Being Inscrutable

When I saw Fandango’s word for today, BEING, I thought the passive voice in writing, and of this tongue-in-cheek discourse I once wrote. Warning: confusion ahead. 🙂

A PASSION FOR PASSIVE

Attending a writing workshop, the subject was raised as to passive voice, herein referred to as PV, versus the active voice. It was explained to us by the workshop leader that the PV is seen as a grave error by modern editors.

It was explained to us by our instructor that the verb “to be” is always used (by writers) to form the passive voice. Hence, we were told, a careful examination must be made of each “to be” verb in every form — is, are, was, were was, etc— lest a passive voice be allowed (by carelessness) to slip in. In fact we’re urged to avoid the state of being verbs in general, to use went instead of was/were going, go instead of am/are going, etc.

Later, while a lovely walk in the country was being enjoyed by me, my mind was being teased by a brilliant idea: a writing should be composed as completely in the PV as possible, that its virtues may be lauded (by me). Thus this writing is being offered to you as an alternative to thinking being promoted by short-sighted editors.

(Wherever a slip into the active voice is deemed necessary, proper notice will be given by the initials “AV”.)

The passive voice is formed when the subject of a sentence – the doer of the deed – is obscured (by the one telling the tale) somewhere among stated or implied end-of-sentence phrases, while the object of the sentence has been forced (by the writer) to lead the way. Whenever such convolutions are made in sentences (by said writer), there must always be a “by” — stated or not. For purposes of clarification during this whimsical writing, these shall be duly marked (by me) in brackets.

Hence the AV construction, “I slipped on a banana peel” is turned into the passive “A banana peel was slipped on.” By me, but that part need not be added, lest (subjunctive) I appear rather clumsy. After all, it might have been dropped by someone else, which (AV) makes it their fault anyway, right?

During our workshop it was explained to our instructor that the passive voice can be used (by writers) to remain anonymously humble – or leave someone else anonymously humble. The self-promoting “I” can be buried forever (by the writer) in the “back forty” of the sentence.

And not only “I + me” but any other indication of something outstanding being done by someone among us. Several reasons may be offered (by whoever wants to) for this: if some action has been taken (by whoever) that may be deemed (by the hearer) offensive, the perpetrators can be forever hidden (by the teller of the tale.)

Likewise, a solution can be found (by someone) without any congratulatory pat on the back (by recipients) to the finder. And if it was a poor solution it will be unknown (by the ones upset) on whom to put the blame. Thus the most words can be used (by the prudent) with the least information actually being revealed. This same policy has been specialized in by government officials for ages.

Passive voice can also be used (by writers spilling their lifeblood–or someone else’s) to avoid humiliation or acrimonious litigation. “Suggestions were made about the Mayor’s involvement,” sounds much safer than to have it admitted (by some blabbing reporter) that “Tom Smith suggested (AV) the Mayor was getting a kickback (from interested investors).” Especially if Tom Smith and/or the Mayor could sue. And if the investors are named, they might sue (AV) as well.

Of course, objections to the use of PV are usually raised by word-count-conscious editors. The most said (by writers) using the least number of words remains ever (AV) the passion of those insensitive red-pen types. That all shall be blabbed up front (by the writer) — subject first — is insisted upon (by modern editors)!

Nevertheless, a continuous demand shall always be held forth (by those afraid of offending) for the obscurity of PV. So let it be learned by us to execute it well in our writing endeavours. Should it be wished by modern editors to execute it literally, theirs will be the loss in the end. Much will remain unwritten to avoid embarrassment.

NOTE:
Dangling &/or confusing clauses are often (AV) one undesirable result. By using great vigilance, avoidance of these can be accomplished.

Anonymity is wished for by the author lest she be blacklisted by the aforesaid editors.

Transforming INK into STORY

Daily Addiction’s word for today is TRANSFORM, a wonderful word indeed.
For example, a good edit can transform this scene:

Colour swirls

into this:
Circles of colour

Some people may prefer the first picture; many will call it a mess. The big questions are: who’s going to buy it and how much will the customer feels it’s worth?

Thanks to Amazon.com, any writer is free to write as he so chooses and publish his work. But most readers want pattern and clarity, a story that moves along at a lively pace, unencumbered by unnecessary detail. So a writer must decide when he starts out who he’s writing for. If you’re writing for yourself only, I’d suggest doing a journal. There are enough badly written books out there.

On To My Book Review

52 Steps to Murder,
#1 in the Dekker Cosy Mystery Series
© 2013 by Steve Demaree

Mrs Nelson, a disabled elderly lady, wasn’t pushing the button that unlocked her door when her granddaughter stopped by. So granddaughter Angela became worried and called the police to help her break into her grandma’s house. A rookie cop arrived; he and Angela hurried upstairs and she checked her grandmother’s room, where she found the old lady dead in her bed. When he heard Mrs Nelson was dead the officer went back to his cruiser and radioed for help.

Homicide investigators Lieutenant Cy Dekker and Sergeant Lou Murdock arrived at Hilltop Place — and surveyed with dismay the 52 stairs they’re going to have to climb. The two middle-aged men aren’t in the greatest physical condition; their roundish shape is a recurring joke through the story.

Examining the scene, Lt Dekker — who tells the story in first person throughout — has a feeling that the death isn’t due to simple heart failure, so they begin asking questions. When the medical examiner informs them the next day that the old lady was poisoned, they investigate in earnest. Unfortunately all the houses on Hilltop Place involve that long climb up, up, up. And before long they find another disabled elderly lady missing. The plot thickens.

I like these two fellows. I enjoyed the humor, yet at times it’s overdone, especially when they and the medical examiner quip back and forth about their physical fitness while they’re at the scene of a suspicious death. All through the book their banter is at times amusing but other times it just goes on too long.

While I appreciated that these officers profess to be Christians and attend church every Sunday, Lt Dekker’s dislike for his neighbor and his sarcastic put-downs struck me as quite uncharitable. This gave rise to one cute typo, though:
The two of us enjoyed a good laugh as I recanted my most recent encounter with my next-door neighbor.

I sometimes wish we had a two-number rating system: one for the overall story-line and one for the writing quality. I’d give this book a 5 for the first and a 3 for the second. This story has an interesting, well formulated plot, but needs an editorial polishing big-time to eliminate the repetition and irrelevant details the writer felt to add.

I feel the last half drags in places where Lt Dekker gets into rehashing who might have committed the crime, alone or together with who, how they accomplished it, when, and why. Given the facts, readers can and will ask these questions themselves; this repetition is a waste of ink, IMO. Since his musings were about the same each time, I just skipped over them.

For example, here are a few sentences from this book I think an editor could have helped to smooth and clarify.
(Lightning is his name for his VW Beetle.)
I braked and eased Lightning in front of Mrs Nelson’s house. Lou and I used one hand for leverage and extracted ourselves from the yellow bubble.

(Sgt Murdock had a bucket list of 100 books he plans to read.)
Lou began his conquest by reading a novel told from the point of view of one of literature’s most beloved characters, Scout, from To Kill a Mockingbird. Lou called it a delightful book and voiced his disappointment that Harper Lee never wrote a second book.

An After Thought

The writer just released the fourteenth book in this series in April and has two other mystery series on the go, so he’s likely learned a lot about editing since this book came out.

Writing Dialogue Master Class

This afternoon I received an e-mail from writer and editor Joan Dempsey, asking if I’d help spread the word about the Writing Great Dialogue Master Class she’s offering. If you’re interested in joining and taking advantage of feedback from an editor to help you give your dialogue more zing, then do check out her link here: Learn More

Bear in mind that this is time sensitive. Enrollment in this class closes tonight at 10pm EDT— that’s four hours from now. I think the price is fair for what you’ll be getting. I’ve been taking a shorter “teaser” class this month and appreciate her feedback.

Time to Write

Time Management Woes

As you may realize, this past winter I’ve become increasingly frustrated with my lack of order and productivity. This isn’t new; all my life I’ve refused to be a slave to schedules and To-Do lists — but this has left me with a case of chronic indecision. Bogged down with “Where to start?”

Also, I’ve been a hoarder. Part of my effort to make improvements I’ve already written about: decrease the paper clutter; finish small writing projects. But the bigger projects still await my attention — and zeal. Too many “Started, not finished” projects are like a stone holding your head under water.

This week a book title popped up in BookBub:
10 time management choices that can change your life.

I checked it out and decided to take a chance. I’ve have been working my way through it in the past few days and it’s been nailing me right and left. Addressing issues like why you never get done the big things because of wasting time, indecision, procrastination. Creative people who hop from one project to another. Never finishing — or starting— a project because you’re too much of a perfectionist. Examples of others who sound so much like me. Ouch!

From what I’ve read so far, I can heartily endorse the book. How much benefit I get from it depends on how many changes I’m willing to make in my day-to-day activities. One quote really hit home, citing my prime nemesis:

“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” Goethe

Now I’m thinking specifically of my writing projects sitting on the back burner. The books I’ve written for NaNoWriMo, for example. I can see how lack of accountability and lack of a deadline have stalled me. You could say, “Filling my days with the things which matter least.”

I was once a part of a writing group that met once a week and was a real inspiration to keep working at my writing. I miss that. So I’d like to ask you readers for your suggestions. I’m looking for online writing partners or a group that will add some pressure, some deadlines.

Last night I googled and checked out online writing groups, hoping to find one where members exchange chapters for critiquing. Some beta readers or an editor who will reply in reasonable time and won’t cost this penniless writer a lot of dough. Not a given weekly writing assignment, but feed-back on my WIPs. (By e-mail; no Facebook, Yahoo groups or Skype.)

I’m hoping to find a few critique partners somewhat on my own wavelength. I’m happy to give feedback on others’ writing but don’t want to have to read ten zombi and/or horror chapters a week just to get feedback for my own mild tales. (Been there, done that once.)

Any suggestions? Anyone interested in reading and critiquing, sharing WIP projects? If so, please leave a comment, or email me at christinevanceg @ gmail.com

Taking A Deep Breath

Dear Readers,

I see it’s been eight days since my last post. In the past couple of weeks I’ve devoted myself to formatting my book of poems and short stories, Silver Morning Song, for a printed version. And this has been a real learning process!

I’m happy to tell you that, after much trial and error, Silver Morning Song — in a shiny paperback edition — is now available from Amazon.com

Rik Hall at Wild Seas Formatting has also updated the e-book files so readers can order the latest e-version — hopefully with NO typos now — from either Amazon or Kobo. Funny how many times you can go over a book and those little typos and spelling mistakes still slip through. 😦

In addition to my own project, I’ve been doing a quick second edit on the book of a friend. This is an allegory that I expect will be in print before too long.

Here on the prairies this past week we’ve been enjoying a mild spell of weather, together with sunny days that really makes us think of spring. Some evenings and/or mornings have been foggy, so our trees have a glistening hoar-frosted appearance now.

I trust life can get back to normal again, and I’ll be more faithful at blogging for awhile. Although I’m really enthused about getting to work, editing and then publishing my next book. This adventure of publishing your own writing kind of grows on a person. 🙂

Leave a few lines in the comments and let me know how you’ve spent the month of January? For some folks in the East, I gather it’s been a month of shoveling snow.