Short answer: Your ears will play tricks on you, so let me hear your voice.
When you’re listening to the news and a journalist flubs a delivery, he will use his training to quickly recover. Everyone notices, but those with a passion for words will cringe!
Imagine your written work, printed in black and white. In a form of communication that once delivered, can’t be quickly recovered. Readers will not only cringe… they will stop reading.
Your first “purchasing” readers will be magazine editors, professors, literary agents and publishers. You want very much for those folks to continue reading your work, to ask for more of your work. Basically, you want them to want you. To those readers, the big scary decision makers, you are nothing more than what is on that piece of paper. If they have to stumble through bad technique, how will they ever be able to float effortlessly along with your creativity or find the message destination? If you don’t care to invest time to perfect your work, they certainly won’t care to invest time in you.
Sad? Yeah… that makes me sad, too. And I don’t even know you yet. So let’s get to know one another, and together we will make your work, work for you!
My last “I know how to write” post covered the technical aspects that are spelling and missing small mistakes. Authors don’t usually need an English lesson, so now I will briefly discuss grammar, sentence structure.
Syntax, syntax, syntax. That word can make you doubt your ability as a writer because you can not just open a dictionary when you get stuck. You need to know the rules of language and recognize there is a need for consistency in storytelling. Simply put: Does it sound right? Does it make sense?
One of my habits is using a passive voice in my writing because I am sarcastic, rhetorical, and use allegory and metaphor for everything from the glory and mystery of manipulating cloud formations into recognition, to toilet paper. Literary license aside, it is not always the best way to send a clear message to your reader. You need to know what you consider important or your reader will be lost.
Since you already have your story in mind before you set it to page, you may miss confusion of your intent. Once you’re enmeshed in the revision and editing of your story, you’ve read it so many times it is etched on your brain. You know your story! Your reader will read it once, learning as she goes.
Your reader may focus on what was done when you actually want to stress who did the doing. By the place and style of verbs, the staccato or flow of your sentence, you can send one message when you mean another. If you are very “to-the-point” throughout your manuscript, and suddenly I see a slippery sentence, I will flag it as error. You’ve been writing in an active voice and my editing advice may read: Passive voice. Consider verb/subject relationship.
Let me show examples of active and passive voice.
Bert stole Ernie’s rubber ducky.
We have three subjects, and one lonely little verb. So who or what is our focus? Bert, Ernie, or the rubber ducky? In this sentence, Bert is the focus. He did the doing. Bert stole. We don’t need to know what or from whom to know what he did. This is a direct message, an active voice.
The rubber ducky that Ernie loved was stolen by Bert.
Oh, the green squiggly line, the hall monitor of writing school, just popped up on my computer screen! This sentence has many messages, in passive voice. Ernie loved. The duck was loved. Bert stole. The duck was stolen. Bert is a jerk.
There is so much more that makes up language. For those of you unsure of the grammar that creates your voice, I can guide you. For those of you with a grasp for the writing rules and regs, I am not teaching anything new. Simply pointing out that as an editor I will be reading with fresh eyes, and listening with ears that have not yet heard your story.
By the way, you totally have that song stuck in your head now, don’t you? “Rubber ducky, you’re the one…”