About Me: Fiction Writing Update

If you’re interested in reading more about my own work, you can get the latest news about my fiction work, and a flash fiction piece, through my livejournal post.
Read Monica Valentinelli’s Fiction Update.

Thanks for reading, and happy writing!

Freelance Writing Tip #24: Passive vs. Active Voice

One of the things that comes into play in writing is finding your own style. I will be the first to admit that there isn’t “one correct way” to write. However, I’m sure that you can expect that proper grammar and spelling are two essentials to being taken seriously as a writer.

As I mentioned in a previous post about word conservation, writing styles have, no doubt, changed over the years. If word conservation is the result of how modern communication has affected writing over the years, using the “active voice” is a tool to pare down wordiness or the direct opposite of “passive voice“.

What’s ironic about writers who use passive voice, is that this isn’t the first style of writing they learned. One of my college professors once used a similar analogy to this one in one of my workshops: When you learn to write in grade school, you use active voice. Sally ran a mile. Jim threw the rock. Nancy read a book. Then, somewhere along the line you started learning more verbs and how to conjugate them. So, then you learned to say Sally had run a mile. Jim had thrown the rock. Nancy was reading a book. The final step to your learning, was to write essays and sound intelligent. At the same time, you’re submersed in 18th and 19th century literature that is fraught with verbose passages. The mile was run by Sally. The rock was thrown by Jim. The book was read by Nancy.

After using similar examples, the professor turned to the class and said, “Learning how to write active voice is a lot like un-learning all that you’ve been taught since grade school.”

I’d even take that a step further, and say that sometimes de-constructing your work into [noun] + [description] + [verb] or other simple sentence constructions are great ways to clarify your sentence style.

While I reiterate that there is no “one way” to write, the most common form of writing today is to write using the “active voice.” Whether it be a direct influence of the internet, blogs, long work days or what-have-you, if you only have three seconds to grab someone’s attention, the words need to pop off the page.

Passive voice can be used stylistically, to indicate historical periods or nostalgic themes. You may also be instructed to write this way for legalese or insurance policies. If you’re not, I would strongly recommend reading your work out loud to catch yourself before “your writing was submitted by you to be reviewed by an editor for publication.” Once you fall into that trap, it is very hard for an “editor to review your writing submission for publication.”

Guests: On Novel Writing

Author E.E. Knight of Vampjac Productions posted a great article on his blog about writing novels. Read E.E. Knight’s thoughts about writing novels.

Freelance Writing Tip #23: Find a Muse

Throughout history writers have searched high and low for sources of inspiration. Some authors have used their past experiences to fuel their writing, others a love interest, and still others their religious beliefs.

Having a muse can fuel your creativity. For example, say you really like Merlin and you decide to let your imagination run wild. You dream that Merlin stands over your shoulder, inspiring you to write. Maybe you chose him because he’s a popular iconic wizard, or maybe because you’re working on a story set in the world of King Arthur. Simply, Merlin becomes a source of inspiration to help you continue writing.

Non-writers may think that muses are quirky, and I’m sure there are quite a few writers who also think that as well. The point here, is that having a muse is not a declaration of your insanity. It’s simply a way to help motivate you to enjoy your work, to keep at it, and to add a natural touch of creativity so the words flow on the page rather than sounding clunky, over-edited, and unnatural.

Muses can take on many forms; some writers have a lucky pen or a hat that inspires them, others have a routine for writing. Just like any other profession that you might fall in love with (sports for example), even though having a muse may sound silly, if a burst of imagination helps you from turning off your computer or putting down your pen—then the muse did its job.

Freelance Writing Tip #22: Marketing and Writing go Hand-in-Hand

One of the inherent values of understanding marketing, is that you’ll know which audience you are targeting your article, press release or essay for.

By understanding what a client’s needs are, you will prevent miscommunication and rewrites. Entrepreneurial marketing (or small business marketing) can also help you with your self-promotional needs, as you create a marketing strategy to “target your market” and grow your business.

Many “writing” positions are sometimes found stuffed in the “Marketing/Advertising” section of your newspaper or online classifieds; often market research requires you to write results, surveys, promotional materials, etc. The nice thing about these positions is that marketing positions are easier to get into full-time, but don’t pay as well as a technical writing or research writing position.

If you’re a fiction, non-fiction writer or novelist, market research is as easy as taking a peek at the books on your bookshelf. Assess which category or genre your work falls in to, then take a glance at the authors you feel are similar to your own work. Research what company published those authors (and when), and very soon you’ll find that you can hone your product into something that can reach a particular audience.

Regardless of how you perform your marketing strategy, learning how to “sell” your work and come up with a way to add value to your writing is essential to being a freelancer.

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