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In Which I Face The Mountain Of Passive Voice I’ve Created

Hello!! Yes, it is me! I finally found some time to update my blog, which is exciting – except that the only reason I have time to do it is that I am battling a brutal sinus infection and can’t go to Tennessee this weekend to meet my new niece and nephew, like I was supposed to.

Yes… heartbreaking. But I guess the good news is, I get to make an appearance on the interweb again.

I need your help today, readers. I am about an inch away from finishing the brand new ending for my novel, and once I’ve completed it, I’m going to do one last read-through before sending it back to my agent. This is frightening for several reasons:

Sometimes, I use passive voice. Sometimes I use boring verbs. Sometimes I repeat things too much, like various facial expressions (I have a feeling my characters “grinned” and “smirked” too much throughout the manuscript) or I don’t do a good job showing as opposed to telling (I’ll say something like “He didn’t look happy” instead of the more interesting “He frowned, shoulders slumped in dismay.”)

I tell ya, this last read-through might be my biggest challenge yet. Do y’all have any pointers? What are some of your favorite “interesting” action verbs? How do you convey someone’s facial expression without describing it outright?

I’ll be eagerly awaiting your comments!

11 thoughts on “In Which I Face The Mountain Of Passive Voice I’ve Created

  1. First of all, awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.

    Second of all, man… it will help with the passive verbs thing! And you could also google for a list of passive verbs (actually… here you go!!)

    Pick out the ones that you think you've used in your own work and then control find in the document to replace the scenes with more intense language!

  2. I'm not there yet, so I'm not much help from the voice of experience, but I agree with Sara on using a thesaurus to help with the passive verbs. Also, if you think you're using a phrase or words too often and you're worried about missing them you can make a wordle to see how often they show up. If you it looks like you HAVE used them too many times then go in and do a search for those words in the document using the "find" and replace them as needed.

    Good luck! I'm so excited for you!

  3. When I come across a boring verb in my writing I check the thesaurus for a better one. You just don't want to get too creative this way and use words that don't fit in your manuscript. As for facial expressions, I'm right there with yah. My characters nod and smile way too much so I just cut it out. Its not easy but it reads better after the hack job!

  4. Anne, you can do it!!! Just keep at it. So sorry you're ill, though. That's a serious bummer. But, loving Sara's suggestions. Thesaurus is my best friend during revisions. Avoid to be conjugations–that aways seems to lead to passive voice, and finding a substitute will usually help you find stronger verbs (Thesaurus!). Also, I avoid sentences that start with "There is/are/was." This is, of course, a to be conjugation, and if you find another way of saying it, it's almost always stronger. For example:

    There was a bird pecking at my window, calling to me.

    A bird pecked at my window, calling to me.

    Just place the doer in the subject position (in this case, the bird).

    Good luck! Almost there!

  5. Missing out on your niece & nephew stinks!!

    I use Wordle to check for over-used words, then I use the find feature for those passive verbs. Helps a bit! Good luck with it 🙂

  6. I keep a big reminder next to my computer :"Too many smiles and grins make your character look like an idiot!"
    You can see I have that problem too, and, as Heather said, it's best to cut them out.
    Good luck!

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