Wake up your settings

Most of us are aware of the oft-cited truth that the passive voice (‘The ball was hit by the boy.’) does not work as well, when you’re writing creatively, as the active voice (‘The boy hit the ball.’) You can immediately see that there’s more energy in the latter. But I’m often surprised by how typically people resort to other passive constructions to convey the world in which their story is set: “The chair was by the window,” or the ubiquitous “There was a chair by the window.” It’s as if the chair is sleeping there, just waiting for someone to come in and give it a shake.

At the final, copy-editing stage, when such considerations come into view, wake up your settings. Use active verbs, rather than citing passive states: “The chair stood by the window” or “waited by the window”. You’ll find your writing gets a sudden burst of life.

The best time to write

Especially these days, when time can flow by unmarked in a way we have never experienced before, I worry when people say, “I can only write at such-and-such a time”. Yes, it’s always good to have a routine to give yourself a boost. But you can’t write at any other time? Really?

My worry is that any hard-and-fast rule we can come up with about writing is manna to the Inner Critic. Of course you can write any time of the day or night. The writing may look different then, but is that such a bad thing?

Experiment. Stay curious. And remember (to borrow from Ed Lawrence, CBC Radio’s gardening guru, who says “The best time to prune is when you have the secateurs in your hand”): the best time to write is when you have some time.  End of story.