"Wherever men have lived there is a story to be told." Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Spit Shine

Revisions, edits--call them what you will--they are nothing more than putting the spit shine on your final manuscript. There are a lot of things to watch for during your final spit shine. You might as well start with the easy stuff, and one of the first things to check for is passive voice. I'll admit that I just hate it when members of critique groups get completely anal about the word "was." This is probably my biggest pet peeve. Okay, so it's passive. But it is also part of the English language and sometimes you have to use it. However, in all honesty, sometimes you don't.

In our first draft(s) we often are focused on just getting the story down and so we throw in a lot of passive voice as we rush to the finish. Let's look at a couple of examples of how you can turn the passive voice into an active one. And, in case you're wondering why we do this, it's because active voice puts the reader more firmly in the story and keeps him there.

Here are some examples that aren't the best in the world, but you get the idea.

Bill and Mike were lounging in their chairs by the river's edge.
Bill and Mike lounged in their chairs by the river's edge.

The horse was skittish, not wanting to follow the trail.
The skittish horse did not want to follow the trail. or The skittish horse refused to follow the trail.

Harris Milton was waiting next to his plane, anxious to leave for his next job.
Harris Milton waited next to his plane, anxious to leave for his next job.

Okay, so go search out "was" in your document and get creative using active voice. I'll post a few more revision/editing suggestions on upcoming blogs.


Nancy C said...

Oh mercy - I'm in the midst of editing/revision, too. I've done the "was" thing and am now seeking out the "ly" adverbs.

Do you find each time you write you become a little more aware (at the time) of that type thing and have less to go back and edit/revise?

Or is it always like this?? :-)

B.J. Anderson said...

Great post! I totally find myself fixing my was's. So, I think it definitely gets easier. Now I must be getting back to my soggy manuscript. :D

Linda Sandifer said...

Yes, I do think you become more aware of it. There might be writers who get every sentence correct as they write, but I don't know of any personally. I think if you edit while you write, you will never finish anything because you will be crippled by the perfection of the word arrangement and lose sight of advancing the story. Creating and editing should be kept separate, in my humble opinion.

Heidiwriter said...

Good post, Linda. I'm always harping on these things to my students and editing clients!

Strange Fiction said...

Great post and great points :)

I'm in total agreement on keeping creating and editing seperate. I wasted a lot of time on my first 'novel' attempt.

This time I'm determined to complete the first draft before I start to comb through. It's not easy but it's a lot more time effecient.

Anonymous said...

Hi Linda,
Enjoyed this post and the ones on the sense of touch, smell, etc.
Good reminders. Eunice Boeve