Good Writing Is ... #1 -- the two biggest mistakes made by new writers

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.

More by this Author

Comments 152 comments

itakins profile image

itakins 6 years ago from Irl

Great advice Immartin -Thank you.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thanks Itakins, not that your writing isn't always crisp and exciting. You have a fine voice, though you seldom get into story telling. I admire your work for the perceptions you share on humanity, and your sense of the absurd -- the humour.

tipperary profile image

tipperary 6 years ago

Ah, this is great advice, you take me back to my own childhood reading this, i too used to read a lot and sometimes got in trouble for not getting out in the fresh air more. I know what you mean , to really enjoy a story you have to feel your almost there to. I went on every adventure with the Famous Five when i was younger, i wasn't reading it, i was joining them on each adventure. Enid Blyton sure got it right. Although my stories at present are not meant to capture the imagination, im sure if i take your advice i could to it better.

Ann Nonymous profile image

Ann Nonymous 6 years ago from Virginia

An excellent hub full of excellent advice, lmmartin! I've known that I've wanted to be a writer for many, many years now but know I have a long ways to go. Thanks to you and this hub I am one step closer to achieving my goal! Also, I have to appreciate another hubber that has a strong aversion against math! At least you did something about it, however! Thanks again for this great hub and I can't wait for more advice!

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thanks for commenting tipperary. (Do the Irish come out late at night? You and Ita up there. It is almost eleven in Florida so what time is it there? Five A.M?) I'll drop by your hubsite and read some of your work. Yes -- when it comes to story-telling, stay active and show don't tell. In fact, if you get those two down, the rest is easy.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hello Ann Nonymous, and nice to hear from you. I enjoy your Sam-I-Am series very much, and believe you should consider developing her into a character for a Young Adult novel. It's not as hard to write a novel as one might think, and I know you have the talent. May I direct you to the three excerpts from one of mine posted here? This Bird Flew Away,(3 separate hubs) which is currently on a trial reader review, as you can see on the hub "10 volunteers wanted". Maybe you might be interested in that one. Thanks for coming by, and may I use excerpts from Sam-I-Am in this series? Lynda

Ann Nonymous profile image

Ann Nonymous 6 years ago from Virginia

You are too gracious. Here I am trying to compliment you on a job well done and you turn the tables on me! I am not sure if I totally understand what you are requesting but I would be happy to learn more....?

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

I'll email you in the morning. Basically, I wanted to use a portion of your work in a section on good dialogue.

Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

Hello, Immartin, and thank you for a great advice. I love writing and reading. I read your hub with great interest and learned a lot from it. Looking foreward to the next one. Thank you so much for your help.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

You're very welcome hello,hello. Hope it was of help. I need to find more time and get caught up on my reading here on hubpages. I'll be over to your site soon.

tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa

Great Hub - thanks for sharing all these points about good writing. We can all learn and I love learning.

Love and peace


billnelems profile image

billnelems 6 years ago from Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada


Being a new writer, I will enjoy your series as they unfold.

I've always wanted to write - work prevented it - looked to take creative writing courses - work prevented that. Then I discovered HubPages..........

1) Stay active: I try to write most of my stories in the present tense so as to keep me in the 'immediacy' realm. My concern here is that I don't see too many others do this. Any tips on this?

2) Share the story, don't tell: I understand your theme here, but sometimes I find it is difficult to separate sharing from telling. Again, I find writing in the present tense may have the advantage of sharing not telling - not sure about that yet.

My last hub is a bit of a political nudge - don't usually do that. I prefer being a storyteller. Having read this hub, henceforth I will begin to see myself as a storysharer!

Thanks, Bill

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi Bill, nice to hear from you, and I hope you found this food for thought. I know what you mean about life taking charge of us, instead of vice-verso, but it's never too late. In fact, many of our best writers didn't find their voice before their sixth decade. About your questions:

1. I personally find the present tense tricky, and often fails to connect with the reader. "I walk on the beach only to find my feet sink into the sand" versus "I walked on the beach, and found my feet sank into the sand." The present tense is hard to maintain in the long term, and often doesn't make sense if time passes in the events you're describing. Some authors have had luck writing in the present, but not many. A sense of immediacy is caught through a sense of intimacy with the narrator -- whether first or third person. (The second rarely seems comfortable: You walk in the sand and your feet sink into the sand. Doesn't sound right, does it.) I use the present tense under certain circumstances as I did in the scene from my novel posted here: This Bird Flew Away -- chapter eight. But I would have great difficulty keeping it up for the whole twenty years of this story. It works in this scene only because it is told in the first person, of someone undergoing a traumatic event.

2. Sharing or showing the story, rather than telling, describing is a bit of an art that comes with practice. The best way to do this is to avoid the point of view of the impartial narrator, and to take one character's viewpoint. The great omniscient narrator popular in Victorian literature has fallen from favor, as coming across as "Godlike" or presumptuous. So what works for Jane Austen, who knew what went on in everyone's mind, doesn't in a modern voice. So even when writing in the third person, we still need to see the world through the eyes and ears of our protaganist.

I will get to your new hub very soon. Today is housecleaning day (pah!) and I'm taking a short break. Hopefully, this evening.

someonewhoknows profile image

someonewhoknows 6 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

I often,have to re-read what I just wrote,only to find it doesn't read the way I intended it to read.

I find myself rewriting it,and re-reading it,more than once.Even then,I may have to adjust what I've rewritten for it to make sense with the rest of the paragraph.

One reason this happens,is I write the whole of the text in the comment box rather than writing it in word where I can see most of the text all at once.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi someone who knows. I take the position the comment boxes are not a test of our writing ability. I have rheumatoid arthritis and my fingers don't always do what my head intends. So I truly have to reread and rewrite and even then, I don't see some errors till it leaves my hands and the five minute grace period is up.

Still, we do our best.

Kendall H. profile image

Kendall H. 6 years ago from Northern CA

Thanks for writing the hub! It's so wonderful to know that there are experienced writers willing to help the unexperienced!

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Anytime, Kendall H. I'll try and get to your hub soon. So many writers, so little time.

Petra Vlah profile image

Petra Vlah 6 years ago from Los Angeles

I read a few other hubs that give advice on writing and I have to say, yours is by far the best, most complete and to the point.

I loved the fact that you exemplified your points by taking fragments of writing and actually turned them around from what they were to what they should be.

Seeing the difference between the old version the new one is the only way to learn, the only way new writers can get real help. I believe that learning some techniques and having a constructive critique is always helpful, but in the end a “writer” either has “it” or does not.

The way I see it is like playing violin; should one exercise, in time will get better at it by mastering the techniques, but to be a virtuoso it takes talent and that is a gift. I also know that diamonds do not shine until they are carefully and masterfully cut, so yes, the eye of a good editor can spot the precious stone and make it shine.

I will definitely follow your other hubs about writing and I am very happy I stumbled on this one. Thank you so very much.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

So glad you "stumbled" on this and found it helpful. I appreciate your comments, but also have to disagree. Writing skills are learned, and so is good technique, and anyone can master them. What is an inate talent is imagination, and that cannot be given. Not every writer is a Tolstoy but everyone can be a Grisham, because he really isn't that great a wordsmith -- but does have imagination. Your view that someone has "it" or doesn't is too fatalistic. Everyone who wants to write can learn how, and should strive to be the best they can.

Thanks for leaving your comment, and I look forward to meeting you again on the next one. Lynda

Petra Vlah profile image

Petra Vlah 6 years ago from Los Angeles

Thank you for answering my comment, Lynda

There are many different types of writing and some do require imagination; I suppose I was referring more to the type of writing I prefer which is based solely on sharing true stories, first hand experience.

I also understand that any form of writing should follow same basic rules, but I still believe that in the end it is mostly talent that will separate an average writer from a good one and a good one from an exceptional one.

Again, I know that driving is not a question of common sense and people need to learn the rules and respect them, but we have to admit that some will only drive from point A to point B without getting in much trouble while others are the Formula 1 type.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

As I said, not every writer needs to be Tolstoy. Even if you want to write romances under a pen name, you need good technique. I have nothing to teach those "born" with the instinct for it. Most of us slog along, learning as we go and do the job because we like to write, not to become genius. They (geniuses) don't need me.

I see from the caliber of writing in your comment, you have an excellent grasp of technique -- perhaps not as a novel writer, as you say you prefer reality. Even reality should be expressed in a lively and engaging fashion. That, I can help people do.

elayne001 profile image

elayne001 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains

I see that I have much to learn about being a writer. Thank you for your instruction and I anxiously await reading more from you.

poetlorraine 6 years ago

bookmarking this, i enjoyed this hub so much. Certainly can learn from you, that is for sure,

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thank you elayne001, and nice to meet you. I'll have hte next out soon.

Hello Poetlorraine, nice to hear from you again. It's been a while.

Highvoltagewriter profile image

Highvoltagewriter 6 years ago from Savannah GA.

As always I learn from your hubs and I appreciate the time you take to help others...also I plan to get involved in readings on your site, once I catch up with some writing and other projects.

Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 6 years ago from Toronto, Canada

Haha - I loved this! The public schools need you (and so do many people on Hubpages but they are too ignorant to even comprehend that. For the most part Hubpages seems to be suffering from a serious case of verbal diarrhea, excuse my expression)!

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Expression excused, though I do disagree. I think many people have something valid to say, unfortunately they don't have the tools to say it effectively. Not the same thing at all. And yes, the schools leave a lot to be desired in their teaching of language arts.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi highvoltage writer. Thanks and don't we all need more time in the day to catch up on all we want to do. Sigh.

kj8 profile image

kj8 6 years ago from Australia

Great hub, I have spent many years putting my writing aspirations on the backburner, 3 kids, work etc you know the story. I understand you are probably busy but would really appreciate some feedback on my short stories if you ever get the chance, I think your critique would be valuable in pointing me in the right direction.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi kj8. I would be honored to review some work for you, but as I say to all who have asked, it is inappropriate for me to do so on hubpages, so please email a copy of the work you want edited (embedded in the body of the email please -- no attachments) and I will be happy to do so. I'll send you my email address through your profile a little later.

Same for everyone -- please email me if there is a piece you'd like me to critique/edit for you, and I will gladly do so. This isn't something we want to do in the public eye, I don't think.

Tammy Lochmann profile image

Tammy Lochmann 6 years ago

I have been writing all my life but I have just recently taken a stab at showing people my work. I will be following you from now on. Thank you for publishing this advice I need all I can get...Tammy

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thanks for the positive feedback, Tammy and those first few times we share our writing are difficult -- I know I felt as though I stood naked in front of a group of strangers. Be brave and put it out there.

paperclip1 6 years ago

Was deeply disappointed you no longer critique. I need someone knowledgeable to help with my project. Can you suggest anything I can do? I have had two critiques from wonderful Librarians-one very doable the other not. They suggested I get someone knowledgeable or professional in the industry. Please, do you have any suggestions? My manuscript is complete and about 74,000 words. Actually what I am looking for is to see if it could possible make it to an agent and/or publishing houses. I have submitted six query letters so far. All rejections but not all form letters.

Would appreciate any comments or suggestions.

Thank you very much for reading my situation.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Please email me with details on the project and I'll make suggestions. 74,000 words -- seems an odd length. What is the genre? I would contact you but you left no portal.

GmaGoldie profile image

GmaGoldie 6 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

I just shared this article with a friend who moved to Texas and switched careers to his first love of writing. I am so excited to share this with him - perfect timing! Thank you! These are the trade secrets we need!

PeytonFarquhar profile image

PeytonFarquhar 6 years ago from So Cal

Cogent advice.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi there GmaGoldie, I'd swear that was Debbie Reynolds in that avatar. Thanks for the compliment and I hope it's of help. No. 2 is now posted and I'll continue as time allows. Thanks for dropping by.

Hi Peyton -- Thanks. This is the first time I've ever been called cogent. I think I'll keep it.

Sherbet Penny profile image

Sherbet Penny 6 years ago from Galway, Ireland.

Hi Immartin, I'm glad I stumbled on this hub, very simple and great tips. I'm planning to go back to college, with the intention of improving my writing(mostly poetry) and advice like this on hub-pages is an added bonus. Thank you.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

You're welcome Sherbet Penny. I hope you check out number two, and thanks for the comment. Although this series is directed more for fiction writers, the rules still hold true in all forms (to a lesser degree, 'tis true)

leslieadrienne 6 years ago

What a blessing....Thanks for the info...I intend to follow your series

Nicks 6 years ago

Excellent advice. Good writing is such a subtle skill, is it not, with the difference between something making sense and being involving very considerable? Fine writing is always compelling and, as you show, the power of the active over the passive is terribly important. Graham Greene, was a good example of someone who did this well - with his ability to suck a reader deeply into his stories.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thank you leslieadrienne, and I look forward to hearing more from you.

Hi Nicks, yes, the truly successful writers are able to suspend our disbelief and let us live the experience. I'm sure we've all picked up a book and found it a chore at times because the writer hasn't been able to do this. Some writers seem to write for themselves, for their egos and the result is boring (at least for me.) These little techniques can make the difference between a living story and a monologue.

pigfish profile image

pigfish 6 years ago from Southwest Ohio

Great advice, Immartin. I had an excellent freshman english teacher in college and now I realize I've forgotten everything! I will follow your hubs and work on improving my skills.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thanks for the feedback pigfish. These are things that don't lend themselves well to lecture type teaching -- more of a see/do situation I think. Do we ever understand something until we do it? And these articles are examples of another great principle -- learn through teaching. It isn't until I sit down to write, I understand what it is I know.

resspenser profile image

resspenser 6 years ago from South Carolina

I thought your hub was excellent and I am going to follow you to see if I can pick up any more useful tips. I am sure I will.

Zac828 profile image

Zac828 6 years ago from England

I feel lucky to have found this, thank you. Your advice is cemented into my brain. I'll keep a look out for the next hub.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thanks resspenser. No 3 in this series just published last night.

Hi Zac828, thanks for the comment and I hope you find 2 and 3.

tdarby profile image

tdarby 6 years ago


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

You're welcome, tdarby.

Duchess OBlunt 6 years ago

lmmartin you continue to impress me. Thank you for your willingness to share your knowledge with us.

Your teaching style is right up my alley. I am a tactile learner, so seeing what you are talking about helps me a great deal.

I will be following this series closely and hope to glean much by your instructions.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thanks for your gracious comments Duchess, and for the comment. I think most of us do learn by example -- I know I do. Glad you dropped by. Articles 2 & 3 are posted now.

ladyonthemirror profile image

ladyonthemirror 6 years ago from Indonesia

Thank you for your great advices, I am a new writer in English. I think that your advices are very useful for me to increase my ability in writing. Hop[e you'll write some more advices for writing in your latest hubs.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

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.

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 6 years ago from East Coast, United States

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 profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thanks so much, Dolores, and I hope you find two and three in the series. Four will be posted in a few days.

Quilligrapher profile image

Quilligrapher 6 years ago from New York

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 profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

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.

Marisa Wright profile image

Marisa Wright 6 years ago from Sydney

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 profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

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.

Rafini profile image

Rafini 6 years ago from Somewhere I can't get away from

I am in for following your series - the examples are helpful. Thanks for sharing with us.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

You're welcome, Rafini, and thanks for dropping by.

SamAntone 6 years ago

I appreciate getting such valuable information. And I'm not even paying for it.

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lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

I'd be happy to give you my paypal account if you want to. Thanks for the comment.

Karanda profile image

Karanda 6 years ago from Australia

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 profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

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.

amanes 6 years ago

Thank you very much for your Hub and the energy you gave to it. I really liked it and it was helpful. Thanks

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

You're welcome Amanes. Thanks for leaving a comment.

emievil profile image

emievil 6 years ago from Philippines

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 profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

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!

TINA V profile image

TINA V 6 years ago

This is very helpful to all writers. Great advice!

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lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thanks Tina. Hope you read the rest of the series. Lynda

RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 6 years ago from the short journey

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 profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

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

Deborah Demander profile image

Deborah Demander 6 years ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

Thank you for sharing your wisdom. I look forward to reading more. Best Regards.

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lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thank you Deborah, and I hope you move on to the rest of the series.

Jacob Darkley profile image

Jacob Darkley 6 years ago from California, USA

Great hub. Thank you.


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lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hello Jacob -- you're welcome. Lynda

SwiftlyClean profile image

SwiftlyClean 6 years ago from Texas

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.

Sharon Smith

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

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

dotty1 profile image

dotty1 6 years ago from In my world

Dear Immartin,

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 profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

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.

Angela Blair profile image

Angela Blair 6 years ago from Central Texas

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

patspnn 6 years ago

thanks for information

ramkkasturi profile image

ramkkasturi 6 years ago from India

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?.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

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

pinkhawk profile image

pinkhawk 6 years ago from Pearl of the Orient

...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 profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

You're very welcome, pinkhawk, though I'd hate to think I discouraged you.

angela_michelle profile image

angela_michelle 6 years ago from United States

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.

dl53acy profile image

dl53acy 6 years ago from East Texas

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.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

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.

Barbara Kay profile image

Barbara Kay 6 years ago from USA

As a newbie here you gave me a lot to think about.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thanks Barbara Kay. I hope you move on to the rest of this series.

robbyism profile image

robbyism 6 years ago

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 profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

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.

ThatGirlEmily 6 years ago

Great advice, thank you.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Your welcome, Thatgirlemily and do hope to hear from you again.

cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 6 years ago from Cape Town

This is great Immartin, don't know how I missed it before and will check out your others!

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thanks cindyvine. All compliments gratefully accepted.

Amez profile image

Amez 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

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

JannyC profile image

JannyC 6 years ago

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?

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

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

Liz 6 years ago

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 profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

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

dark eyed gazelle profile image

dark eyed gazelle 6 years ago from Michigan

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 profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

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.

ahostagesituation profile image

ahostagesituation 6 years ago

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 profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Why thank you for the compliments. Those are always gratefully accepted. Lynda

MojoJojo49 profile image

MojoJojo49 6 years ago

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 profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

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

Ed Bookman 6 years ago

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 profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thank you Ed, a compliment indeed. Glad you found it helpful. Lynda

Tusitala Tom profile image

Tusitala Tom 6 years ago from Sydney, Australia

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 profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

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.

lorlie6 profile image

lorlie6 6 years ago from Bishop, Ca

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 profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

You are so welcome lorlie, and glad to meet you to. I hope you go on to read the rest of the series.

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 6 years ago from Dallas, Texas

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 profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

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

sagebrush_mama profile image

sagebrush_mama 6 years ago from The Shadow of Death Valley...Snow Covered Mountain Views Abound!

I just came across this beginning article in your series on "Good Writing", and I'm looking forward to reading more.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

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

ahorseback profile image

ahorseback 6 years ago

This is quite informative, thanks.....

Jenny 6 years ago

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!

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi Jenny,

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 if you want further, more specific help. Lynda

Storytellersrus profile image

Storytellersrus 6 years ago from Stepping past clutter

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 profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

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.

Docmo profile image

Docmo 6 years ago from UK

Sagely advice. Well written and useful!

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thanks Docmo. profile image 5 years ago from upstate, NY

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 profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

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.

Jen Johnson profile image

Jen Johnson 5 years ago from WA State

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 profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

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

Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

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 profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

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

Ania L profile image

Ania L 5 years ago from United Kingdom

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.

missolive profile image

missolive 5 years ago from Texas

Definitely bookmarking and following this series. Very informative and useful. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

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

Angela Blair profile image

Angela Blair 5 years ago from Central Texas

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 profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

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

Marlin 55 profile image

Marlin 55 5 years ago from USA

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 profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thanks, Marlin 55. I hope the rest of the series is equally helpful. Lynda

htodd profile image

htodd 4 years ago from United States

That's really interesting advice to new writers..Thanks

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 4 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

You're welcome htodd. Hope you enjoy the rest. Lynda

Grammar guy 4 years ago

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 profile image

lmmartin 4 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

The consistent use of auxiliary verbs makes this passive. Thank you so much for your FYI.

DRidge profile image

DRidge 4 years ago from Gulf Coast, MS

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 profile image

lmmartin 4 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

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

Firejay 4 years ago

Excuse me,

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 profile image

lmmartin 4 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

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 4 years ago

Thank you very much. :)

Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 2 years ago from Long Island, NY

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.

DaveOnline profile image

DaveOnline 13 months ago from Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Thanks for the great advice here, I need to work on 'sharing stories' rather than 'telling them.'

cam8510 profile image

cam8510 7 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

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.

johnmariow profile image

johnmariow 4 months ago from Connecticut

Thanks for an educational hub regarding creative writing. I enjoyed reading it and I learned from it.

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