The Active Word Checklist

Hot on the heels of “The Weak Word Checklist”, another great post by K.M. Allan with an “Active Word” checklist. Another one to bookmark for reference when you’re re-writing those drafts.

K.M. Allan

“Keep your prose active.” It’s one of the most well-known pieces of writing advice and one of the most frustrating.

Sometimes when writing, especially when you’re first starting out, you have no idea what words are making your prose non-active. You’re just writing, using the words that sound right.

It’s not until you see the difference creating an active voice makes to your story that you understand why it’s a tried-and-true recommendation. Take the following sentences, for example…

Non-Active: Sarah’s fingers fumbled in her skirt pocket, trying to reach for her cell phone.
Active: Sarah’s fingers fumbled in her skirt pocket for her cell phone.

Non-Active: The fire at the entrance had reached one of the glass doors and was turning it black.
Active: The fire at the entrance reached one of the glass doors, turning it black.

Non-Active: When her gaze crossed the entrance, she couldsee someone standing in the middle…

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3 things we can learn from a not-great book — Rust Belt Girl

There are great books and not-great books. The joy of a great book is getting swept up in the narrative so that we forget the laundry that needs doing, the garden that needs weeding, the kids that need watering (kidding/not kidding). Thing is, when we get swept up in a book, it can be hard […]

via 3 things we can learn from a not-great book — Rust Belt Girl

The Weak Word Checklist

Another great post from K.M. Allan. This is a good resource to bookmark and re-use whenever you are editing a piece.

K.M. Allan

Not all words are created equal, and as a writer, you can devote many hours to finding the best perfect one.

While playing with word choice and re-writing sentences until you get them just right can help capture what you’re trying to invoke, a weak word can do the opposite.

But how do you know which exact words will pull the strength from your sentences? That’s a skill you’ll learn to develop as you grow as a writer. In the meantime, the following checklist is a good place to start.

The Rules

Use your Find/Search function to scour your MS for the following words.

  • If your sentence makes sense without the weak word – Delete it
  • If the weak word adds clarity – Keep it
  • If deleting the weak word makes the sentence better but confusing – Delete the word and rewrite the sentence

The Weak Word Checklist

Actually

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Writer versus Author

image of hedge maze

Is there a difference?

I was inspired by author K.M. Allan’s post ’10 Signs You’ve Upgraded To Being A Serious Writer’ and began thinking about all the ways people who write label themselves and one another, especially on the internet.

If you’re reading this, chances are you like to write. Maybe you fancy yourself a “writer”, an “author”, or an “aspiring writer”? How many times have you read the words “aspiring writer” on the internet this week?

The way writers self-identify is fascinating to me. The way literary circles and internet marketing use these words as labels and identifiers is even more interesting.

Let’s take a look

Writer

  • Someone who writes
  • Someone who writes for a living (novelist, journalist, blogger)
  • Someone who writes books (specifically)
  • Someone who wants to sound cool at parties

Author

  • Someone who writes
  • Someone who writes a lot
  • Someone who is the author of published book(s)
    • Traditionally or self-published? Take your pick
  • Someone who is a well-regarded and successful writer of books (upper-echelon, or possibly “mid-list author”)
  • Someone who wants to sound cool, and a bit pretentious, at parties
    • bonus points for claiming “auteur” status

Aspiring Writer

  • Someone who writes
  • Someone who fantasizes about writing
    • but maybe doesn’t write a lot?
  • Someone who writes and still has big dreams because the soul-crushing weight of a stack of rejection letters hasn’t demolished them yet
  • Someone who is the recipient of endless writing advice (of varying quality) on the internet
  • Someone who is the recipient of endless writer-focused product pitches (of varying quality) on the internet
  • Someone who is just trying to meet another someone at the party

I come from the old school thought that “Writer’s write, but authors get paid to do it.” I find it keeps me grounded and helps me remember that writing may be an art, but publishing is a business. However, I know many of you think otherwise.

There’s no lack of enthusiasm and encouragement these days for people who want to write, which is great.

That said, I have found the common thread among all writers/authors I know is their evolution was grounded in rejection, exposure to criticism, and continued perseverance. In other words, “you keep writing even when it gets tougher and less nice”.

What do you think? Is there true meaning behind the way writers label themselves with these terms, or is it all semantics?

What do you refer to yourself as when you’re at parties? For the record, I say “writer”.

 

 

The Power of Verbs

I’m a big proponent of writing exercises and writing prompts. This post from Deborah Lee Luskin is a great example of how verb choice can alter and determine the tone of your writing.

Live to Write - Write to Live

Power of VerbsVerbs are the engines that power your sentences.

Here’s an exercise that will help you learn the power of verbs.

See if you can make the following paragraph more interesting by changing the verbs. Challenge yourself to show this narrator either speeding through her day or dragging through it by the verbs you choose. If you like, post your revision in the comments below.

I got up this morning: I got dressed I got coffee and a bagel when I got gas. I got the news on the radio, and I got the mail on the way down the hall to the office. I got through my email before my ten o’clock meeting, but I got a phone call from a client so I got to the meeting late.

After the meeting I got through the HR about my health benefits, because I got a bill for my last…

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