Passive Writing

I learned more things from Before You Hit Send than my brain can process and I’m not going to attempt to tell you what they all were because a) I won’t be able to do it as well as Angela James, and b) you really should spend the $55 and take the course yourself.  I will, of course, tell you about the one thing that hit me like a blunt snow shovel on a warm July day.

When Angela covered the horrors of passive writing, I thought, Oh, I would NEVER do that! Then she pointed out that, when body parts perform actions, this is passive writing. Although this was news to me, I still thought, Nope. Not me!

But then I searched my manuscript and found a slew of lines like this:

“His eyes travelled…”

“His gaze rested…”

“His hands moved…”

I closed my manuscript, slammed my forehead on my desk twelve times, and then took an Advil with a shot of whiskey. Okay, not really (it was only ten times. Eleven tops!)

In case it’s not clear, in the above examples, He is not performing the action; his body parts are. By definition, this makes the writing passive and according to Angela, this makes it less effective. (Footnote: Angela probably used a much better word than effective. To find out what is was, TAKE THE DAMN COURSE!)

This one is a relatively quick fix but then most of the tips from Before You Hit Send are easy. The beauty of these tips is that, if you make all the changes she suggests, you’ll end up with a more polished manuscript that doesn’t make a potential reader/agent/editor want to use your book as kindling. Or, worse, as lining for a litter tray.

Category: On Writing