We’re not talking fashion magazines, folks. In the book world, a style guide is the rulemaker you’re choosing to follow. And for writers in the US, the most accepted style guide for books is Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS).
CMOS covers how to treat numbers, where to insert commas, when to hyphenate, and so much more. It’s currently in its seventeenth edition. The online version is my favorite way to work with it, which I do almost every day, because it’s so easy to search. I also appreciate the forum and Q&A included in the online version. For $35 a year, it’s well worth the subscription.
Chicago’s got one issue though. It was originally written for nonfiction books. And that certainly shows up sometimes. So if you’re writing fiction, there may be instances where Chicago is “silent,” meaning you will have to figure out what you want to do yourself.
I bet almost everyone has been scolded for using passive voice, either by a teacher, a writing buddy, or an editor. Software designed to help you improve your writing, like Grammarly or Microsoft Word’s spelling and grammar check, often flags text as “passive voice” and encourages you to revise.
Great! Who doesn’t want to be a better writer?
The problem is that passive voice is misunderstood. So what do you need to know?
The flamingo danced around the stage in high-stepping circles.
Passive voice is when the subject is acted upon:
The flamingo was danced around the stage in high-stepping circles by the puppeteer.
The context and my understanding of the scene completely changes based on these examples. In the active voice example, I’m guessing the flamingo is onstage at a zoo or a wildlife exhibit, or that this is a kids’ picture book about dancing flamingos. In the passive voice example, I realize the dancing flamingo is a puppet being manipulated by someone else.
Passive voice is about the author’s voice! That elusive, hard-to-define element that makes every writer unique.
Success is one of those words that can be packaged with a lot of triggers. In today’s world, many of us equate success with money and fame. And if our endeavor isn’t bringing in money and fans—immediately!—then it’s easy to judge it as a failure.
And I hate that!
Many of us write because we love to write. It’s a passion. And as soon as you place financial-earning expectations on your passions, something changes. This is not to say that you can’t earn moolah for your writing, because you absolutely can (and I hope you do). But what if making money off your books isn’t your first priority? At least when they’re in their fledgling states.