Writing: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Part 2)

      This is a continuance of a post I did last week. It turned out to be too big for just one, so here we are again.

Active Voice vs Passive Voice

      This is one of the hardest concepts to deal with when writing. How can you tell if you’re writing in active or passive? Good question. The easiest way to deal with this can be broken up into two ways:
      1) Don’t worry about it in your first draft. Really. The first draft is just a way to get the story down on paper. Fix the things that need fixed during revisions and edits.
      2)In active voice, the subject is doing the action. In passive, the object is doing the action. Let’s use an example.

Mary ran across the road.

      This is active because Mary (the subject) ran (verb). Now, let’s look at passive.

The road was run across by Mary.

      Let me ask you: Can you tell the difference? Which one is tighter and and better sounding sentence? In the second sentence Mary still runs across the road, but this time Mary is the object whereas the road is the subject. Passive voice is weak writing.
      When going through your revisions, just keep an eye out for whether the subject or the object is doing the action. Easy-Peasy equation: Subject + Verb = Active whereas Verb + Object = Passive.
      Active voice = Good. Passive voice = Bad

     Adverb Phrases
      Yes. Adverbs again… Only this time in phrase form. It’s easy to point out adverb phrases if you know what you’re looking for, and they are on par with adverbs: use them rarely. Example:

Mary ran quickly through the back door.

      It’s easy to spot the adverb as most end in -ly, but can you spot the adverb phrase? In this sentence “through the back door” acts as the adverb phrase. Which sounds better/tighter? That sentence, or this one:

      Mary ran.

      Sure, this sentence is short, but it gets the point across without the additional and unnecessary adverb and adverb phrase. It’s important to tighten your writing when going through revisions. Go through your manuscript and see if you can count how many adverb phrases you have in it. Betcha it’s more than you think. Adverb Phrases = Good, Bad, or Ugly (depending on how you use them)

      Dialogue Tags
      I’ve heard advice to use only he said/she said. I’ve heard advice to use descriptive tags. I’ve heard advice to not use tags at all (which kind of confused me). Really, it all comes down to what works for you and your writing (as does most of what we’ve talked about here). He key to dialogue tags is in how much you use them.
      Let’s say you are writing a scene with two characters. As long as those characters have their own distinct voice, using dialogue tags every time someone says something is unnecessary. Once every few lines is fine. In the case of three or more characters it’s the same idea, but action tags might be more useful.
      Like I said, it’s up to you and how you write, but using dialogue tags after every line will be repetitive and turn your reader off. Dialogue Tags = Good or Bad

Exclamation Points

      I’m going to admit, I have an addiction to using exclamation points. OMG! I’m so excited!! Everything is wonderful!!!
      Do you want to see that after every sentence when reading a book? Didn’t think so. The key to using exclamation points is… Don’t. If you you must, once every few PAGES is fine… Try not to though. Readers will infer through the action in the scene and the character’s voice how the lines are meant to be “heard.” So, using these too often is not necessary. Exclamation Points = Ugly

The common theme in most of the advice I’ve broken down here (and the on the other post) is rarity. There are times when the rules to writing can be and should be broken, but doing it all the time is the mark of weak writing.

Do you have any advice that you would like to see me try to trim down? Leave a comment=)

About Katie Doyle

Katie Doyle is an avid reader, writer of NA and Adult fiction, a mom to two tornadoes that resemble an eight and six year old, and pet to a tuxedo cat named Oz and a German Shepherd/Boxer rescue named Charlie. If she's not reading, writing, or getting Oz out of a tree, she's screaming at characters on TV and trying not to curse around her kids.
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7 Responses to Writing: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Part 2)

  1. Bluestocking says:

    You have to know the rules before you can break them in writing — thanks for the refresher!

  2. Kelley says:

    Great advice here! ❤ from a fellow campaigner and new follower

  3. I love Mark Twain's quote: "Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very;' your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be."Fortunately I don't do that VERY often, but every time I see the word when editing, it makes me stop and think…do I really need to keep it?I also tend to use too many exclamation points in my first drafts. And I'm not sure why because, when I start to edit, I just shake my head and replace most of them with the simple period. Maybe first drafts are just too exciting? 🙂

  4. Kathleen says:

    Welcome fellow campaigners, Bluestocking and Kelley!!@Kristy – I love that quote from Twain=) I'm big on exclamation points too. I use them so often in my blogs I go back and delete them as well. I blame it on being very excited about almost everything=)

  5. New follower and fellow Campaigner stopping by! 🙂 It's nice to meet you!Great post. Excess exclamation points really get to me–not just when there is a sequence of them (!!!) but when there's a question mark and an exclamation (?!). It just feels like too much to me. 😛

  6. Kerri Cuev says:

    Good post. I always need reminders of not to overkill exclaimation points!!!!! Hello from a fellow Campaigner.

  7. Heather says:

    Excellent post! Passive voice is something I'm always working on rooting out. Fellow campaigner here, nice to meet you!

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