Thursday, September 13, 2012

Passive Voice May Be Your Best Choice

Some writers argue against ever using passive voice, and when critiquing another's work, strike through was, is being, were on principle (with a little notation, change passive voice to active), without thought that passive may be the better way to go.

Active voice means the subject is doing the action. Passive voice is when the subject is being acted upon by the verb. True, passive verbs are widely judged as the weakest form, but there lies an exception or two with every guideline.
One exception turns up when the writer wants to put the focus on the recipient of the action, because the recipient is more important than the person or thing performing the action.

Consider: Sheila Townsmen, wife of Governor Townsmen, was brutally attacked by a stray dog last night.
In this case, the author wants to emphasize who received the action, and therefore gives the person acted upon more weight than the person or thing that performed the act. The story is not going to be about the dog, but rather about the woman, and how the act affects her. Passive voice is the correct choice for the sentence above.

Sometimes the doer of an action is unknown, which makes using passive voice the obvious choice.
Example: An original Kincaid, donated by Lucille Ball, was stolen from The Museum of Art yesterday.
The identity of the thief is unknown, so it’s obvious that what was stolen is more newsworthy than who did it; therefore, passive voice makes sense. If you change the sentence to active— Yesterday, a thief or thieves stole Lucille Ball’s donation, an original Kincaid, from the Museum of Art—puts the focus on the doer, or doers, which would change the intended slant of the story.

Another exception to the preference of active voice is when the writer is using the passive voice to parallel the passive stance of the character. Take for instance a woman who had been raped. While being examined and questioned by doctors and police, she might not be feeling too strong. At a time like that, it wouldn’t be unbelievable for her to be acted upon, and do little acting herself. 
It doesn’t happen often, but passive voice can be your friend, as long as you make a conscious decision of when and how to use it.

Can you think of any other instances where passive voice is the better choice?


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Editor Kimberly O’Connor on “A Hop, Clip, and Jump to Writing Success—Getting Clips!” and a Free Contest!

Clips are copies of your published work (include only the page with your byline when attaching to a query) which prove your work has been published in a specific publication. The more clips you have from different publications, the more experienced and professional you appear. Thus, clips are $$$.
Breaking into the big bucks—$200 to $500 per story— is like saving money for an expensive item. It’s best to use a step-up-the-ladder approach.
Editors of high-paying markets rarely look at the work of unknown writers. Start building your list of published credits by sending your work to blogs and e-zines, and later to newspapers and smaller publications.
Blogs get your name out, and not just through your own site, but as a guest blogger on someone else’s. It’s a mistake to think that because blog owners seldom pay monetary rewards, that they’ll publish anything. Think again. Send only your best. Many blog owners receive numerous articles to choose from, so yours still must shine if you want to see your byline, and you do need the credit.
You may even be invited to serve as a regular contributor for a certain topic, at which point your cover letter can legitimately say, “I am a columnist for Joe Schmoe’s Coffee-time Chatter (URL). Let’s face it – it’d be a tad more impressive to state that you’re a columnist for someone else’s blog, rather than simply the author of your own. The point you’ll get across to an editor is that someone else took a chance on your work.
Your next step is to land space in a print publication. Though newspaper editors appreciate freelancers with writing credits, they are easier to break into than magazines. To get in the door, submit a letter to the editor on a timely topic you feel passionate about that will interest area readers. This is one of the easiest and fastest credits to obtain. On your next cover letter, mention your writing has appeared in “Such and Such” newspaper.
Small publications are often open to new writers. Although low or non-paying, these markets maintain standards as high as that for larger paying markets. Send your best.
Once you’ve accumulated clips from non-paying markets, you’re ready to step up a rung on the ladder to writing success. Now write a cover letter listing your experience, attach a few clips and query an editor paying $5 to $25 per story or article. Once your byline appears in a few small publications, you step up the ladder again. It’s time to submit to a market paying $50. Accumulate as many clips as your creative brain will allow.
During your climb to writing success, there may come a time another aspiring writer who has not yet been published (remember when?) requests an interview, with plans to write a profile on you. Voila!  Although you won’t be the writer for this article, it will be about you as a writer. You may use this in your clips.
The markets shelling out $100 and more per story are becoming scarce; hence, they perch at the top of the ladder. It’s a long climb, but with persistence—and good writing—you’ll get there. Remember, you need to start at step one, paid or not, to arrive at step two, then three, and so on. Pay attention to the smaller markets; they are a key to your future success.
Try the ladder approach to marketing. Before you know it, you’ll be just one clip away from the big guys.
Contest: Enter to win! Edit and/or evaluate the above article, post it in the comments below or email it to You may win a free edit and evaluation on ten pages of your writing. As a freelance and ghost editor, Kimberly loves the red pen. Put yours to use. The best review of this article wins! Deadline: 9-14-12