Perhaps I was hasty in my assessment of my rejection letter. Perhaps that letter was necessary in a karmic way to bring me to a different place with my story Silver Linings. When Mary Winter pointed out to me that I’d used the passive voice in the beginning of Silver Linings, I gasped. I hate passive voice!
So I mulled over her words as I prepared to write my Bar post last night. How had the queen of “never write in passive” produced a story that was passive? As I did my fact checking (searching for the last few posts by my character) for my new post, I pondered the first person posts at the Bar. And I think I had a mini “AH HA” moment.
When I first started writing at the Bar two years ago, I hadn’t ever written in first person, except for journal type things. As most of you know, stories written in first person have to be exceptionally strong to hold a reader’s interest. However, in a serial story like the Bar, first person is often the preferred voice because it’s easier for writers. In a serial story setting, writers have to be exceptionally strong and intuitive to carry third person because you have to carry the point of view of every character in a scene… including characters that are not your own. You have know the motivations and style of all those characters in order to write their words and actions and thoughts. If the post is in first person, the amount a writer has to know about other characters is reduced considerably. You can get away with asking the other character’s writer for a few lines of dialog.
I had the hardest time writing first person. I muffed up my tenses repeatedly in the beginning. I didn’t like how narrow first person’s vision is. I kept trying to figure out how to cover all the territory I needed to cover from such a narrow point of view. Eventually, I got the hang of it and most of my Bar posts are in first person, the same as everyone else’s.
I only occasionally write in third person at the Bar. Sometimes, I need the comfort of that third person omniscient voice. However, while I was looking through posts to prepare for the one I was about to write, I noticed a few posts that were written in third person. Something inescapable popped out at me from those third person posts. Wanna guess what I found? Lots of passive voice.
Right there was my “AH HA” moment. Writers who have been immersed in first person writing, have trouble switching to third person while using a completely active voice. I went on and wrote my Bar post, but it wasn’t in first person and I was on the look out for those lovely little indicators of passive voice. I may have to stay out of first person for a bit just to make sure I’m not losing my touch in third person.
So I went back to Silver Linings last night with the intention of giving Alex a voice in this story. The version I subbed to Wild Rose was about 5100 words. As of right now, its about 7K words… and Alex speaks! I’m still worried about how much of the action is cerebral. I’m fussing over this piece probably too much now. I’m going to finish it this week though, and I think I’ve found another place to sub it to. We’ll see how the revision goes.
In the end, the rejection letter was karmic. I still think she didn’t know the meaning of “sough”, but it’s cool. She could have been really hard on me and she wasn’t. She gave me what she thought was constructive criticism. That’s really all that matters. She was kind enough to do that, and I appreciate it even if I don’t completely agree with her.
The next time you get a critique or a rejection letter or anything that offers information about your writing, take it in and think about it. You may not like what the person has to say, but that doesn’t mean their words don’t have some kind of value for you… even if it’s only to make you take a closer look at your voice.