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 October, 2006


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Advanced Techniques:  Active Voice


by Sandy Tritt  www.InspirationForWriters.com

If the first rule of writing is Show, Don’t Tell, the second should be Keep It Active. Active voice is what puts us in the middle of the action and allows us to feel. Passive voice is what gives us the feeling that someone is telling us a story that happened once upon a time.

Ray could suddenly feel the room widely circling around him before he started to wake up. He was feeling completely horrible. He hated feeling that way. Slowly rolling to his stomach and silently swinging one leg off the bed, he could use the floor as an anchor. The floor was solid and it would help to stop the dizziness. There was a good chance he would be very sick.

Exciting, huh? Okay, let’s examine why this leaves us breathless with boredom:
• Unnecessary words. Any word that doesn’t add to your story detracts from it. Examine your prose for words like these: started to, began to, proceeded to, could, would, there was, there are, there is, there were, seemed to, tried to.
• Inactive verbs. Watch for passive verbs, such as was, is, were, are. Replace them with active verbs, the most active and descriptive words you can think of.
• -ing words. Verbs ending with “ing” are by nature more passive than those ending with “ed.”
• Adverbs. Those -ly words that precede a verb weaken it, not strengthen it. If your verb isn’t strong enough to make the statement you want it to make, find a stronger verb.
• Intensifiers. Very, really, totally, completely, truly and so on. Is completely empty any more empty?

Before we look at our example above, let’s examine each of these concepts individually and see how they suck the power right out of our prose. Each of the following sentence pairs gives a poorly written sentence, followed by one that improves it:
• It is the governor’s plan to visit tomorrow. The governor plans to visit tomorrow.
• John proceeded to dump sand on the castle. John dumped sand on the castle.
• There were eight tiny reindeer leading Santa’s sleigh. Eight tiny reindeer led Santa’s sleigh.
• Jack could hear laughter. Jack heard laughter.
• Erin was sleeping. Erin slept.
• Mike was very tired. Mike was exhausted. (Better yet: Exhaustion dripped through Mike’s bones like slow pouring molasses. Okay, okay, so I get carried away. Sorry.)
• She quickly and purposefully walked to Jarod and sharply hit his arm. She strode to Jarod and punched his arm.

Now, before we apply these concepts to our example paragraph above, give it a try yourself. But be advised, more than one answer is possible, and I took it a step further and omitted complete sentences that added no value and redesigned others for a more effective flow.
Ready? This is what I came up with:

The room circled around Ray. He rolled to his stomach and swung one leg off the bed, using the floor as an anchor. Even before he opened his eyes, he knew he would be sick.

Half as many words, twice the power. Learning to change ineffective passive prose into active voice is one of the most important things you can do to increase the quality of your fiction.

(c) copyright 2002 by Sandy Tritt. All rights reserved, except for those listed here. November be reproduced for educational purposes (such as for writer's workshops), as long as this copyright notice and the url: http://tritt.wirefire.com are distributed with the pages. For use in conferences or other uses not mentioned here, please contact Sandy Tritt at Sandy@InspirationForWriters.com for permission and additional resources at no or limited charge.

   Keep writing!

Sandy Tritt


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Publishing New Writers,

October, 2006 (no. 710)


Publisher: Bruce L. Cook, P.O. Box 451, Dundee, IL 60118.  Fax (847) 428-8974.

Submissions/comments  cookcomm@gte.net.

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Book Proposals Aren’t Just For How-To Books Anymore


II. Write a Book Proposal for the


By Patricia L. Fry

Most publishers today want to see a book proposal before they will even look at a manuscript. They want to know that you have a viable product, of course, that you can write and that there is an audience for your book. But they’re also interested in your platform. In fact, I just completed a survey wherein I asked publishers of all sizes and from all genres, “How important is an author’s platform?” Every one of them said, “Very important.”

Your platform, by the way, is your publicity angle—your level of prominence or respect in your field, as a writer or in general. One publisher said, “Platform is an author’s reach.” Another one told me, “Platform is your audience—your visibility.” The publisher wants to know that you have a following, a network or important connections. He’ll be interested in the fact that you are a skilled promoter or public speaker and that you have access to large audiences on a regular basis. It will impress him if you can honestly say that you are a columnist for a magazine or newspaper in the area of your book topic, for example. The publishers I surveyed all confirmed that an author today needs a platform. They typically reject manuscripts by authors who haven’t established a platform.

Establish Your Platform Before Writing the Book

I once worked with a client who was writing a marvelous self-help book for women. She was using a fresh angle based on her expertise as an artist. I was sure that she could land a major publisher for her project, except for one thing. She did not have a platform. She wrote in her book proposal that she would present seminars based on the concept of her book to large groups of women in major cities and invite high profile speakers to participate. I was impressed until I found out that she was blowing in the wind. She had no organizational experience and no public speaking or teaching experience. Nor did she have a following.

I suggested that she put her book on hold for a year and go out and present at least one seminar—in other words, begin to establish a platform. Then, instead of telling the publisher what she plans to do, she can give him the details of her successful promotional experience.

You, too, can take steps toward establishing your platform. Here are a few ideas:

• Become a better public speaker. Join a Toastmasters club. Seek opportunities to practice your speaking skills. Go out and speak on your topic, if applicable. If you’re writing a historical novel, establish a connection with local, regional and state historical societies, clubs and associations where you might give talks, etc.
• Prepare to give readings. This is a popular method of promoting fiction books or memoirs. Do you have a good reading voice? If you need voice work, get help. And then go out and practice.
• Write articles for national magazines.
• Become columnist or regular contributor to a Web site, newsletter or magazine related to your topic.
• Seek an endorsement for your book or support for your project from a well-known national organization.
• Establish and nurture connections with high profile people in your field.
• Borrow, buy and/or build a mailing list.
• Build a Web site and start a blog related to your book. Offer something of value and promote, promote, promote.
• Take a class or read several good books about promotion in general and book promotion in particular.
• Become familiar with appropriate talk TV and radio shows nationwide and how to land interviews.
• Do something newsworthy.

I met a man years ago who wrote a novel featuring a homeless family and the homeless way of life. He wanted help promoting his book. I suggested that he get national coverage for his book by starting a project to help the homeless—make sandwiches and serve them to the homeless in the park each Sunday; offer an informal, outdoor church service for those who want it; sponsor one homeless family each year, for example. How would he get publicity for his efforts? He would write news releases telling about his project and his book and send them to newspapers throughout the U.S. He may even land a few radio, TV and magazine interviews.

Patricia Fry is a full-time freelance writer and editorial consultant. She is the author of 24 books, including The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book. www.matilijapress.com. Read her informative blog at www.matilijapress.com/publishingblog







Self-Publishing for the Uninitiated

by Valerie Bradley-Holliday, Ph.D.

Self-publishing, put simply, means publishing a book that you created.  A book which uses your time and talent to create a collection of poetry, fictional prose, non-fictional narrative, children’s book and even illustrations, which is ready for the presses.

Ready for the Presses

Ask yourself honestly is my book ready to be published.  You may want to enlist the aid of an editor or editors or at least the practiced eye of a dear friend who has excellent writing skills, and although he or she loves you, will tell you up front whether your book needs work or not.  Once you get the work completed, do not jump to the first publisher that offers to publish your book.  Let’s be honest.  We are in love with our work or we would not be doing it and some publishing houses know this and want us to part with our money to increase their wealth.  We have aptly named these places “Vanity Presses.”  Why?  Because they appeal to our vanity, I say “love,” that we have for our own creative works.  The message here is caveat emptor (buyer beware). 

Buyer Beware or Five Things to Look For 

Quality Self-Publishing.  Shop around.  We take the time to do this when we buy shoes.  Self-publishing can be a costly endeavor for our pocketbook as well as our ego [recall Vanity Presses].  Many legitimate self-publishing companies exist and it is up to you to search for them keeping in mind what your needs are as well.  Perhaps you want a full-service book producer to edit, do cover design, typeset, print and market.  Or perhaps, you have a book which has already undergone galley proofs and you want to get it into print right away.  Or you may only want you book available on the World Wide Web in electronic format.  This is entirely for you to decide but the one key component to any of these choices and a myriad number of others I did not mention is always look for quality.  Ask for samples or if available on line go through the examples.  If you are not satisfied with what you are looking at, ask the publisher to refer you to books that they have produced.  If possible contact authors who have used those self-publishing services regarding their satisfaction, do not rely solely on testimonials.  Always select your self-publishing company with an eye to quality.  How about advanced publishing for you do-it-yourselfers?

Advanced Self-Publishing.  Advanced publishing is available for the strong of heart and the “muscled” of brain.  Why go through a publication company?  If you have the skills to set up a Web Site, there are companies, such as Yahoo, which offer this service for free.  If you know how to convert your book cover, text and images into a PDF file you can offer your book online or work with a local print shop to get your book printed and bound just the way you want.  You then would use your Web site to promote your book.  Or, if you still want to go through a company, expert though you are, you can use a company like Amazon’s Book Surge, to use what they term an “express plus package,” where all the work has been set up in a .PDF file ready for print.  Advanced self-published does not mean you ignore the basics.  You still have to have your book proofread and edited.  So, if you decide to do this electronically, please make sure to get those corrections done prior to committing the work to a .PDF file.  Also, keep in mind that you chiefly responsible for editing, cover design, typesetting, printing, and marketing.  If you decide to go with a company and pay for these services, make sure that you have a contract that states what they provide and please read the small print.  You want to maximize your Rewards.

 Rewards.  If you go through a self-publishing company, rewards come in the form of a royalty check.  The royalties on a book are a percentage of the market value of the book.  For example, if the book sells for $10.00 through the company and you are to get 20%, then your profit would be $2.00.  The most money can be made doing direct sells.  If your author cost for a print as you go book is $6.00 and you sell the book for $10.00, then you are going to make $4.00.  This is a simplistic explanation but you get the point.  As a self-publisher you want to widen your profit margin by keeping your editing, cover design, typesetting, printing, and marketing costs down [not sacrificing quality of course].  For some self-publishers this means, selling on the web and locally on your own.  As you may well imagine this is a costly endeavor, costly in time, when you want to be doing your first love—writing.  So, selling just through a simple web site or the print as you go company may be your best option, if you do not want to spend a lot of time marketing.

Publicity and Marketing. Keep in mind publishing a book is only a small part of why we do what we do [remember Vanity Presses].  Unless you just want to circulate the book among a small number of friends and family, you need to get the word out there about your book so that it can reach audiences and sell.  Press kits, press releases, booking TV and radio programs, speaking tours and book signings, and negotiating with producers and agents are costly and sometimes impossible endeavors for the self-publisher, especially if you have no connections.  The other operative word here is costs, these costs can go well-beyond what money it took to produce the book.  Self-promotion at the local level is a good start.  If you are shy and retiring, you will have to get over this habit to market your book.  If you need a buddy to do a book signing, see if you can get a friend to come along and bask in your glory.  If you are offered radio and TV spots, do them.  Do not pass on an opportunity for free publicity unless it seems that to participate would be damaging to your character or to book sells.    


Our authors' books are available at Barnes & Noble, Borders, Amazon.com, as well as through specialty catalogues and book clubs. You'll keep 100% of the profit on your sales. We can also handle storage and fulfillment.

Confidence.  I started talking about this under publicity.  You have to “toot your own horn.”  If you can get positive reviews from accomplished authors, please do so and put them on your posters, bookmarks, flyers, etc.  Always promote yourself and be willing to talk about your book.  Keep in mind the more public speaking that you do the more comfortable you will feel.  Practice in front of friends if you have to but always widen your circle of contacts at the same time.  Join an inexpensive local authors club.  Many times having that support will help as well.  With this in mind, if you think you have got the gusto, then be encouraged and get to work you self-publishers!

Written by Valerie Bradley-Holliday, author of Places to Be Blessed available at Xlibris.com  Click here