Realizing or recognizing poor writing issues and bad habits is easy. Resolving the issues on the other hand, is like playing Chutes and ladders.
You feel like you’re on the right track and then, you step on the wrong square and WHOOSH! down you go back to where you began.
That’s how both of these next elements of writing have felt to me.
Here are a few things i struggled with – and how I improved.
It took me years to figure out what in the world people meant when they said PASSIVE VOICE IS BAD. I couldn’t figure out how to resolve the issue. In fact, there wasn’t any significant ‘light bulb moment” for me. What helped me overcome the use of so much passive voice:
- researching online about how to improve your writing
- Reading well written, successful books
- lots, and lots, of practice
- going back to previous drafts and learning from my previous mistakes
You might notice a theme here. Practice is essential. Just keep on writing. Write a boring, broken-down, or disheveled story and then go through it and pick it apart (or have someone else do it for you, if you wish), and then learn from your mistakes.
The hours and hours I spent in edit/revision actually taught me how to write better. This sometimes causes me to pause and think, maybe it’s a good idea to edit your work first, as best you can, before you send it off to an editor. If I did not ever spend any time editing my own work, then I would not be where I am today. There are plenty of online resources to utilize if you want to edit your work yourself, such as Hemingway Editor. This app will help to identify passive voice within your submitted text.
Oh yeah, and there’s this little short cut way of figuring out if your sentences are passive
If you can insert “by Zombies” after the verb, you have passive voice.
Inserting all of the five senses into your setting descriptions
What helped me improve in this:
#1 2 different people who beta read pointed out to me that my scenes were not well-grounded in settings. My characters were apparently floating in space. Sometimes, you’re so personally invested in the story you’ve written, that you don’t notice your own mistakes. You already have a ‘vision’ in your head of the sights, the sounds, the smells, the feels. Getting that across to other people reading it can be tricky. Sometimes people just have to outright tell you that you’re missing this important aspect.
#2 I began to think about writing scenes as if It were a movie. This has helped me tremendously. Often, when I draft, I will write down a huge list of dialogue that happens in the scene. Then, later I will go back and add in all of the things going on in the scene. What do the characters hear, see, smell, taste, touch?
If I’m working with scenes without dialogue, I think about writing down everything that I ‘see and hear’ in my head, like it’s a movie scene playing out in my mind. If you have any idea of how screenwriting works, screenwriting is ALL VISUAL writing. Writing in novel form allows you to put in the feelings and the thoughts and all that, but taking some time to think in that screen-writing mindset helps you to ground readers to the setting in the scene.