this post is yet to be birthed
In my last few fiction|poetry kickoff posts I’ve been giving away my secrets as a copyeditor. The copyeditor takes care of the superficial editing, such as typos, grammar issues, and punctuation issues, but my biggest task as a copyeditor is eliminating passive voice from writing.
Passive voice is a sentence structure in which the person, place, thing, or idea completing an action—a part of speech that is usually the subject of the sentence—is used as the object of the sentence. For instance, the passive version of the sentence I shot the sheriff is The sheriff was shot by me.
Well, what’s wrong with that? The sentences express the same thought, you might be saying.
They do, but do you see how the drama in the passive version is swallowed up? That pesky, possibly dead sheriff is creating more trouble by standing in your view of the person firing the gun. Passive voice tends to slow down and obscure the action in stories. Also, remember what Cindy and Rowan have been saying about word economy. Passive voice is almost always wordy.
The best way to root out passive voice in your work is to search for the words was and were. Those are the biggest red flags, but remember that not all wases and weres indicate passive voice; they are verbs in their own right. In addition, there are sneakier ways passive voice nests in your work. For example, check out the title of this post.
I’m not saying passive voice isn’t useful. Probably the most common usage of passive voice is any mention of birth. Biographers don’t put the subject in the sentence “George Washington was born February 22, 1732” for good reasons. First, all of us can safely assume who birthed George Washington. Second, we’re getting uncomfortably close to forcing readers to imagine Mrs. Washington’s lady parts, aren’t we? So, yes, by all means, use the passive voice to save readers from colonial inproprieties. You can also use it if the subject of the sentence isn’t known, for instance, “Andrew was blindfolded and stuffed into the back of a car.” It is a great tool to add suspense in certain cases.
For more info and practice with passive voice, go here.
Prompt Up is our optional weekly writing prompt for the fiction|poetry challenge! Here’s how it works: we choose a sentence prompt from last week’s winning nonfiction post and announce it in the kickoff. It’s your job to use that prompt in your poem or story. The prompt is just a springboard: feel free to use it as your first sentence, move it, change it, or float it down to other territories.
Nancy addressed the incomplete posts in her drafts folder in her essay, Unfinished. This week’s prompt up is: “It’s been a while since I woke at 4 a.m.”
February poetry slam: the memoriam stanza
Now that we spent the last month learning about couplets, let’s take February’s post to the next level. For this month’s poetry slam, we’ll be taking everything we learned about writing in tight spaces and applying it to the four-line memoriam stanza. Learn more from Rowan here.*
*Come back on Wednesday to find out what’s in store for our nonfiction know-how & poetry slam for March!
Please remember to read the submission guidelines before you press post or hit send. Have a favorite yeah writer or two? Why not ask them to be your writing partner? Everyone needs another set of eyes to point out the typos, word repetitions, content errors, and ungainly phraseologies in our posts.
Stay in the know: sign up for our mailer today! We promise not to spam you. Or stop by the coffeehouse and meet some of the people behind the words! Also, check back in to yeah write tomorrow to find out what March’s nonfiction know how and poetry slam form are.
Yeah write #307 fiction|poetry writing challenge is open for submissions!
Basic yeah write guidelines: 750 word limit; your entry can be dated no earlier than this past Sunday; fiction or poetry only.
How to submit and fully participate in the challenge:
- In the sidebar of this week’s post, please grab the code beneath the challenge grid badge and paste it into the HTML view of your entry
- Follow the InLinkz instructions after clicking “add your link” to upload your entry to this week’s challenge grid
- Your entry should appear immediately on the grid if you don’t receive an error message
- Please make the rounds to read all the entries in this week’s challenge
- Consider turning off moderated comments and CAPTCHA on your own blog
Submissions for this week’s challenges will close on Wednesday at 10pm ET. Voting will then open immediately thereafter and close on Thursday at 10pm ET. The winners, as always, will be celebrated on Friday.