What is active and passive voice?

Do you constantly hear about writing in the “active” or “passive” voice? Are you confused by what this actually means and how it could impact your writing?

Read on for what the difference is between the active and passive voice and why it is important to know.

What Is Active Voice?

When you use “active voice”, the subject is performing the action.

What Is Passive Voice?

In a passive sentence the subject (or the person doing the action) is right at the end. Using passive voice tends to slow your writing down and distances your reader from the action.

Examples of active vs passive sentences:

Active: I love you.
Passive: You are loved by me.

Active: The woman read her book.
Passive: The book was read by the woman.

Active: He rode his motorbike over the jump.
Passive: The motorbike was ridden over the jump by him.

Can you see the difference in these sentences? Which sentence is more powerful?

Is it wrong to use passive voice?

It is not wrong. However, it is not the best way to phrase sentences as it can be awkward and hard to understand. Using the passive voice can also create lengthy sentences (as evidenced by the examples above).

When can you use passive voice?

In your writing it is a good idea to use the passive voice if you wish to place emphasis on the action, as opposed to the person performing the action. Many crime and mystery writers use this technique to highlight certain events that are pivotal to their story.

Example: The dog was stolen (passive).
Somebody stole the dog (active).

The mystery writer wanted to highlight the missing dog that is central to the plot, thereby used a more passive style of sentence.

How do you change your sentences to active voice?

Generally speaking, changing a sentence to be more active is easy. You simply bring whomever, or whatever, is performing the action of the sentence to the beginning. This usually fixes most issues with passive sentences.

Fixing passive sentences can happen when you are revising and editing, however it is handy to be able to spot them as you write.

Lost yet?

Try reading your sentences out loud. When you write sentences with active voice, your story moves faster. When you use the passive voice, you tend to use more helping verbs and it slows the action down. How do your sentences sound? Is it the focus you were going for?

I hope this helps you with your writing. If anyone else has advice on passive and active voice I would love to hear it!

 Useful links:

 https://www.englishgrammar101.com/module-3/verbs/lesson-11/active-vs-passive-voice

http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/active-voice-versus-passive-voice?page=3

https://www.writerscentre.com.au/blog/tip-active-voice-versus-passive-voice/

https://www.dailywritingtips.com/passive-vs-active-voice/

 

 

 

 

What dialogue can do.

Writing dialogue is an important tool to add to your writing arsenal. Dialogue gives your characters a voice, can help immerse your reader in the story and develop rapport with your characters. However, poor dialogue can be jarring and frustrating. It could even see your reader put your book down and not finish reading it. So it is important to know how to write great dialogue that improves and enriches your novel.

What dialogue should do.

Dialogue moves the story forward.

Dialogue can move your plot forward in a more direct manner then having a narrator explain it. It is harder to read a whole paragraph from a narrators’ point of view, then to have dialogue communicate the same things in a few simple lines of conversation.

Dialogue can speed things along and help build suspense, tension or any other emotion. It puts your reader into the middle of a conversation and pulls them in closer to the action so they feel a part of it all.

Dialogue helps develop your characters.

Characters can evolve through dialogue, and by making your reader a participant in their conversations you provide valuable insight into how they think, feel and react.

Dialogue is a great tool to help depict your characters and how they relate to each other. The way a character speaks and their tone can provide a lot of information about the person they are. The way characters speak to each other can also reveal what kind of relationship they have and how they get along. This helps your reader to feel like they really know your characters.

Dialogue provides realism.

Dialogue shows what is happening in your novel, as opposed to telling your reader. You can portray a scene more vividly through your characters’ dialogue. It engages your readers, as there are no lengthy explanations or descriptions by the narrator.

Dialogue provides vital information.

Effective dialogue provides information about character relationships, personalities, moods, feelings and reactions.

Dialogue should also provide specific information about your plot and drive it forward. It is important to remember that most conversations in the real world often have no point to them, but dialogue in your novel is different. It must serve a purpose and enrich your novel, not make it boring! When writing dialogue, question its purpose. If it doesn’t add anything to your characters or story, then delete it.

Dialogue should have action to accompany it.

Watch people around you have conversations. It is not often they will sit perfectly still and talk to each other. Often, they will be drinking a coffee, eating, cooking dinner, or walking etcetera. The point is people will usually be doing something whilst talking, so make sure you incorporate this into your dialogue when writing a scene.

Break dialogue up.

Do you ever watch a crowd of spectators at the tennis? Their heads going left, right, left, right. By writing continuous dialogue, one line after another, your reader can feel like they are at a tennis match. This is certainly not ideal.

The simple solution is to pause the conversation and take a few sentences to interrupt that pinging back and forth dialogue. You can use this pause to insert some interior monologue, describe the actions of your character, or the setting of the scene.

Dialogue should be concise.

To write good dialogue you should be concise and to the point. It isn’t realistic, as everyday conversations in the real world we have a lot of fluff in our dialogue. However, your readers do not want to be reading a lot of empty words. They want action and emotion. Writing short dialogue sentences will make the conversations between your characters more realistic and drive the story forward.

An important tip to note is that you shouldn’t write dialogue in complete, grammatical sentences. This is not how people generally speak in their conversations.

For example:

“Do you want to go and get a cup of coffee?” – a complete sentence.

“Want to grab a cup of coffee?” – how people are more likely to speak.

All your characters should sound different.

Just like all your characters have unique personalities, so to should the way the talk and think when conversing. Their tone, vocabulary, voice, accent and knowledge should all be consistent with their personality and character description.

I mean, if a 5-year-old child suddenly started talking like a 60-year-old highly educated professor of physics it wouldn’t fit in with their personality or character. Be consistent, and use dialogue to build your character further.

Revise your dialogue.

Reading your writing aloud is always an effective way to edit your work, but especially so for dialogue. When you read your dialogue out loud you will get a sense of how the conversation flows and if it ticks all the boxes for great dialogue. You will hear your character’s voice and whether or not it is consistent with their personality.

Other forms of “dialogue”.

Do not be afraid to branch out into other forms of communication between your characters. In today’s age writing text messages or emails is commonplace, and can be classed as dialogue.

Just be sure that it has a purpose, and are not just empty words trying to fill space.

Useful links:

http://www.aliventures.com/writing-great-dialogue/

http://www.literautas.com/en/blog/post-675/reasons-for-using-dialogue-in-a-story/

http://www.novel-writing-help.com/writing-dialogue.html

I hope you have found this post helpful in writing great dialogue for your novel. It is an invaluable tool that will serve to enrich and develop your story. If you have any other tips around writing dialogue I would love to hear them!

30 tips to spring clean your writing.

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SPRING TIP #1: Keep a journal.

Journaling everyday helps to improve your writing, is great for reflection and is a fantastic tool for ideas and inspiration.

SPRING TIP #2: Add a writing warm-up exercise to your writing routine.

I challenge you to add a writing warm-up to your writing routine for 2 weeks and see if it makes a difference to your productivity and creativity. Let me know how you go!

SPRING TIP #3: Write everyday.

It doesn’t matter if it is only 10 minutes here and there around all your other responsibilities; the point is that the only way to be a better writer is to write. Writing everyday improves your practice, inspires ideas, and sparks creativity. Learn to take advantage of any down time to capture some of those words floating around in your head.

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SPRING TIP #4: Organization.

To run a successful writing business organization is keen. And what better time to get organized then the season of spring-cleaning! Make sure all your files are up to date (and backed up), clean up your computer, buy some lovely stationary and diaries to keep dates and projects organized, and keep your work area as clutter free and neat as possible.

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I love spreadsheets. Spreadsheets for timelines, projects, income, invoice trackers, publications….pretty much everything! I find them an easy way to keep track of what I am doing, and where I am up to. I am also a huge fan of to-do lists. The main key is to be organized, in whatever fashion that is for you.

SPRING TIP #5: Develop a writing routine.

Forming the habit of writing everyday helps to improve your writing and productivity. However a writing routine is not just about writing, it is about how you write, and how you organize your time to ensure you make the most of each moment.

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SPRING TIP #6: Take regular writing breaks.

The recommendation when sitting at a computer is to stand up, walk around and stretch hourly. You should do this when writing too. And not just a brief 5 minute break, a walk outside in the fresh air can help clear your head and improve your concentration and productivity when you return to your writing.

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Make sure you eat at regular times. It can be easy to forget, so I set an alarm on my phone to remind me to eat and drink if I am having a long writing day.

Taking regular breaks away from your writing helps clear your mind, refresh you and ensures you don’t become stiff and sore sitting hunched over your computer!

SPRING TIP #7: Motivation.

How do you find your motivation? What motivates you? How do you maintain motivation? If you can find the answers to these questions it is half the battle!

SPRING TIP #8: Inspiration.

The search for inspiration can sometimes feel endless. I find spring is a great time for sparking new ideas. Have a walk outside and see the buds of new growth, the sun breaking through the clouds and your ideas and creativity will sparkle!

SPRING TIP #9: Read, read and read!

Reading exposes us to other styles of writing, other forms, genres and voices. The more you read the more your writing will improve, and you will be exposed to more ideas and inspiration.

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SPRING TIP #10: Make time for your family and friends.

Whilst writing may not be a regular job with normal hours, it is still important to make time for your family and friends. You don’t want to miss making precious memories with your loved ones because you always have your head buried in your computer…and you know what they say, all work and no play turns you dull!

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SPRING TIP #11: Stick to time frames!

If you tell a client you will have a writing project to them in 2 weeks, make sure you stick to that. I tend to over-quote on how much time I will need in order to avoid the stress of not having work done on time.

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SPRING TIP #12: Social Media.

Social Media is an important tool to promote your writing business, network with other writers, build your reputation and to research other writers. However, it is a black hole that can suck us in. You may find that instead of spending valuable time writing you are surfing through various social media mediums for hours on end. The trick is to limit the time you spend on social media, and to ensure you use that time efficiently and effectively.

SPRING TIP #13: Develop a work/life balance.

One of the best things about being your own boss is you can choose how much work you take on. However one of the hardest is also saying no. Keep in mind that you need to maintain a healthy balance between work and living your life. One of my favourite sayings is you need to work to live, not live to work.

SPRING TIP #14: Do not rely on spell checkers to catch all mistakes.

Never trust a machine to do all the spelling and grammar checks! Nothing beats good old human interaction and checking of your work. It is a great idea to check your work on paper and on your computer, things may look different and show mistakes you missed before!

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SPRING TIP #15: “Rest” your writing.

When you have completed your first draft, “rest it”. Put it away for a few days before you take it out again to start the lengthy editing and revising process.

Once you feel you have a finished project, “rest it” again. After a few days, weeks or a month (whatever time frame you choose), take it out again and read it one last time before sending it to a friend, family member, editor or if you feel 100% confident you are completely done then send it to a publisher.

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The point of these “rest periods” is to take a break from your project and come back to it with a fresh perspective and clearer mind. This way you will catch mistakes you may not have noticed otherwise, and will recognise changes that need to be made easier.

SPRING TIP #16: Read other writers websites/blogs/articles.

Think of it as research! To find out what other writers are writing or reading about, then the easiest way is to research by looking at their websites, Facebook, google+, blogs, twitter etcetera. Not only will reading about what and how they write help you with your own writing, it can inspire your own blogs, posts and writing projects. One of the best ways to learn is from those who are more experienced and knowledgeable.

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SPRING TIP #17: Write yourself a schedule.

You are running your own writing business, and you must treat it as such. If you are writing for others, such as freelance projects, then obviously it is important to ensure you stick to the time frame you negotiated with your clients.

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If you are writing for yourself, however, then it is still important to develop your own schedule and stick to it. Such as, by this date I will have the outline completed; by this date I will have a first draft finished, etcetera. This way you will ensure you will actually get your writing projects finished, and it is a great feeling when you tick off a to-do list!

You can use a spreadsheet, calendar or good old-fashioned diary. Whatever works for you, but make sure you create an achievable schedule and STICK TO IT!

SPRING TIP #18: Avoid “overwriting”.

“Overwriting” is a wordy style of writing, wrought with repetitions, figures of speech and convoluted sentences. Try to avoid using too many words to describe something, if one word will do. Go for simplicity to convey your writing and I guarantee it will get your point across just as effectively without hitting your reader in the face with all those words.

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SPRING TIP #19: When undertaking large writing projects, turn off your internal editor for the first draft.

When you are writing a long first draft the best way to get all your ideas and thoughts out is to simply write, and keep on writing. Do not stop and correct or edit as you go. Turn off that little editor and judgmental voice in your head so you can get all those words out initially before you forget that great idea.

This can be difficult. I know I find it quite hard due to my innate need for perfectionism. However, the more time I spend writing long projects the better I am at simply sitting in front of my computer and letting the words and thoughts flow out of me. You will spend more time editing and revising, so this first draft is all about capturing your ideas on paper no matter how poorly they are written!

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SPRING TIP #20: Plot!

When writing a novel, developing an interesting plot is essential. It helps to ensure your story unfolds in a logical manner, whilst building tension and suspense to draw your reader in and keep them interested.

SPRING TIP #21: Read your old work.

If you are feeling lost, unmotivated or have lost confidence in your work then have a read through your old projects. It is a great way to see how far your writing has come. I know I have read back through some of my very first blog posts and cringed.

Reading back through your old work can also help inspire you and spark new ideas, or thoughts on how you can improve upon it and re-release it.

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SPRING TIP #22: Keep a list of all your publications.

I find it easiest to do this on an excel spreadsheet, with columns for dates, genre, format and publication type. It helps so that you can see how many of your projects have been published and also if you ever need to refer back to a project you can quickly find where it was published and those other details you choose to input into your spreadsheet.

And lets be honest here, the longer that list gets the better you feel! Think of it as a brag sheet if you want. It is a great way to see where you have been, where you have published and the footsteps you have left behind with your writing.

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SPRING TIP #23: Ask friends and family to read your writing.

If you have friends or family members who you know will be able to provide constructive criticism you should ask them to read your work before sending it to a publisher, or self-publishing. Their eyes will help to pick up on any mistakes or plot flaws that you may have missed in your editing and revising process. They can also provide feedback and encouragement before the intimidating process of sending your work out in the big wide world.

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SPRING TIP #24: Time management.

A concept I feel most people struggle with! Juggling your own writing business, especially if you are still working another job whilst attempting to get your business up and running, with family, home life and chores is a difficult thing to master. You need to work efficiently in the limited time you have, whilst ensuring that you leave time in your busy schedule for family and friends. I have found the best way to manage your time is to stick to your schedule and timeframes for work, whilst penciling in time for family, friends and most importantly, yourself!

SPRING TIP #25: Join an online or in person writers group.

Writing groups are a fantastic place to meet like-minded people, find sources for ideas and inspiration, and as a free source for constructive criticism and feedback. Whether you join a group online or in person, or several groups, doesn’t matter, the point is to find a group of writers in your niche and to actively participate in discussions with them. I challenge you to find a group of writers and to join them. Most importantly…..ENJOY!

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SPRING TIP #26: Don’t forget why you write.

Why do you write? What do you get out of writing?

I write for the love, passion and enjoyment I get from creating a great written project, no matter how big or small. I always get a small thrill upon completing a written piece. Never forget the positive reasons behind why you write. Always write for impact, and not income.

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SPRING TIP #27: Draw inspiration from your surroundings.

Look around you. What is happening nearby? What conversations? What characters? What scenery? Use your surroundings to form pictures and characters in your mind that you can translate to paper.

Where do you find your inspiration?

SPRING TIP #28: Do not procrastinate.

Your time is at a premium, do not waste it procrastinating! Learn to recognise when and how you procrastinate, and identify strategies to overcome it.

SPRING TIP #29: Keep your end goal in mind.

When your energy wanes, you lack motivation, and you feel as though you have lost your creativity and inspiration focus on your end goal. The sense of pride and achievement from seeing your name in print, being a published author, a successful freelance writer. What ever your end goal is, allow it to guide you through the tough times and keep your focused and writing!

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SPRING TIP #30: Never stop writing!

The final tip for this lovely spring month is to never stop writing. Writing promotes writing, and the more you do it the better you will become. Just like practicing at a sport or cooking, the more you practice the more adept you will become.

So never stop writing.

 

Learn How to Edit Your Next Writing Project.

Learn how to edit your next writing project.

Some people believe the first draft is the hardest to write. Coming up with the idea, maintaining motivation and seeking inspiration to complete a first draft can be daunting, however I still believe the hardest part comes after this. The revising and editing process. This is where you will generally spend the majority of your writing time.

I have developed an editing process I find works well for me. I apply it to everything I write; short pieces, long projects, blogs, articles and more. You may find you adopt some of my practices into your own, you need to simply find what works the best for you to produce a high quality and well edited writing project.

This first thing I do when editing any writing projects is to make a list of everything I know that will need to be checked (such as spelling names correctly and consistently, timelines, plot points, theme and character arcs), fixed and assessed. This list helps lessen those feelings of overwhelm when looking at your rough draft, as well as provide direction when the daunting task of editing is at hand. Once I have finished my list I break the revision process down into sections that I refer to as the “Attack of The R’s”: Re-read, Rest, Re-arrange, Re-word, and Re-check.

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Re-read

This re-reading stage is about identifying flaws and holes in your plot (if writing non-fiction or creative fiction), as well as double checking facts, figures and research (fiction, articles, assignments etcetera). You can make another list, if you wish, of all the finer details that will need further researching and checking to be sure they are accurate and fit in with your story.

Cut out whole chapters, sections, dialogue or pages that do not fit with your story. It is ok to be brutal here. When you have done that once, then read through again and cut out smaller sections such as paragraphs, sentences and phrases that once again do not suit your story and what you are attempting to convey. I save both copies of the draft, the first draft and the reduced draft, so that I can always go back and see what I have cut out. You may also find that some of the things you cut out spark an idea for a different story or even a sequel.

Once you have fixed any major problems and culled down your word count then it is time to move onto the second process in editing your project.

Rest

After I have cut down the original draft, I let it “rest” for a while. I put it away for a few days or even for a week or so (as long as there are no deadlines looming) so that when I return to it, I do so with fresh eyes and a new perspective. It also saves you from not only becoming sick of your story, but from missing any mistakes.

Re-arrange

This process is once again reading through your project and thinking about the flow and arrangement of your work. If you find that it doesn’t read well, try re-arranging sections, paragraphs and sentences around until you are happy with the flow of words. You should also be double checking that your plot develops in a logical and understandable manner, if it doesn’t then you will need to re-arrange plot points until it makes sense and flows seamlessly.

Re-word

Now we are getting down into the nitty gritty finer details. I always put this process near the bottom of the list as there is no point spending all that time and effort finding the best words if you only end up cutting that entire section out.

Re-read your work again (yes again!). You may find you re-read your work 100 times or more when it comes to the final processes of editing and perfecting. This stage is where you polish and fine-tune your whole piece. Dissect every paragraph, every sentence and every word. Are you consistent with names, dates, personalities, spelling, tense, and point of view etcetera? Do you use your active voice, not passive? Have you picked powerful words? Re-word and re-write until you feel you are done and couldn’t possibly do any more re-writing. Then read it all again!

Re-check

If it is a long project I am editing I let it rest for a week or so again. If it is a small project such as an article or blog then I skip the “rest period”.

This re-check is simply a last thorough reading of your project to ensure it flows smoothly, reads well, all mistakes have been fixed, and that there are no spelling, grammar or punctuation errors. I also double-check the list I wrote at the very beginning to confirm I have ticked everything off. If you are confident, you can send it on to a friend, family member or editor for a final check. A new perspective is handy to spot any errors you may not notice after reading your writing project copious amounts of time.

And there you have it. Editing and revising using the “Attack of the R’s”! It is a simple process that can be adapted to any project, big or small. Below is a list of other tips that I use throughout the whole Attack of The R’s process.

 Editing and Revising Tips:

  • Read and edit on your computer and in paper form
  • Read your writing out loud. Is it easy to read? Does it have a smooth rhythm? Does it flow?
  • Be brutal and cut out parts that do not suit your project.
  • Make sure your writing flows, is logical, and the story line is easy to follow.
  • Double-check all facts, figures, quotes, and citations etcetera to ensure they are accurate.
  • Have a family member, friend or professional read through and check your work.
  • “Rest” your work before a final read through.