Apparently, I am a passive writer. While I have read lots about passive writing, I always thought it wasn’t me, until I had it pointed out. And boy, I am so passive it is submissive! As an exercise, I went through and “found” several words in my manuscript. Here are the statistics:
Total number of words: 47,690
Was – 818 times
had – 718 times (87 of those were in “had been”
that – 659 times
just – 101 times
has – 72 times (14 in “has been”)
This is quite shocking really. So how do these lend to a passive voice?
“Ianthe was instructing” would have more impact as “Ianthe instructed”.
“Medusa told herself that she…” instead would read better as “Medusa told herself she…”
“She just wanted to…” sounds better as “she wanted to…”
“She hoped that she…” would read better as “she hoped she”
Basically passive words take the impact or the punch out of the sentence by being too wordy. If you take those awful words out the sentence is shorter, easier to read and provides more impact to the story around it.
While on the subject of passiveness, I was reading more of “If Only I had Time” on my Kindle, and there was a really good article by Scott Nicholson about Seven bad habits of Highly Inefficient writers. This was a good eye opener too, because I found another passive voice that I use a lot… she felt! Whoops!
Scott recommends that you let the actions and sensations speak for themselves – and this is one I really do struggle with. I need to perhaps spend more time looking at how I do these scenes, because there is a particular area in the book where Medusa is by herself, and there isn’t any dialogue (unless I had her talking to herself…), so she isn’t able to convey her frustrations without thinking about them… but can she? She is able to have her actions show frustration, but throwing pieces of wood around, having tantrums. Yes, I can make this scene more expressive without “she felt” precursoring all her actions.
So, it is back to the drawing board for me, but at least this is all positive stuff, and things that can be fixed – hopefully no one finds a huge plot hole!