Heated debate rampages across the online writing community as to which dialogue tag is morally, ethically, and mechanically correct to use: 'said' or one of its many synonyms. Use all the alternatives! Never deviate from 'said!' A great way to get (angry, rageful) interaction on Twitter is to ask the writing community which to use. We average writers get caught in the middle. We just want to know the answer so we can keep writing, not start a flame war between influencer titans. We get mixed results, however, because the truth lies somewhere in the middle. In the mix of both. Let's talk about what that means.
Writing advice often relates to the same two topics: show, don't tell and write in the active voice. So, say you're taking on these two nuggets of wisdom. You're ready to incorporate the advice you keep getting from your critique partner(s) and your writing group! You've learned everything you need to know about how to change passive voice into active voice and how to show rather than tell. Yet, even though you've made certain to use verbs that aren't being verbs and you've incorporated adjectives as descriptors, your writing still feels clunky. It's still getting dinged at your critique group meetings.
This is because oops! in trying to fix one problem, you've introduced a new problem. And that's the use of filter words and filter phrases in your writing.
When writers do follow you, why exactly should they care about your announcement? They followed you because you're a writer, not for your writing. You're selling to writers with little personal investment in your work.
Deep down, or maybe not so deep down, writers know the value of a good opening sentence. Because writers are readers and have read a multitude of first sentences that draw them straight into the story. Even if you don't know how, you know why: the hook. That magical gimmick that entices readers to keep reading, to buy the book, to read to the end, to tell their friends.
So I'm sure you know why you need The Hook. But how to create it? Structure it? Incorporate it into your story?
Do your sentences ramble with a bunch of important details attached to the the ends? Like the equivalent of remembering relevant information for the story you're telling your co-worker, but only after you've told most of it.
When you notice your sentences always or often follow this pattern, you may begin wondering how to fix this. Add more punch. Sprinkle your sentences with style, like those writers whose sentences pulse through the page like magic.
Below, check out how to mix your dull and extraneous sentences up and bring them to life!
I'm not telling you to develop a thick skin, because you may never manage that. But I am telling you to be brave. And most of all, clever.
How to talk about passive voice as a useful thing? An okay thing? An allowed thing? So many of us as writers have received the advice that we need to change the passive voice in our work to active voice. This is good and important advice. You should do that.
Reading too much passive voice is unpleasant and boring. But, contrary to what short, insightful, and thought provoking nuggets of wisdom like write in active voice would have you think, passive voice has a place in your prose. Albeit, a sparing one.
Certainly, you may already know about being verbs and adverbs. Maybe you've heard about this enough already. If you have, you can skip down to the advice.
But in case you haven't heard of being verbs, adverbs and action verbs, here's a quick breakdown.
I'm getting better at making pancakes. Rather, I'm getting better at making pancakes the way I like them, which is, of course, the point. Buttery golden brown, soft in the middle, with a rim of good, light crunch around the edge. Weekend mornings of my childhood featured light smoke drifting from the kitchen into the … Continue reading Pancake-Making as a Metaphor for Writing
I have one particular writing nemesis, and that's the time change. Every year at around this time -- when it's getting dark at 7p and earlier -- my writing suffers. I write in the evening, after coming home from work, but now, the encroaching darkness tricks my brain into thinking it's bedtime. I can't possibly … Continue reading Writing Life: Time Change