IWSG Blog Hop–Writing Rule I Wish I’d Never Heard

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Last month I joined the Insecure Writer’s Support Group on Facebook after reconnecting with my writing buddy Meka. Even though writing is a lonely activity, it doesn’t mean you can’t surround yourself with people who understand what you’re going through.

IWSG also has a website, which hosts a blog hop the first Wednesday of every month. Writers get to discuss their doubts and fears they’ve conquered, their struggles and triumphs.

I’ve always joked that writers need a support group, and if I ever found one, then I’d join. Even though I’m a published author, I have fears and doubts and insecurities. After reading the Insecure Writer’s Support Group purpose on their website, I was hooked.

Their purpose–“to share and encourage writers. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.”

Showing vulnerability makes you strong. If you’d like to read more from bloggers who shared their personal experiences, then please click here.

Okay, here goes…

January’s question–What writing rule do you wish you’d never heard?

The writing rule I wish I’d never heard is don’t write in passive voice. Only use active voice. For example, it’s bad to say “the tree got chomped dwn by an axe.” The rule says you should use “the axe chomped down the tree.” I swear I don’t mind grammar. English was one of my favorite subjects in school, but man, always having to use active voice is intimidating. What if your character doesn’t speak like that? Isn’t it better to stay true to your character’s voice?

Unfortunately, I tend to speak and write in passive voice. If you read my blog posts, I’m sure passive sentences are used everywhere. I know it’s a bad habit, but I don’t know how to stop. How much do readers really mind passive voice? Writing a first draft, my main goal is to just get my words on paper. Editing comes later…but I stall tremendously. I think it’s all the pressure of every sentence, every word has to be perfect or you’ll lose the reader. I struggle with the revision stage, which is why I probably only publish one book a year. I wish I could just hire an editor to completely fix my manuscripts in the grammar sense.

Since it’s hard for me to follow the rule of ‘don’t use passive voice,’ I often think my writing sucks. If someone leaves me a good review or if a critique partner says I did a god job, I think they’re just being nice. Equivalent to a loved one being supportive just because they care about you.

I know this fear is something I’ll have to get over. I can’t keep losing confidence when I’m around other writers who know what they’re talking about, grammar wise. I need to tell myself that a story isn’t about perfect sentence structure, it’s about following the guidelines of your particular genre. I write horror and suspense. I have plot twists nailed haha. I need to learn how to take a compliment without thinking there’s a hidden meaning.

Thanks for listening.

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby

25 thoughts on “IWSG Blog Hop–Writing Rule I Wish I’d Never Heard

  1. Happy New Year and Welcome to IWSG. We have a great bunch of authors here. I know what you mean by not using the passive voice but even great writers use the passive voice sometime. So don’t let yourself get hung up on that rule. Rules can be broken when they need to be.
    All the best for 2017.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat Garcia

    • Happy New Year, Pat! Nice to meet you. I like your viewpoint that rules can be broken when they need to be. Thanks for the encouragement.

      Keep smiling,
      Yawatta

    • Happy New Year, Madeline! I know what you mean. There’s so much info out there to sort though in order to see what works best for you. I like the support system from the group.

      Keep smiling,
      Yawatta

  2. You aren’t alone in the passive voice. I do it too! It’s how the words come out when I’m writing. Now I will go back and try to edit them later to make them ‘stronger’ but really why is the passive voice considered weak if it flows with your story?

    • Hey Meka,

      I’m happy I’m not the only one to question the passive voice rule. Stories aren’t essays or research papers, so “bad” grammar should be able to sneak in as long as it sounds authentic to the story.

      Keep smiling,
      Yawatta

  3. Yawatta, I feel the same way. People are too nice. They should be rotten and nasty and admit they find my writing disgusting! That would be so much better. I write passively sometimes too. Reading passive doesn’t upset me nearly as much as it apparently should. Go figure. Happy New Year. Welcome to IWSG. I’m #38, I think.

    • Happy New Year, Clucul Writer! When I read a book full of passive voice it doesn’t bother me either. I just care that the story holds my attention from the plot or character’s dilemma. Haha I doubt your writing is rotten.

      Keep smiling,
      Yawatta

  4. First off, welcome aboard!

    I think it’s important for us to be aware of our passive wording so we can strengthen it whenever appropriate, but that doesn’t mean we have to eliminate the passive voice altogether. If that’s the way your character speaks, go for it!

    • Happy New Year, Susan! Thanks for your advice. I notice in my revision stage the majority of my WIP is covered in red ink, trying to make my sentences sound better. It’s worth it in the end though 🙂

      Keep smiling,
      Yawatta

  5. I do think sometimes it’s a hindrance not to use passive. It adds variety to the sentences. I do agree with the example you used, though (though I also think you have more freedom with dialogue versus narration), but why can’t I use a being verb more often??

    • Happy New Year, Deb! Thanks for your understanding. I love when a story has sentence structure variety. It makes things more interesting. Thanks for your advice on there’s more leeway in dialogue. I hadn’t even thought of that.

      Keep smiling,
      Yawatta

  6. I think passive voice is okay when used sparingly. I never got this “rule” until I read a blog by someone who consistently used ONLY passive voice. It was really bad writing. Granted, that’s likely the way his favorite authors wrote, since he tends to read only classics…

    • Happy New Year, Stephanie! I hear ya. Maybe if I read really bad writing, I’d get my butt in gear to change my ways. Writing’s a skill, so using less passive voice is something I can teach myself and overcome.

      Keep smiling,
      Yawatta

  7. Came to visit your blog when Deb. (http://www.thewritemage.com) mentioned you hated passive voice too. I think there are a few of us in the IWSG group that struggle with this rule. It definitely can be overwhelming 1) spotting misuse and 2) trying to correct it. And like you said, what happens if that is your character’s typical voice?

    While we can always improve our writing, I think if you already have a thing published, your probably not doing too badly.

    Best of luck on improving your writing in 2017, conquering your fear of editing, and sharing your concerns monthly on IWSG!

    • Thank you. I really like this group because it’s cool sharing concerns with other writers. It makes me feel better knowing others struggle with passive voice too. I read and write everyday, so there should be improvement somewhere 🙂 Nice to meet you, and good luck with your 2017 writing goals.

      Keep smiling,
      Yawatta

  8. Welcome to the IWSG, Yawatta! I’ve been a member for a good two years, and I have enjoyed it very much. I think it’s important to write in the active voice because it makes for stronger writing; but, I think that some sentences written in the passive voice are just fine. Obviously the passive voice serves a purpose in the English language because everyone uses it. Happy writing in 2017!

    • Hi M Louise, thanks for the advice. I’ve been writing for at least 10-15 minutes a day, then going back to edit my words. It’s helping me see my strengths and weaknesses as a writer. I hope to highlight my strengths and improve my weaknesses. Good luck with your writing goals this year!

      Keep smiling,
      Yawatta

  9. Write first, agonize later. That’s the important bit. And, there is no such thing as perfect, so don’t worry about that either. 🙂
    Wishing you the best of luck.
    Heather M. Gardner
    Co-host, IWSG

    • Nice to meet you, Heather. Trust me when I say I have writing the first draft all the way to the end without revising it to a science. It helps that I write in notebooks first, then I type everything in a Word document.

      I’d like to think of myself as a laidback perfectionist if there’s such a thing 🙂

      Keep smiling,
      Yawatta

  10. You can’t take all of the passive out any more than you can take every adverb out. (I tried that once on a manuscript and boy, did it read odd.) Trust your judgement.
    Sorry I’m late, but I wanted to welcome you to the IWSG. And that means a lot to see that purpose here – that is indeed why I started it.

    • Nice to meet you, Alex. I like your advice of trust my judgement. I feel a bond within the group, especially on Facebook. Thank you for creating a safe haven to vent and/or show vulnerability without being judged.

      Keep smiling,
      Yawatta

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