Tag: author

Active vs. Passive Voice and When to Use Them in Your Manuscript

Active vs. Passive Voice and When to Use Them in Your Manuscript

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.

For Example:
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

  • Wordiness
  • 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.

Common offenders:
  • “by”
  • “was”
  • “had”
  • “felt”
  • words ending in ing


  1. Language and Gender by Penelope Eckert and Sally McConnell-Ginet
  2. Gendered Talk at Work by Janet Holmes
  3. http://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/CCS_activevoice.html
  4. http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/active-voice-versus-passive-voice?page=1
  5. https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/539/02/
  6. https://www.englishclub.com/grammar/prepositions-list.htm
  7. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/grammar/prepositions
  8. http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=3831 


Want to know more or want Catherine on your team (she’s an editor/Alpha/Beta Reader too!)? Contact her.

Misconceptions of #writerslife

Misconceptions of #writerslife

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 

The Many Faces of Editing

The Many Faces of Editing

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.

An Editor’s Contention

An Editor’s Contention

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 

Life and Work Wellness for Authors: Five Tips to Help Manage

Life and Work Wellness for Authors: Five Tips to Help Manage

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 

Conquer Your Writing Stress

Conquer Your Writing Stress

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 riddled with guilt because you should be writing.


Stop it. Silence those unhealthy, intrusive thoughts. If you are obsessing about ‘shoulds,’ you won’t be able to write when you actually sit down to do it. You burn out your brain and body by expending energy worrying instead of actually writing. Focus on Whatever You are Doing Right Now. Breathe. Count to Three. Focus on what you are doing right now. Are you sitting still? What is around you? Walking? What do you hear? Staring at a computer screen? What do the keyboard and mouse feel like beneath your hands? When you are done, do the same for whatever comes next. Stop wasting time on ‘shoulds’. Live in right now. You will write. You will finish the project. It’s more important that you be mindful. If you are having trouble breaking the obsession cycle, reach out to a professional therapist or doctor in your community. Workplaces, universities and schools, health programs and clinics often have free or low-cost resources.


2. Create a Schedule and Stick to It


Writing is a project: Conception – Composition – Completion. You have deadlines. Set milestones and reachable goals. One day you may dedicate six hours to researching and the next two hours to outlining. You may do a lot of prep work. You might not actually write anything for a while, but it’s still writing work. Don’t know where to start? Try AuthorMedia.comMake your schedule achievable. We all want to finish and move on to what is next. It’s human nature. It’s natural. Don’t fight it, it’s part of the driving force behind your creativity and creation, but DO set it aside.


DON’T allot 10-16 hours to work. You will turn into an exhausted, angry, caffeine fueled ball of chaos with anxiety so tangible you will pixelate before your friends’ very eyes. A human mind can only focus for so long (anywhere from 8 seconds to 20 minutes according to various sources). The body can only be in one position for so long. You will do your best work in shorter, focused bursts when you are rested and healthy.


3. Take Breaks


You know the negative effects of sitting too long. You start to shift after 20 minutes. You perch on the edge of your chair, unaware of or ignoring your need to get up. Move.


You are torturing your body. You are working against yourself. Move. Not only will your body thank you, your mind will to. And, your project will get done faster. Author James Patterson takes breaks during his writing routine. Put these in your schedule and stick to them. Take them when you need, but remember, this is work. Keep your breaks under control. They are not an excuse to procrastinate.


4. This is Work


Treat writing like work. A thesis, a novel, a short story, a poem, a blog, they are all work. They require research, time, and effort. Make and keep a schedule, set goals within reasonable time frames, and reward your successes. Stop making excuses, stop torturing yourself. Stop avoiding and stop overworking. Be present and be focused. Act like this is a professional task. Get the resources and materials you need. Consult experts. Operate with professionalism. Do your job.


5. Have a Sacred Space


“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”

― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Dedicate a box, a table space, a library or café, or an office to your writing. You don’t have to have an entire room, but a room or space designated solely for writing will make you more productive and help your focus. Appreciate the space you choose, settle in, and blaze ahead. Lock the door to your mind and ignore distractions.  Find inspiration from Writing Spaces: Where 9 Famous Creatives Do Their Best Work. The work you are doing is important. Treat it so.


6. Exercise


Creativity and focus are yours when you are healthy. Exercise is a need. Stop avoiding it. You want to do it. Your body sends signals of stress through muscle tension, stiffness, feeling cold, nausea, headaches, blurred vision and itchy eyes. Fidgeting? When was the last time you went for a walk, to the gym, or ran through yoga or martial art poses? An exercised body is an exercised mind. Sitting for extended period of time can restrict circulation, causing lapses in memory and cognition. Get up and go.



7. Eat Properly


You want that comfort food. You need that comfort food. You crave it. You might even rage until you get it. Having a complete meal feeds your brain and body – your most important writing tools. Skipping meals or grabbing quick fixes increases your costs and adds empty calories, which drives you to eat more. They also deprive you of the nutrients you need to keep your work flowing. Invest in yourself. You are the only way this project of yours is getting done. That novel won’t write itself. That brain and body won’t write without food.

8. Get a Life

Take care of all of your needs. Your brain is built to do more than one thing. So is your body. Dedicate your time and energy to other areas of your life and watch your creativity spark and stamina grow. Walk away from that computer and socialize. Take a shower or a bubble bath. Take care of those other to-dos. Go on a mini-vacation, or even a real vacation. Get enough sleep. Most importantly, have fun. And lots of it. It can help inform your writing. It’s the best way to overcome that writer’s block. There are a number of models in psychology regarding the dimensions of wellness/well-being. Check out eight of them here: http://campusrec.eku.edu/eight-dimensions-wellness


9. Reward Yourself


You are working hard. Compensate yourself for it. Spend time in your favorite place, go out to your favorite restaurant with friends. Go on a date (with yourself, significant other, a friend). Read a book for pleasure. Do nothing for a bit. Reward that hard work and dedication. You deserve it.


Fiction to Function: Stories that Heal

Fiction to Function: Stories that Heal

Stories are medicine. —Clarissa Pinkola Estes Our lives are filled with challenges, changes, and problems to be solved. These difficulties can become great crucibles, when we get stuck thinking or feeling. Perhaps, like me, you are faced with an event so traumatic that your mind