometimes, ego bruising kicks in the gut that are entirely needed.

     NECTAR has undergone yet another rewrite for passive voice. What is passive voice? Well, I am still struggling with it now. Agents and editors don't want to be told what your character is feeling- they want to be shown. Consider my original first paragraph:

It was already June, and Callie couldn’t remember how long she’d been on the road.
The time since she had started running seemed to blur together. She had managed to catch rides with friendly drivers when the uncanny sense that she’d come to think of as her early warning system told her it was OK, and took buses when it wasn’t. She hadn’t known where she was going to end up, only that she felt pulled in a particular direction, and when she had crossed four state lines and three rivers Callie suddenly knew she was in the right place. But she didn’t know what that meant.

Now, rewritten and revised for passive voice:

It was already June, and Callie couldn’t remember exactly how long she’d been running.
Time seemed blur together after she fled the small college town where she’d grown up. When the uncanny sense she’d come to think of as her ‘early warning system’ told her it was okay, she caught rides with friendly drivers, and took buses when it wasn’t. Halfway across the country from where she’d started, not knowing where she was going to end up, Callie followed an insistent pull in a particular direction. She hoped her odd talents were not going to let her down after all these years. Finally, after crossing four state lines and three rivers, Callie knew she was in the right place. But she still didn’t know what it meant.

     Removing some of the "had"s and "that"s  brings the reader into the action rather than reading about it, and it makes for better prose. Still have to do the "was" hunt and figure out which of the little buggers can stay or need to be squashed.

     Writing is an ever-evolving thing, and you run the danger of nitpicking until doomsday. At some point I will just have to put this manuscript in read-only mode and leave it alone, and just start submitting. As one of my new friends said, "Not like I'm obsessive or anything," lol.  Writers pick at their manuscripts forever if left to their own devices, and I'm no exception.

I'm loving all the new things I'm learning about my craft. I'm doubting I made the mentor cut, but it's been so worth it.

1 comment:

  1. Don't beat yourself up. Passive voice is a tough one. Even a seasoned writer needs to go back over work and check for the overuse of passive verbs. The fact that you are cognizant of it will make your editor smile.