Introductions and explanations
Some of you are familiar with my writing, others not.
Welcome to this, the first in a series on what makes good writing.
What credentials do I hold to presume to speak to others on this subject?
First, I’ve written all my life. In fact, the only interest that has consumed more of my time than writing is reading. One of my more common memories of childhood is the sharpness of my mother’s voice as she yelled, “Get your nose out of that book and do as you’re told!” That, and getting into all kinds of trouble for writing my own little books, complete with illustrations, instead of working on mathematics and science (which I still don’t get, and find terribly boring.)
I didn’t study English composition in university. No, strangely enough for someone who hates math, I studied business administration, economics and hold a post-graduate designation in, of all things, accounting.
This doesn’t mean I didn’t study writing at all. I did. For the past ten years I’ve held membership in Writers’ Village University on the internet; I’ve taken many seminars in creative writing and led a few for young people, and enough night courses to earn a dozen honorary degrees if anyone were to add them up.
I wrote my first novel at the ripe old age of fourteen – a historical fiction of a young girl living in the beginning of the twentieth century on the prairies of Western Canada, Picking Stones and Other Fun Things, which was published as a serial in a now defunct magazine, West Winds , an aptly titled journal dedicated to life in the Canadian west in 1966. Yes, I’m that old. Five more followed, two of which, fortunately, were accepted and published traditionally (by presses also defunct) more than twenty-five years ago. Two others were serialized, and one bit the dust (and rightly so.)
Raising children as a single mother, running a business, working with children, caring for foster kids, marriage and life in general, consumed me for many years, and I haven’t published another novel in some decades, but did write and edited journals for The Canadian Business Women’s Club, The Mastiff Club of Canada, Safe Place (a journal for child protection workers,) ARF – the Animal Rescue Foundation, among others. At present, I am working on the third novel in a series based on a professional in child protection. The first is currently winging its way around in search of an agent; the second is in the hands of my editor and the third lives in assorted files on my computer.
I also edit, not for professional writers, but for young aspiring authors, and inexperienced writers of all ages trying their hand at the art. I’m accustomed to receiving very rough diamonds, and at least handing back a pretty chunk of glass.
So, no my name is not a household term, but, I know what makes good writing. And, perhaps even more importantly, what does not.
Now, you know me, and I in turn have met a few of you.
I read a lot of the creative prose posted here on hubpages, and occasionally when I see some real potential in the voice and style, I’ve offered some assistance (quietly and privately for the most part, or with instructions to delete the comment once read, not wanting to embarrass anyone.)
I’ve never quite been sure if work is posted by an author looking for growth and critique (as mine is – criticism gladly accepted) -- or as a sample in a portfolio, which sometimes disturbs me. Without meaning to sound superior or condescending, or insulting, or um, um, gosh -- maybe I should just spit it out. May I suggest some of you want to find editing help, and not from me – I have plenty work to keep me busy. I will do a short passage for you, free, if you ask, but no, I’m not trying to drum up work.
A few of you out there in hubland have sent me a few paragraphs for edit and critique, and I’ve done my best to impart as much education as I can on this one time basis. I honestly can’t help myself. I want to “fix” it.
Twice now, someone has taken the free critique, written me back and said, “Look, everyone else loves it just the way it is. Look at my comments.” Okay, fine. I’ve yet to see a comment from anyone (other than bitchy me I suppose) that says anything but, “very nice” and “I enjoyed this, thanks.”
So rather than continue this thankless practice, I’m starting a series of articles discussing the most common mistakes I see in the work posted around here – and no, I won’t embarrass anyone. I’ll only use examples for those I think are good. How’s that?
Now on to the article itself. (And now that we've met, I won't have introductions and explanations on any of the subsequent hubs in this series.
The two biggest mistakes made by new writers
The biggest error I see in amateur writing is excessive use of the passive voice.
“We were walking down the beach. Our shoes were sinking into the sand, and walking was difficult. Mary saw a good looking boy, and we were all expecting her to leave us and go and talk to him. She was the one most likely to do this out of the three of us good friends. We had been friends since grade six, and we had spent every summer at this beach for as long as we could remember, so we were sure Mary would go and talk to him. Boy, were we surprised when she didn’t and Louise and I started asking ourselves why she was so different today.”
Boring! Tedious! Sorry, but it is. This has as much color and flavor as sawdust, and is equally as exciting. But we see this all the time. Such writing is acceptable in the rough draft when one simply wants to lay down the facts, but not in the finished product. The writer has a story to tell, yes, and we see where she is trying to take us. Do we want to go? Do we feel part of the scene – no.
Here’s why: the use of auxiliary verbs distances us from the action. It’s dull, slow and sounds like the author was probably an accountant or a lawyer. We need a sense of immediacy, of walking along beside these girls. We want a taste of their experience, not a slow recitation of the facts written in passive language.
Also, the use of this “we” as a narrator doesn’t ring real, and this distances us further. Stories cannot be told from the viewpoint of “we” because thoughts and ideas aren’t shared by more than one brain. How does whoever is telling this story know what “we” felt? If the passage doesn’t seem real, we can’t let go of reality and join in. This adds even further passivity – so passive we’re likely to go to sleep. Let’s rewrite correcting these two weaknesses.
“Our shoes sank deep into the sand adding resistance to each step, so we three girls made slow progress down the beach. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a good looking boy further down, and glanced at Mary to see if her head turned in his direction. Yes, she spotted him, and I caught Louise’s eye and winked. She smirked in return. Any minute now, Mary would offer an excuse, and leave us – we expected it. After all these years as friends, since grade six, we knew Mary well. Louise looked as surprised as I felt when Mary continued walking along at our sides. I wondered what was up with her.”
We’ve taken out most of the “were” and “was” that diluted the action. The only auxiliary verb left is “would offer an excuse” which we need to show a probable future action, but this doesn’t detract from the active voice we now hear.
Also we changed the viewpoint to one girl, added a tiny phrase of action. “I caught Louise’s eye and winked. She smirked in return.” Now our girls seem alive, with personalities.
But still, I don’t feel part of this experience. Instead, I’m sitting at a table listening to someone tell me what happened (thankfully in more interesting language.)
The second biggest mistake I see in amateur writing is “telling the story” not “sharing the story.”
“My calves are killing me,” Louise, the whiner of the group complained.
“Me too,” Mary added.
I looked back at our route across the beach, our footprints deep holes along the way. Even as I stood, my feet slowly sank further into the wet sand. “Wanna give up?”
“Nah, I need a coke.” Mary stuck out her tongue and clutched her throat. “The snack bar’s not much further.” She hunched her shoulders and continued, step, pull, step.
Louise dug her elbow into my ribs. “Hey, Lynda – look over there.” Her finger pointed at two boys throwing a football up on solid ground, away from the water’s edge.
“Wanna bet Mary takes off on us? She’ll be over there in thirty seconds flat.” I kept my voice low so Mary wouldn’t hear.
“Wouldn’t be much of a bet.” Louise threw me a smirk.”Have you ever once since grade six known Mary to turn down a chance to chat up boys?”
Mary’s head turned in their direction, and Louise and I stopped walking, waiting for the excuse, and subsequent abandonment.
“Well, now there’s a surprise.” Louise put out an extra effort and caught up with Mary, who still walked straight ahead.
“Hey, Mary – you sick or something?” I asked, struggling to catch up.
So what do you think? We’ve imparted the same information, but in an active way, drawing the reader in and sharing not only the facts, but painting a vivid picture of our three girls, their difficulty walking the sand, and a fair bit about their character. I might have added colorful details in prose form – have Lynda admire the cobalt blue sky, or the green waves, or described the good-looking boy were I seriously writing a scene and not an example.
Avoid the two biggest pitfalls of inexperienced writers’
- Stay active – avoid the use of passive language or equally passive errors in style. Here’s a hint – if you’re using MSWord, set your review parameters to include passive phrases. In editing, work at an approach that eliminates the use of auxiliary verbs, could have beens, and will be dones. They render your writing grey and boring.
- Share the story, don’t tell the story – show the reader what is happening, don’t describe it.
Tune in to the next installment of Good Writing Is… Coming soon.
- Good Writing Is... #10 What you need to understand about paragraphs
As promised, here is #10 in the Good Writing Is... series: everything you ever wanted to know about paragraphs; how to construct them, when to start a new one, what should be in one and how do they fit into the whole of our work both for essays and f
A link to my webhome and my writers' assistance pages
- This Bird Flew Away - Novel by Lynda M. Martin
This Bird Flew Away - Novel by Lynda M. Martin
Links to the other articles in the Good Writing Is... Series
- Good Writing Is ... #2 The author's voice has no place in his work
The second in the series Good Writing Is ... discusses why the author's voice should not appear in his work -- a common mistake by many new writers -- setting the stage.
- Good Writing Is ... # 3 What is the most important element of successful fiction?
Number 3 in the series on good writing asks the question: what is the most important element in successful fiction. The answer is good characters. Here we explore what makes good characters, how do we develop them and how to present them.
- Good Writing Is...#4 Why new writers get lost and give up.
Many of you wrote in with comments like, "I'll drag out the old novel" or "I was working on a novel but grew frustrated and put it away." Why does this happen? Why do we so often abandon our work? Come in, and we'll explore those questions.
- Good Writing Is...#5 The plot thickens -- plotting for beginners
#5 in the series, Good Writing Is... deals with plots and how to develop the plot in fiction, whether short story or novel. Called plotting for beginners, we discuss the form of plot, how to map a plot and how to prepare the plot for writing.
- Good Writing Is...#6 -- Plotting #2 -- The Scene Approach
Welcome to this, the second in our lessons on plot structure. We are ready to take our proposed plot and divide it into scenes -- and then build those scenes. Let's construct a novel.
- Good Writing Is...#7-- 10 common mistakes new writers make in writing dialogue.
No skill is more important to the fiction writer than a mastery of the mechanics of good dialogue. Here are the ten most common mistakes new writers make and how to avoid them. The ten rules of dialogue.
- Good Writing Is ...#8 Point of view -- the five big questions writers need to answer
There are five big questions the writer needs to answer in developing the point of view of his work.
- Good Writing Is...#9 The importance of voice #1 -- writing the child's perspective
The ninth in the Good Writing Is... series begins an exploration of 'voice' in writing. Today's discussion: writing from the child's perspective. The challenge of writing in the child's voice.
johnmariow on September 10, 2016:
Thanks for an educational hub regarding creative writing. I enjoyed reading it and I learned from it.
Chris Mills from Traverse City, MI on June 24, 2016:
I appreciate this article. I learned about passive voice one year ago in a short story competition. We were discussing our stories in the forum, and a very experienced writer pointed out the excessive use of passive voice in my story. Since then, I have learned more about it. I agree with you that it takes the reader away from the action and slows the pace.
David Edward Lynch from Port Elizabeth, South Africa on December 15, 2015:
Thanks for the great advice here, I need to work on 'sharing stories' rather than 'telling them.'
Glenn Stok from Long Island, NY on February 26, 2014:
Great first lesson. I'll be studying your other lessons too. I'm always interested in advancing my writing skills, and I have to admit that I haven't been paying much attention to passive vs. active in my writing. I also didn't know that MSWord can catch passive phrases. I'm going to activate that parameter right now.
Firejay on November 04, 2012:
Thank you very much. :)
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on November 04, 2012:
I love writing in the first person, seems so natural for storytelling.
And that's your answer. Imagery (or descriptive passages as I prefer) is only another part of the story and should be handled by the story-teller -- you -- in a way that feels natural, as part of the story telling process. If it is necessary for the reader to have a description of the room where the action is taking place, then have your character describe it. Surely your character would have to be aware of his/her surroundings. But not all character have to describe the same thing the same way. One might be aware of the beauty of the furnishings while another may be checking out all exits. There are no hard and fast rules, but there is no need for description to be consistent for each character. No two people in the real world see things the same way, you know.
As to action. I don't know that I can answer your question without seeing the work. Sometimes action is over in a flash. Other times it can drag on for what seems an eternity.
Firejay on November 04, 2012:
I am currently writing a book in first-person and I always find that I don't put enough imagery in my texts, and the setting and background for my characters has a tendency of vanishing into a blank. How do I prevent this from happening and how can I keep my imagery consistent enough without making my characters all sound the same, or dorky, as if they spend their time just looking everywhere but at the action in the plot?
I also had some feedback saying that the action got over and done with too quickly and didn't have enough details. Once again, how do I make it better?
Thank you very much,
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on September 25, 2012:
You're so very welcome, DRidge. I hope you enjoy the rest of the series as much. Please feel free to leave comments as you work your way through them to let me know, and if you have any questions, or if I can be of assistance, feel free to contact me. Lynda
DRidge from Gulf Coast, MS on September 25, 2012:
I just happened upon your article but I am in F2K right now. You are teaching EXACTLY what I need to know! I know I have stories and that I love to write but getting things to come out sounding reasonably well-thought out and entertaining is just not happening for me. Thanks so much for this series!
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on March 30, 2012:
The consistent use of auxiliary verbs makes this passive. Thank you so much for your FYI.
Grammar guy on March 29, 2012:
FYI, there is not a single instance of the passive voice in your example paragraph. It may be boring, but it is not passive.
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on March 04, 2012:
You're welcome htodd. Hope you enjoy the rest. Lynda
htodd from United States on March 04, 2012:
That's really interesting advice to new writers..Thanks
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on December 27, 2011:
Thanks, Marlin 55. I hope the rest of the series is equally helpful. Lynda
Marlin 55 from USA on December 27, 2011:
Great article! I'm always looking to improve my writing and your hubs are always a reminder of what what great writing is about or I learn something that I need to change. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on December 03, 2011:
Glad to know you're enjoying it, Angela. Always nice to hear. There was much to say about the teaching of basics back then. Along with it came discipline and that is something much needed for success. Thanks for taking the time. Lynda
Angela Blair from Central Texas on December 01, 2011:
Am enjoying this series immensely -- and it's much needed on my part. I tend fall back "on the old ways" a lot and then will turn right around and do something (which I discover later) that goes against everything I've ever been taught. Seems writing and "writing" were very important back "in the day" as I recall spending hours on cursive writing skills -- but that's no more, too! Great information and thank you! Best, Sis
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on November 29, 2011:
Hi Ania, Finally, time to catch up with my hubs. Thanks so much for the gracious comment and I hope you'll find the series helpful.
Nice to meet you missolive, and thanks for the vote of confidence. Looking forward to getting to know your work.
Thanks to all, Lynda
Marisa Hammond Olivares from Texas on November 29, 2011:
Definitely bookmarking and following this series. Very informative and useful. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.
Ania L from United Kingdom on November 26, 2011:
Hello Lynda, I'm so glad you decided to write this series. I only regret that I haven't seen it BEFORE publishing my fiction stories, but I guess it all can be changed and having something to alterat is always good :)
The information you provide is given in such an easy and clear way that even I can understand that so I hope to learn a lot! Thank you for that and also for the tip on MS Word and checking the style - hopefully it will be more helpful now.
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on October 23, 2011:
Thank you Teresa. Nice to meet you and welcome to Hubpages. You'll meet a lot of nice people here. I'm currently taking a sabbatical from the site to catch up on other commitments but I'll be back with something new soon enough. When I can, I'll check out your site. Lynda
Teresa Coppens from Ontario, Canada on October 23, 2011:
Very informative article. I have just joined Hubpages in the last month and I'm enjoying the community of writers I am meeting in ever growing numbers. I have just stumbled onto your site and found your article extremely helpful. I will be reading with interest the others in this series and applying what I can to my own writing.
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on May 26, 2011:
Nice to meet you Jen. And yes, that website has been dismantled and I've replaced the link with the new website which is still under construction. Thanks for commenting here. Lynda
Jennifer-Crystal Johnson from Eatonville on May 25, 2011:
That's definitely good advice for new writers - I wonder, though, is your web site gone or is the link just broken? I wasn't able to see your site.
I'm glad to see other lifers on here... I've been writing since the age of 8 or 9 and am currently working on several things... I studied web design, though, and learned instead how to design book covers =).
Thanks for your insights - I hope you're having a great week!
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on February 17, 2011:
Hello wba108 -- Glad to have been of help. Lynda
PS -- If you want me to edit or critique something for you, send it to me embedded in an email and I will -- in private.
email@example.com from upstate, NY on February 17, 2011:
Immartin-- Like you, I studied Economics,Business and Math in college but would have been better off taking English or Journalism. Although I don't do much creative writing, using an active voice and sharing my story rather than telling it, will make my articles more compelling and persuasive. Thanx for the info! Feel free to to critique any of my comments or articles, I'm sure their riddled with errors.
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on January 21, 2011:
Mohan Kumar from UK on January 21, 2011:
Sagely advice. Well written and useful!
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on September 19, 2010:
Yes, writing is highly satisfying for me. How else can I justify spending all my time in a world of my own making? I don't think about the rules; they come to me naturally as I have always written, even as a child. And I read voraciously, so I knew the form of the story by instinct. It was only later I learned why it worked and why something else didn't.
I don't have a masters (or any other degree) in writing -- actually I studied Business Administration, but still I wrote all the time.
Sometimes I write just for me; sometimes I write to tell a story; sometimes I write for the intellectual challenge. Sometimes I write as a job. I don't much care -- I just like to write.
I'm also an editor and a teacher -- and I believe writing is a skill that can be learned. Anyone can write competently. Not everyone can write as an artist. That either comes of itself,or it does not. It can't be learned and it can't be forced. Good writing skills can.
Hope this answers your question.
Barbara from Stepping past clutter on September 19, 2010:
immartin, well, I now know a bit more about you! I found this hub in a link from resspencers's Tommy Tomlinson hub.
All these rules are fine, if they inspire a writer to write, lol. For me, I get lost and feel like I cannot swim. I am a perfectionist, i.e., I can never do this, I will never be able to do that, etc. Getting my Masters in writing actually shut me down for a very long time. The list of dos and don'ts is overpowering!
I have certainly had a life of writing classes and dedicated my life to my craft from the age of 5. Just sharing something true with you, so you know me better.
My writing is very personal. I gave up inventing stories that I am not invested in. What I strive for in my writing is personal growth and artistry. I don't write for the market.
You, however, are published. Congratulations! I find your approach interesting. Is it satisfying? Thanks.
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on September 06, 2010:
If I understand you, you want to present a snippet of the climax up front, then starting in chapter one, tell us how we got there. Interesting. I think most readers would have forgotten the prologue by the time that scene arrived, so to skip it and go forward may be confusing. I would represent the scene from the prologue but not in the same way -- a slightly different take.
You are free to contact me at my website for writer's services http://www.tiptopwebsite.com/lyndam if you want further, more specific help. Lynda
Jenny on September 06, 2010:
I am a new writer and am rapidly realizing how much I love it. I am a bit green, however, when it comes certain structure issues. My question is this....
I'm using a prologue. (I know that many writers are completely against these. I'm not using it as backstory, mine is a glimpse of suspense to come.)
My prologue is more of a snippet, if you will, of something that will eventually happen to my protagonist much later in the book. When I eventually get to that point in my story, I'm not entirely sure how to tie it back in. Will I reiterate the same scene I used in the prologue, or skip to the ending of the prologue, and take up where I left off? I am a bit confused as to how that works. It would be much more cut and dry if my prologue were something that happened before chapter 1, but I love to suck the reader in by promising really great conflict to come. As I said, I am a very green and welcome advice and constructive criticism. Thanks so much to anyone who has a minute to help!
ahorseback on August 15, 2010:
This is quite informative, thanks.....
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on July 26, 2010:
Thank you sagebrush -- they are all connected by links for your ease in finding them. I have more to write, but so little time right now. Lynda
sagebrush_mama from The Shadow of Death Valley...Snow Covered Mountain Views Abound! on July 26, 2010:
I just came across this beginning article in your series on "Good Writing", and I'm looking forward to reading more.
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on July 20, 2010:
Hi Peg -- there are three articles on plot development in this series you might find useful. And it's true that stories written without a plot do tend to ramble themselves into nothingness. Much as many writers hate the idea, we do need to apply some form of discipline to our craft and keep ourselves focused on our objective.
Thanks so much for your comment. Lynda
Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on July 20, 2010:
Lynda, I had to return to reread this good advice from you. It's so difficult to let go of bad habits formed over years of writing for my own amusement. Will certainly take to heart these recommendations for better technique going forward. Great examples for comparison of before and after.
I hope you get to plot development since I seem to ramble without much purpose other than telling a tale. I'll look forward to your ongoing instruction.
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on July 07, 2010:
You are so welcome lorlie, and glad to meet you to. I hope you go on to read the rest of the series.
Laurel Rogers from Bishop, Ca on July 07, 2010:
Thank you, Lynda, for offering up such grand instruction. I find myself struggling with the tenses, and it seems I am not alone. You mention the passive voice-another demon that is difficult to slay.
So nice to meet you, and again, thank you.
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on July 03, 2010:
I would die of stage fright, complicated by the fact I have rheumatoid arthritis and cannot stand for long periods of time. I am a homebody, semi-reclusive and sharing my oral words with my friends. Hence writing.
I am doing right now what I love most, sitting at my computer spinning a yarn -- yet another novel, and taking breaks to check my emails now and again.
But I thank you for your thoughts. And your compliments.
My novel I spoke of in that article will be published, I have no doubt whatsoever. And so will the sequel, and possibly the one I'm writing right now.
Thanks once again for your comment and pleased to make your acquaintance.
Tom Ware from Sydney, Australia on July 03, 2010:
In another of your Hubs you speak of the frustration facing writers and their chances of being accepted in a world dominated by literary agents, big-time publishers, and booksellers. I've responded to that. Here, once again, I will say something a little askance to the expected
You are born writer, Lynda, of that there is no doubt in my mind. You are also a teacher, and "to teach is to love." Have you ever thought of bringing story to an audience by another method: Oral Storytelling? It can be very gratifying to have an audience hanging on every word, as one puts pictures into their minds.
I speak from experience. My numerous writings have not received any recognition other than the occassional small-time literary prize. My oral presentations, on the other hand have resulted in over 650 invitations speak and over 36,000 have heard me during the past fifteen years; all very gratifying.
The two skills are complimentary. 'Connectedness' is what we're after and an oral presentation can arouse every bit as much heart-felt emotion as it can from the printed word. Maybe it could be the next step for you...
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on June 18, 2010:
Thank you Ed, a compliment indeed. Glad you found it helpful. Lynda
Ed Bookman on June 18, 2010:
This is probably the single greatest piece I've read on finding your narrative voice. I've read several other similar articles (and bought several how-to books) and none of those explain it as nicely, clearly and quickly as this one. Sadly, I realize I've got a lot of re-writing to do on my novel. I'm cool with it though. My book and I will both be better for it.
Lynda, keep an eye out for my re-write! Thanks again, Ed.
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on June 14, 2010:
Thanks mojojojo and my hubs are not about typos or spelling mistakes but about the construction, the mechanics of writing -- the craft, if you will. Typos and spelling mistakes, along with punctuation are the smallest of concerns in this endeavour. You are right, definitely. One day, when I get around to it, I'll fix it. Thanks. Lynda
MojoJojo49 on June 14, 2010:
I just wanted to tell you that on your profile blurb you have said 'afore mentioned' instead of 'aforementioned'. I think it's all-one-word. Just thought I'd clear that up as the majority of your hubs are about such mistakes. Great hubs. And please delete this comment once read.
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on June 12, 2010:
Why thank you for the compliments. Those are always gratefully accepted. Lynda
Mrs Roussou on June 12, 2010:
Gonna go with awesome for this one! Thanks for writing this--I definitely appreciate it. And your story of being an excessive reader, and subsequent writer is very familiar to me. I've been on a 7 year break though, since college. Loved what you had to say.
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on May 25, 2010:
Thanks dark eyed gazelle. I often wonder why we feel we need a niche, why we should limit or label ourselves. A voice yes -- because no two people will see or express themselves the same way. Thanks for your comment.
dark eyed gazelle from Michigan on May 25, 2010:
thanks for sharing! i've also heard, "'show', don't 'tell'..." good advice. i think one of the hardest things about writing is finding one's niche and voice. looking forward to more writing advice. cheers!
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on April 26, 2010:
You're more than welcome, Liz. And thank you for leaving this comment. you've no idea how gratifying it is to hear from others that they've found answers in my work (which I've written to find answers of my own.) Lynda
Liz on April 26, 2010:
I am always searching for information on how to improve my writing, how to critique it. In this hub you allowed me a chance to think about my own writing. I struggle with the passive voice-knowing I shouldn't use it, but finding it hard to identify sometimes. Thank you for taking the time to write this hub.
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on April 03, 2010:
Your praise is but a reflection of that heavenly light, and I bask in the glow. Thank you JannyC and I hope you go through the whole series. Lynda
JannyC on April 03, 2010:
You are adored. As a writer I have read some much writing advice. I then came across you and it was like a heavenly light shone down. I was like now I get it for this was interesting and I wanted to actually fully read it and absorb it all. Was that what all those others were trying to convey, but lack in doing so?
Amez from Houston, Texas on March 21, 2010:
Wow! Lmmartin I will be a devault follower for sure, I never read much as a child. Writing is all new too me. I'm always open to criticism and yes its gladly accepted. I'm determine to become a writer in mind as well as heart. So many here at HubPages have inspired me to share my inner thoughts. It must be wonderful to speak with such a positive state of knowing in a subject as difficult as the English Lanuage. That would be one of my greatest passions to achive. Thanks again for your sharing of what's ovbiously a devine gift that you have taken most seriously to a much higher plato. Ed
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on March 21, 2010:
Thanks cindyvine. All compliments gratefully accepted.
Cindy Vine from Cape Town on March 21, 2010:
This is great Immartin, don't know how I missed it before and will check out your others!
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on March 21, 2010:
Your welcome, Thatgirlemily and do hope to hear from you again.
ThatGirlEmily on March 21, 2010:
Great advice, thank you.
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on March 20, 2010:
I appreciate your comments and thanks for taking the time. Yes, all writers are different and find their own style and voice. However, there are certain 'truths' to writing, or at least to the acceptability of the end product, and avoidance of passive language is high at the forefront. Ask any editor. The first example would have been tossed in the round file; the second back for rewrite -- at least by any editing workshop I've ever attended (or given.)
I think you'll find there are many published writers here on hubpages, so I hope you'll hook up with more of them and feel at home. Many of them have dropped by on this series of article, which while geared to new writers, they say is helpful to them as well.
Perhaps they were just being gracious.
robbyism on March 20, 2010:
I found your hub interesting. As with any reader, everybody's interpretation is different. Both versions of the 3 girls walking on the beach work for me. For new writers your advice will help them. I am published so take my comment as a compliment. Writing is a love from deep within and every writer is different!
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on March 20, 2010:
Thanks Barbara Kay. I hope you move on to the rest of this series.
Barbara Badder from USA on March 20, 2010:
As a newbie here you gave me a lot to think about.
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on March 20, 2010:
Thanks for your comment angela michelle and I think dl53acy did a good job of responding to your concerns. Thanks.
Many of us feel our work isn't good enough and use that as our excuse not to put it out there. We have to overcome the stage fright and stop worrying about perfection. Let's settle for good enough and move on.
Thanks, both of you.
dl53acy from East Texas on March 19, 2010:
Don't be scared of putting your writing out there. How else will you know if you have what it takes or not! I also write mystery short stories and I'll tell you you'll have to edit, edit and then edit some more. It's good to let someone else you're comfortable with read your writing as well. Then go for it! Remember there are all types of readers who like to read different things so don't despair. Your writing will appeal to those who enjoy your style writing but you've got to put your work out there so ppl can get familiar with you! Good luck and stop by and read some of my hubs! dl53acy.
Angela Michelle Schultz from United States on March 19, 2010:
I am definitely a new writer, and I have not had the guts to put any of my short stories on here yet. Every time I read them, I edit, edit, edit, and it's never good enough. As for my nonfiction I do post, I have to admit, they don't get near the amount of editing they should. I love them, but there's something about my short stories that I hold more dear and fear criticism.
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on March 19, 2010:
You're very welcome, pinkhawk, though I'd hate to think I discouraged you.
pinkhawk from Pearl of the Orient on March 19, 2010:
...worth reading...glad I stumbled upon this hub, guess I'm million miles away from the real thing, need to read and learn more! I'll bookmark this one ma'am...thank you very much! :)
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on March 18, 2010:
Angela, Thanks so much. Hope this is of some help.
patspnn - so very welcome
ramkkasturi -- thanks for the comment. Yes the styles are very different. Journalism is the cold hard facts couched in passive tones without a point of view. Fiction is active, definitely from a particular point of view, and hopefully, above all entertaining. It can be difficult to let go of the one style for the other. I had a hard time after years in business writing audit reports, management reports to let go of the stiffness and go with the story. Delinking (how our language has changed in the computer age) old habits? Take small steps -- tell a small story. Then rewrite it adding color, background character, and rewrite it again, and again. When you've got a short story, give me a holler and I'll come and have a look at it.
Hope you all check out the rest of this series. Lynda
ramkkasturi from India on March 18, 2010:
It is nice and good to hear from experienced writers like you. I enjoy the tips. I am one of those who wanted to write a novel and postponed it. I seem to be caught in the article and political analyis, sort of journalistic style. That seems to come in without my knowledge whenever I write. Any ideas on -article wrting skills and on how to delink the old habits?.
patspnn on March 18, 2010:
thanks for information
Angela Blair from Central Texas on March 18, 2010:
Immartin --thanks so much for the information and direction -- enjoyed it immensely. I also appreciate your generosity in sharing your expertise with us. Best, Sis
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on March 18, 2010:
Sure I will Dotty1. But as I said to Swiftlyclean up there, I do ask that text for review be sent to me by email. I'll review it, edit it and make suggestions, but I won't do this publicly. Thanks for dropping by and I'll expect a story of yours to arrive in my inbox soon.
dotty1 from In my world on March 18, 2010:
I wonder if I might be cheeky and ask you if you would read some of my writing. I would greatly appreciate feedback to help me know if my ramblings are either mindless and should kept to myself or if you can offer me any wise words to help me as an aspiring writer.
thank you so much x
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on March 17, 2010:
Hi SwiftlyClean, I'd be happy to review your story, but do require the text be emailed to me. It isn't something I do in the public eye, and I give all new writers a free edit. You can contact me through my profile or by the links to my website. Lynda
SwiftlyClean from Texas on March 17, 2010:
Thanks so very much for this hub on good writing,I'm trying my hand at a short story.please check it out.( The Woman In The doorway.) and give me some pointers.
I'm glad i found you.
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on March 17, 2010:
Hello Jacob -- you're welcome. Lynda
Jacob Darkley from California, USA on March 17, 2010:
Great hub. Thank you.
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on March 16, 2010:
Thank you Deborah, and I hope you move on to the rest of the series.
Deborah Reno from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD on March 16, 2010:
Thank you for sharing your wisdom. I look forward to reading more. Best Regards.
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on March 15, 2010:
Thank you, and thanks to Duchess too. I hope you enjoy the series and feel free to contact me via my profile if I can be of help. Lynda
RTalloni on March 15, 2010:
Thanks to Duchess OBlunt I found your articles. Thanks very much for sharing what you have learned! I look forward to this series and your other work. I have a lot to learn.
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on March 02, 2010:
Thanks Tina. Hope you read the rest of the series. Lynda
TINA V on March 02, 2010:
This is very helpful to all writers. Great advice!
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on February 28, 2010:
You're very welcome emievil and thanks for leaving a comment. Over use of the passive voice is very common among new writers, particularly for those who write for the business world and the legal profession -- where passive language is the norm. Hard habit to break!
emievil from Philippines on February 28, 2010:
Why didn't I see your writings earlier? My bad! Some of my readers told me that I am a good writer , however, I remember once somebody told me I tend to use the passive voice a lot. I've tried to consciously remedy that, not sure if I'm succeeding though. Hopefully, I will. Am not aspiring to be a novelist or a creative writer (I don't think these are my forte) but heck, I want to become a good writer. Thanks for these two tips.
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on February 24, 2010:
You're welcome Amanes. Thanks for leaving a comment.
amanes on February 23, 2010:
Thank you very much for your Hub and the energy you gave to it. I really liked it and it was helpful. Thanks
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on February 20, 2010:
Thank you Karanda and I hope you enjoy the series. I agree -- we all need a sharpened red pencil when it comes to grammar and punctuation and I'm not the best to write that one. No, this series is about content, storylines, character, plot building, point of view, not whether or not the Oxford comma is correct usage. Thanks again -- pleased to meet you.
Karen Wilton from Australia on February 20, 2010:
As a new hubber - but not new to writing - I have been amazed (I really want to say appalled) at times at the lack of attention to detail and grammatical errors in other people's hubs. Especially when 'those hubbers' have featured articles with scores of 100. But I understand the scoring is all about traffic and little to do with English.
Immartin I take this opportunity to say thank you for your hub. It can be seen as an invaluable tool for all contributors and writers everywhere.
If you ever read any of my hubs or comments and feel you need to do some quiet editing I would be honoured.
Can't wait to find the time to check out all your hubs.
Thanks again for reminding us all about the correct use of the English language and clearing up the 'passive voice' use for me, I can put my hand up and say guilty as charged sadly.
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on February 19, 2010:
I'd be happy to give you my paypal account if you want to. Thanks for the comment.
SamAntone on February 19, 2010:
I appreciate getting such valuable information. And I'm not even paying for it.
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on February 17, 2010:
You're welcome, Rafini, and thanks for dropping by.
Rafini from Somewhere I can't get away from on February 17, 2010:
I am in for following your series - the examples are helpful. Thanks for sharing with us.
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on February 10, 2010:
Hi Marissa, No, I thought your article on back-stories terrific, and I'm planning to link it to the plot article coming up. No cheek -- teaching is by far the best way to learn. Or so I've been told. Works for me.
Kate Swanson from Sydney on February 10, 2010:
It sounds like we started on similar paths, as I wrote my first novel at 16 but allowed myself to get discouraged by my first rejection. If only I'd known then that if a publisher sends you a nice letter of constructive criticism, instead of a bald "no", it's a sign the thing is worth working on. I burnt it! But I guess that's a typical 16-year-old - everything's either fantastic or a tragedy.
Life got in the way of my writing as soon as I left school, and I'm only just getting back to it. I feel somewhat embarrassed at having the cheek to write some of my "how to write" Hubs given the disparity in our experience - I hope you'll drop me an email if you think I'm giving bad advice!
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on February 08, 2010:
Hi Quilligrapher and love your verb use -- snared? I may quote this when we get further along in the series and I speak of using rich language and strong verbs (and avoiding adverbs.) Thanks so much for dropping by.
Quilligrapher from New York on February 08, 2010:
I’ve been snared, Immartin, by #1. If anyone needs help converting words into a silk purse, I do. I am off to find #2 and #3. Your advice is much needed and I am so grateful for the opportunity to read your series.
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on February 08, 2010:
Thanks so much, Dolores, and I hope you find two and three in the series. Four will be posted in a few days.
Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on February 08, 2010:
I look forward to reading your other hubs on writing. This one was excellent; an important subject, yet easy to forget, so thanks for the reminder!
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on February 06, 2010:
Hello ladyonthemirror -- and welcome to the English language -- a tough language to learn, I know, having taught it to new Canadians. Unlike other languages, English doesn't have set rules without exception, not is it consistent, relying much on context. I admire those who are able to write in this undisciplined tongue as a second language. I have posted two more articles on this subject and plan several more.