People ask a lot of interesting questions of me. As an author and editor, it comes with the job. My favourite questions come from eager individuals genuinely impassioned by reading, writing, and editing. I’ve been asked, “how do you become an editor?”; often, this question […]
Write Your Manuscript to the End Without a manuscript completed, it is impractical to begin the publishing journey. But, you’re eager to get the book to readers. That’s understandable. Creativity spirals out from you, encouraging you to craft your art and reach across the noise […]
Using the passive voice in your novel is not the end of the world. It isn’t grammatically incorrect, and, it is quite common. There are times when a passive voice is necessary, or, as a writer’s convention or style choice. However, your manuscript’s magic may be lost as readers try to fumble through a passive voice to connect with your characters or content.
If you’re post-secondary educated, passive voice has been drilled into you in the strive for objectivity. If you’re female, you may be more likely to use passive phrasing as a result of social norms. If you’re a politician, well, you use the passive voice all the time.
Using an active voice in your novel or non-fiction means greater clarity for your readers, and, a solid immersive experience for them too. Below I’ve summaries the pros and cons of using the active versus using the passive voice in your manuscript (this applies to most non-fiction and fiction work).
What is the Difference?
Active voice character(s) (subject) performs an action.
Passive voice character(s) (subject) have something happen to them indirectly.
Active: She ran.
Passive: She was running.
Writers often fall into the passive when using flashbacks or shallow point of view, or, when there is fear or uncertainty about what is being written.
Cons of Passive Voice
- Confusing/unclear and can obscure meaning
- Use prepositions/ create prepositional phrases
- Creates distance between reader and characters by inserting a passive narrator
- Can be inaccessible for an average audience and is often difficult for English learners to comprehend
- Promotes power imbalances and is often used to dehumanize minorities and marginalized people
- “agentless passive voice” can be used to evade responsibility (Eckert and McConnell-Ginet)
When to Use Passive
- Emphasize something other than the subject/character such as a key item in a mystery or thriller novel that is integral to the plot while obscuring the character who performed the crime.
- Build a sense of mystery
- Writing a report or news release
- Create anonymity
- You need an authoritative or professional tone
- Using a passive voice lends a sense of objectivity, and so is often used in scientific writing and business reports to put distance between the reader and the content
Pros of Using an Active Voice
- Creates an immersive experience for the reader
- Shorter phrases
- Adds clarity to your work
- Improves pacing
- Gives a sense of immediacy
- Is accessible to the majority of readers
What to Look for in Your Manuscript
Prepositions indicate a relationship between the subject (noun/pronoun/character) and the rest of the sentence, phrase, or clause. i.e. Zoe and the rest of the dragons – “and” and ‘of’ are prepositions. See Oxford Dictionaries for a brief overview. A list of prepositions can be found here.
- words ending in ing
- Language and Gender by Penelope Eckert and Sally McConnell-Ginet
- Gendered Talk at Work by Janet Holmes
Want to know more or want Catherine on your team (she’s an editor/Alpha/Beta Reader too!)? Contact her.
People have funny ideas about what it means to be a writer. Here are some common ones I’ve heard from fellow authors, publishers, editors, and professionals in the field. 1) You must be rich if you published a book The chance to make money and […]
Authors seeking an editor can find themselves in a world of possibilities to bring magic to their manuscripts. The difficulty lies in knowing what type of editing is needed when and for what manuscript. It’s important to clarify the type of editing you require and communicate that with your editor. Editors will often ask questions to clarify and assess manuscripts to determine the type and depth of editing required. Below I’ve listed the stages of a manuscript and the types of editing appropriate at each stage.
Pre-Drafting of a Manuscript or Preparing a Query
That’s right. Before you actually have a manuscript, you can involve an editor. You’ve got an idea, you’ve got an outline or multiple outlines, you might have a few scenes drafted out.
You Could Benefit From:
Developmental/Project Editing. A Developmental Editor works with you kind of like a project manager or mentor/coach. They coordinate, set schedules, review and offer constructive feedback, and guide you as you’re writing the first draft. This can be informally through one-on-one discussions, or formally through an established project schedule. You’ll receive mentorship on areas you get stuck on, plot structure and character construction issues, genre and audience, marketability, and more. They can nip common and major problems in the bud before they make to a full draft. They can also offer feedback on your ideas and proposals for queries you’re sending to publishing agents and publishers. This is the type of editing I specialize in and get the most satisfaction from because you get to immerse yourself along with the author in their creative brainstorming. Starting early has huge benefits and can cut down on the number of revisions and rewrites.
First Draft, Un-edited Work
You’ve written out your first draft, or decided to stop writing at a certain point. You are seeking assistance to guide your focus and story early on, but haven’t read through and revised or edited the manuscript yourself.
You Could Benefit From:
Developmental/Project Editing. It’s a little different than at the pre-drafting stage and requires a full editorial read through where the editor highlights major issues and common grammar, punctuation, syntax issues to be aware of when revising/rewriting future drafts. I work with a number of discovery writers and find this is the most effective method of editing as you get to assess the writer’s goals, intentions, skills, and focus more thoroughly within the manuscript itself, then consult with or coach a writer through the next revision. The results are more clearly observable between drafts.
Alpha Reading. Alpha Readers assist writers by offering a reader’s perspective for a manuscript after an initial draft. The manuscript often has not been edited. It’s not uncommon for an Alpha to read before the author edits the first draft. For more information on Alpha and Beta Readers check out my blog post Alpha-Beta You’re Confused about Readers.
First Draft, Author Edited
You’ve written out a complete draft of a manuscript. The story is on the pages. You’ve read through and revised your first draft and are ready to continue. You think you might need a professional editor’s help.
You Could Benefit From:
Line-by-Line Editing. This is ‘in the weeds’ editing. Editors look at a manuscript with a magnifying class and seek to clarify meaning or intent, eliminating unclear language or abbreviations, polish diction (word choice). They may or may not consider mechanics (grammar, punctuation, syntax, spelling). It is sometimes used to refer to the same level of editing as Copy Editing as well.
Copy Editing. This is what people traditionally view as editing. Copy editors focus on clarifying or reorganizing a manuscript into a cohesive story. They check for classic editorial issues within the mechanics: grammar, usage, spelling, punctuation, and style. They’ll pay attention to internal consistency or that your characters act within their characterization/personalities, the story structure/plot doesn’t contradict or have major gaps, and they may identify areas that require more research or appear to be factually incorrect, although those are more commonly done in Developmental or Fact-checking editing types. For non-fiction the copy editor may insert title font styles and place holders for art: edit tables, figures, and lists. Additional services may include: addressing consistency of mechanics like if you’re using a Canadian, United States, United Kingdom, or Australian dictionary they’ll align your spelling accordingly.
When you had off your manuscript to a traditional publishing house, you do have access, usually, to a copy editor. Unfortunately, that editor may be strapped for time or be asked by the publishing house to focus on certain things. It’s important to have an editor that works for you, the author, to review a work before it gets to the publishing house. Your manuscript should be as polished as possible to ensure it gets the care and attention it deserves.
Fact/Citation/Reference Checking. You can hire an editor to ensure the accuracy of your manuscript’s content and quotes. You should provide your reference to materials originally sourced when you did your research for the manuscript. This is more common in non-fiction, business, and academic writing fields, but fiction is often informed by factual references. In my opinion, fiction that incorporates fact lends a more immersive and credible experience for readers.
Second or Subsequent Drafts
You’ve gone through a first draft and edit of the manuscript. You’ve revised, rewritten, and you’re ready to publish, right? Not so fast. It’s good to have at least two editorial read throughs. I use 3-4 for each manuscript and 2-3 additional self-read throughs.
You Could Benefit From:
Copy Editing. That’s right. Running this draft by your editor, or another editor, again is a good idea. Staring at a manuscript for hours on end can lend to mistakes missed, no matter how good the editor or author.
Beta Reading. Betas look at a book for appeal to your audience, they catch plot holes, characterization issues, and focus on reader experience including why they loved sections or were thrown out of the book by something. Secondary elements a Beta may catch include grammar, punctuation, spelling issues, and other mechanics which may or may not have affected their reading experience. Betas and Alphas can be paid, unpaid, professional or friends or family. I believe that anyone contributing time and focus to your manuscript’s success should be acknowledged and compensated. A mixed team of Betas and Alphas from both professional/paid and unprofessional/friends/family/unpaid will be the most beneficial. I use 5-15. More than that at one time is too difficult to coordinate and revise from. Having Beta’s interested in your genre or in your target audience is a huge asset.
Also, make sure you ask focused questions about your manuscript to your Betas. Anything flagged by one third or more of your readers should probably be addressed.
So you’ve arrived. Your manuscript is entered into the system, formatted, and ready to print into beautiful books or display as eBooks for potential readers. You don’t need an editor anymore. Right? Not so much…
You Could Benefit From:
Proof Reading. This is often confused with a last edit before it goes to the printer (that would be a copy edit). What proofreading really is: reviewing proofs or sample books or documents which have been formatted and thoroughly edited. Proof readers check for design, appearance, page formatting, and for minor, mechanical errors in copy like spelling or small deviations from style sheets or manuals. In case you were wondering, fiction manuscripts are often edited based on the Chicago Style Manual. Non-Fiction and Academic depend on where it’s being published and subject matter. There are dozens of style guides and requirements. You may wish to clarify the specific requirements or style guides with your editor at the second/subsequent draft stage.
Other Things to Note about Editing Services:
Follow ups, editorial reports, page and reference formatting, rewriting, editing other elements (graphs, arts, tables), checking indexes, or consulting the author before making edits to a copy may or may not be included in your editing services.
You Should Also Clarify:
- Rights of ownership over materials and derivative works resulting from edits (copyrights)
- Editorial credit (whether or whether not the editor will be listed within the final product and book descriptions/meta data as contributing to the work)
- Termination terms
- Which jurisdiction’s laws will be applied (province, country)
- Payment terms and amounts
- Whether edits are made as suggestions or within the manuscript
- Whether edits will occur in a specific format or hard copy and who pays for hard copy and delivery
- Whether subcontractors or third parties are used by your editor or not
How Do I Get an Editor on My Team?
Finding an editor is finding a contractor for a job. You may wish to sample their work or interview them. Check resume/curriculum vitaes, references, client lists, associations, education. Editors don’t have to have degrees or memberships in associations, but they can be an asset. Editorial associations in your country, writer guilds, Goodreads.com, internet searches, or referrals from other authors are all great places to find an editor. It’s always good to have backup editors in case your go-to editor is unavailable or booked, or you require an additional set of eyes on a tricky manuscript.
Want to know more or want Catherine on your team (she’s an editor/coach/Alpha/Beta Reader too!)? Contact her.
Okay, maybe you aren’t all that confused about Alpha and Beta Readers. Maybe you’ve got an awesome team behind you. Great! But a quick internet survey clearly indicates there is confusion abundant for new and veteran authors and those readers who might be interested in […]
Writer’s Digest(WD) is a great resource for authors, editors, and writers at any stage in their journey. I see WD advice and articles Tweeted, posted on social media, and referred to across writing and editing blogs. It’s one of my favorite go-to places when I […]
Juggling multiple jobs, family life, and additional responsibilities (school, charity, elder-care, etc) on top of being self-employed as an author, editor, and consultant means a regular balancing act. I am no expert, but I have achieved a working peace with the Work-Life balance I have in my life now. The thing is, it keeps changing on me.
Many of us have long days that end in being overwhelmed. A typical day in the life of the average indie author may include: kids (sleep schedules, extracurricular activities, daycare, homework, health care, education, recreation, feeding, clothing, cleaning), parents and extended family (care for the elderly, errands, family get-togethers), ourselves (exercise, eating, sleep schedules, recreation), our partners (coordinating schedules, building relationships, quality time, emotional and psychological support), piled on to that are education, friends, errands, volunteering, repairing and maintaining dwellings, finances, pets, commuting, vehicle maintenance, work (deadlines, changes, restrictions, conflict, networking), self-publishing, writing, editing, working as our own publicist and accountant and not to mention the hundreds of passwords, pins, names, faces, emails, tasks, dates, events we need to remember. We feel at a loss as time passes us by.
Declutter. Our lives are filled with clutter that throw off our author work-life balance: thoughts, noise, stuff, schedules as full as possible in fear of missing out on something. Declutter your work space, declutter your home, your mind, heart and spirit. Let go of anything that is not serving you, anything that collects dust in the corners, that creates unnecessary work or that you are not willing to dedicate your time to. Check out Becoming Minimalist’s Blog for 10 Creative Ways to Declutter.
Set reasonable boundaries for your time. In the words of a wise comedian Bob Newhart, STOP it! Take a deep breath, exhale. Focus on what you are doing right now. Stop worrying about what is to come. Be aware of what you are looking at, doing, and saying fully, mindfully. In a world of multitasking mayhem, the art of focusing and finishing one thing at a time has been lost. Stop working through breaks and lunches, or skipping meals. If you are on a phone call, focus completely on that phone call. Slow down and become immersed in what you are experiencing right now. Set clear boundaries and don’t compromise yourself or your time for anything that isn’t a priority. Oprah offers great guidance about beginning to set personal boundaries. A lack of reasonable boundaries around your time is a sure-fire way to undermine work-life balance and increase your stress. It can be especially difficult for self-published authors who wear a dozen or more hats to get the job done, but trust me when I say your creativity and writing will thank you.
Plan and Prioritize. Take your days one at a time, but plan ahead. This may sound contradictory, and it is in a way. It’s a difficult practice. Plan and prioritize a strict sleep schedule, more time in the morning or evening for yourself, and quality time for your family and you. Plan meals in advance, this also helps save money and time on groceries. Plan and prioritize going outdoors and exercise. Prioritize and plan fun. But be open and flexible to changes. Stick to what is important and necessary at work, and at home. Mike Robbins offers 3 Ways to Re-Prioritize Your Life. Stuck on prioritizing at work when everything seems to be important? LiquidPlanner has a solution for you.
Learn to say NO without feeling guilty. To truly declutter our lives, we must learn to say no gently, but firmly. We can only handle so much in life. Is it healthy? Is the stress it brings manageable? Is it enjoyable? If it isn’t absolutely and truly necessary or important just say no. Don’t know how? Start with 11 steps from Wiki-How. Saying yes to too many things both at work and home is one of the biggest reasons people become off-balance.
Acceptance. Accept and respect that you have limits. Accept that there are things that you cannot change, that you cannot control (especially other people). Balance is a practice whether you are at work or home, accept that you will never achieve perfect balance. Adjust your focus, effort, and time that as your boundaries and priorities change and don’t feel guilt over it. Working yourself to exhaustion will lead to worse consequences down the road; not to mention, it will deprive your creative brain of the space it needs. GoodLifeCoaching Blog – Living the Creative Life offers a great article about accepting your limitations.
Nine ways to conquer your writing stress from thesis to novel to essay and everything in between. Come to think of it, these nine things apply to just about all types of stress… 1. Retrain Your Brain You obsess about not writing and are […]