The MRWG wishes all our readership a very Happy Mother's Day. Perhaps you're in the mood to read something writerly during "The Voice' ad breaks or having got the little ones into bed are ready to fire up the lap top and have some me time in cyber space. Here's a lovely post from Ebony McKenna on enjoying a hobby, something all mothers need, an activity that is purely for their enjoyment. It's Fine To Have A Hobby
Hobbies are what give our lives simple joys and pleasure. Seeing the result of a finished project and admiring the work and love that went into it.
I love bonsai, I've been creating them and tending them for twenty years. Yet I've never exhibited. I do it because I enjoy it and it brings me pleasure. I also love model railway sets and adore building the model houses that go with them, but I hardly attend train fairs and I've never joined a club. Because it's a hobby, so I do it for me. Just because I can cook doesn't mean I will appear on Masterchef any time soon.
And yet, writing seems to be the one hobby where if you take it up, you're suddenly under pressure to do everything. Have a blog, be on twitter, write 10,000 words a day, send things to agents and editors, get those 90k novels done, have them reach the dizzying heights of the bestseller lists.
All because you had a little story noodling in your brain and you liked writing.
So perhaps it's time to step back for a moment and have a think. Do you write for fun? Excellent. Keep doing it. Does the thought of sending your story out into the world, to be ripped apart by critics kill you inside? Good then, don't do that. Do the bit you love, without the other stuff. The pressure stuff, that will suck all the joy from your hobby.
Of course, if you're rampantly ambitious, like me, and you want the pressure and in fact thrive on it, then by all means, turn your writing hobby into a full time pursuit and give it everything you've got. Write, write, and write some more. Then rewrite. Then put it in a drawer for a few months. Then rewrite it again. Then write something new (because that other thing will be so derivative you won't believe it) and keep on going.
But in the mean time, those who write as a hobby - ignore the pressure. Don't get drawn into the competitive nature of writing as a full time job. Write for the pure, simple joy it brings you. Write for yourself. Write to feed your heart.
Ebony McKenna, is published in Young Adult, Her first two Ondine novels, The Summer of Shambles and The Autumn Palace, are available in paperback from http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/search/advanced?searchAuthor=Ebony+McKenna
with free worldwide postage.
They are also available as ebooks in the UK and Australia from http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ebony-McKenna/e/B0057PRSL2/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1366672783&sr=8-1
and then the trequel and the conclusion release dates are:
Ondine: The Winter of Magic - worldwide ebook release December 6, 2013
Ondine: The Spring Revolution - worldwide ebook release March 6, 2014
If an editor suggests writing things in active voice, what does this really mean?
In a nutshell, with sentences written in active voice, the subject performs the action that is expressed in the verb. It can sometimes be a strange concept to grasp, but with practice and repetition, you’ll start to notice it everywhere, especially on radio & TV news bulletins.
For our first example:
Active: The company ships the computers overseas.
In this instance, the company is the subject, and performs the action, which in this instance is the word ‘ships’.
However, in passive voice, the subject sometimes disappears, and the object – in this case the computers – have the action performed on them by the subject.
Passive: Computers are shipped overseas.
In this example, we don’t know the subject, so the reader is left to assume that the computers are shipped “by the company”
Active voice tells us who is doing what.
Active: The chef is preparing the food.
Compare this to the Passive: The food is being prepared.
The implication in the passive example is that someone is preparing food, but the writer hasn’t told us the subject. It could be a group of students, chefs, or even criminals keen to mend their ways.
They key “flag” to look for in passive voice is not past tense, but the implied “by whom”, usually left off the end of a sentence.
The boy kicked the ball – active
The ball was kicked by the boy – passive
The delivery man brought the package yesterday - active
The package was delivered yesterday – passive.
Implied “by whom” – you assume it was the postie. But it might have been a neighbour, a lover, or a carrier pigeon.
Passive voice is often indirect, whereas active voice makes things more direct. Use active voice when you want to pick up the pace and move things along.
There is nothing wrong with their passive or active voice, it’s more a matter of working out which works best for your situation. If you’re writing a non-fiction report or analysis, then passive voice can work well. If you’re writing a novel full of action and romance, (gee, really?) then active can keep things humming.
One of the drawbacks of passive voice is that it can let people off the hook.
We made mistakes – active. This means you’ve owned up to your mistakes.
Mistakes were made – passive – leading the reader to wonder, “yes, but who made them and who can I blame?”
So the key is to read a sentence and ask yourself if you know who’s doing it, or who’s done it. If you’re left wondering ‘by what or by whom’ then it’s passive voice.
Snares, traps and blunders:
Avoid starting a sentence in active voice and then shifting to passive, or vice versa.
Voice shift: Many customers in the restaurant found the coffee too bitter to drink, but it was still ordered frequently.
Revised: Many customers in the restaurant found the coffee too bitter to drink, but they still ordered it frequently.
Voice shift: He tried to act cool when he slipped in the puddle, but he was still laughed at by the other students.
Revised: He tried to act cool when he slipped in the puddle, but the other students still laughed at him.
Now that you’ve seen a few examples, you’ll find yourself noticing them more and more. It doesn’t mean passive is ‘wrong’ but when it’s overused, it makes things sound dull and lifeless. Listen to ABC 774 news and it’s full of passive voice. I’ll bet they haven’t noticed!
Where Passive voice works well.
There are often times when passive voice requires less text, because of the implied subject.
"Rules are made to be broken," he said defiantly. Is a great use of passive voice. To put this in active voice, would weaken the idea that some rules really are made to be broken. “I was made to break rules” makes me sound like I’m up myself
“Trespassers prosecuted”. Is a fine example of good passive. To write this in active, you’d need to say something like “We will prosecute trespassers”
For the comprehensive worksheet that accompanies this article, please visit the "Articles on Writing Craft Page of our website and you'll find the complete workshop.
Ebony McKenna is published in Young Adult fiction her webpage is http://www.ebonymckenna.com/
Happy Easter Everyone
Flushed with excitement Ebony McKenna descended the stage stairs at the Melbourne Emerging Writers Festival in 2010. Dark curls bounced around her shoulders, her cheerful countenance and rosy cheeks a testament to her successful interview. In looks she reminds me of Snow White and also in temperament. Her honest enthusiasm for sharing her love of her first book Ondine is infectious. In this heady moment I asked my fellow Melbourne Romance Writers Guild Member if she would grant me an interview for an assignment in my professional writing course. How could she refuse?
Sitting in her warm and welcoming home Ebony and I drink coffee and talk about our favourite topic, writing. In particular I’m interested in the path which took her from unpublished author to emerging writer. With writing roots in journalism and the later shift to writing novels she focused on writing for a market. The difference with ‘Ondine’, her young adult novel published by Egmont, was that she wrote to please herself.
Of course she had knowledge of the market however this wasn’t her priority while writing ‘Ondine’. She said ‘I had no idea where it would fit.’ ‘I didn’t even think about the market’ during the revision process her publisher suggested changes to accommodate the target market of young teenage girls. It is interesting to note that reader reviews show the mothers of these girls also enjoyed the book so much they recommended it to their friends, showing that McKenna has tapped into the accessibility of Young Adult fiction to appeal to a broad market.
Ebony explained that she also wrote about what she knows. Her experience of being raised in small rural town where everyone knows you informed her knowledge of what life would be like for Ondine. Ebony helped out in her parent’s restaurant, this life experience enabled her to bring authenticity to Ondine’s character who is growing up in her parents hotel. She recalls what it was like to be a teenager, saying, ‘I enjoy writing about this age because the feelings are still there, the peaks and troughs. As a teenager these are the first hurdles you come against and so they feel like the worst thing possible.’ In creating the characters for Ondine she said she got to know them so well that she fell in love with them and in return they loved her back. ‘Love your characters and they will love you,’ she said and then laughed because it had just that minute occurred to her to coin the phrase. We both picked up our pens to write it down.
I asked how becoming published had impacted on her writing. She said, ‘It doesn’t feel like a hobby anymore and I don’t feel I have to justify my writing time. When I got an agent I didn’t feel like I was pretending anymore’ and ‘I have always had a good writing routine.’ ‘It just solidified it for me that I have to get that done first before I do anything else.’
McKenna’s passion for her book is compelling. No wonder she had success with getting it published.
It has been a couple of years since I interviewed Ebony. Since then book two of the series ‘The Autumn Palace’ has been published and book three is completed and ready for publication.
By Ebony McKenna
I don’t create characters; all I do is get to know them better.
Which sounds like I’m making excuses. Seriously, I’m not. But this is how it happens for me. A character pops into my head, without much substance.
“Oh hello,” I say, and they might nod or point to something nearby or wave or change their hair colour right before my eyes.
But aside from that, they’re not very interesting.
I need to get to know them. Understand what they want, what they need, what’s in their way and what aspect of their character they’re in denial about.
Everyone’s in denial about something. That’s human nature.
As Cara Gabriel posted earlier
- there are many things you need to ask your character to get to know them.
Sure, I can plot out some basic elements of the overall story, but without knowing the characters, I have no story.
Recently, I had a blazing hot idea about rebooting an historical legend. Let’s call him Sir Lancelot. (It’s not Sir Lancelot. I’m throwing you off the scent. Or *am* I?) But from then on I only had the general idea. I didn’t have true character
I used Cara’s questions and worked out my character’s goals, motivations and conflicts. I wanted to know what they wanted most from life. What they feared. Why
they did what they did. What (or who?) was in their way?
But most of all, what was the glaringly obvious character flaw everyone else could see but they couldn’t? Their blind spot. Their weakness. Their kryptonite.
That’s when the magic happens. That’s when the characters take on a life of their own. That’s when I find myself in the scene, madly writing down everything the character does and says, trying desperately to keep up.
The characters lead me on a merry chase, get me into arguments, get lost, land in trouble and fall in love. They are in control, not me.
Yet I’m the writer. I should be in control, yes?
No. When characters become real, they are the ones in charge.
I’m merely along for the ride.
Next time you have a blazing hot idea that burns to be written, use Cara’s 10 questions to get to know your characters. Find out what they most desire in life. Why is it out of reach? Will they hurt people along the way (even when they don’t mean to. Especially if they don’t mean to).
When you know your characters, the story will flow.
Ebony McKenna is a fantastically imaginative author whose scope and story-telling encompasses the bizarre, the mysterious and the romantic. Her Ondine books are a sparkling combination of romance and magic – perfect for teen girls. Written with genuine humour and unique eccentricity, the series is an obvious choice for fans of The Princess Bride
and Ella Enchanted
twitter - twitter.com/#!/EbonyMcKenna
email - email@example.com
web - www.ebonymckenna.com
Emmie Dark won Romance Writers of Australia’s Emerald Award and did a wonderful job as MC at the Awards Dinner on August 13 at the Hilton.
Cara Gabriel snagged second place in the Little Gems.
Ebony McKenna’s The Autumn Palace was voted the best cover in the twenty years of the RWAus Cover competition.
To round the competition year off Louise Reynolds was awarded the Lynne Wilding Award.
Fantastic ladies and well done!!!