Friday, 21 February 2014

Passive Aggressive Chimps

It’s nearly new novel time and I've got a cover to reveal and dangling modifiers to tweak...

It’s holiday time at the dwarf zoo I work at and I've been making hay while the sun shines.  In English, that means I've had a week off work and I've been giving my new novel a bit of a seeing to.  It’s funny how a bit of time gives you perspective as the last time I read my novel was before Christmas.  So instead of lounging around on the sofa eating grapes, I decided to give my novel another run through before I publish it.  Good job I did, or the grammar Nazi’s on Amazon would have sent the assassins round and I would've been taken out into the street and shot, Jeremy Clarkson style.

So apparently, passive sentences are bad.  Very bad.  According to George Orwell, in his 1946 essay Politics in the English Language he wrote, ‘Never use the passive where you can use the active.’  See, Wikipedia never lies.  And one of my mates told me so as well, so it’s got to be right.  As I’m extremely lazy and too tight-fisted to cough up for an app, I set my Word grammar settings to hunt the little passive blighters down.  There were more than I thought and it took me a good couple of days of rewriting to sponge them out but hopefully, my prose has benefited.

Thing is, there were a couple of times when, no matter how much word gymnastics I did, I could not make a particular sentence make sense unless it was in the passive.  The subject has to go first, I get it, it must be active to propel the reader on through the story but what if I want my subject to be passive in a particular situation?  Or what if the subject is inanimate and can’t move itself?  For example, there is one instance when my main character, Savannah, was forced (see, I’m doing it now) in the past to do something.  Murder her scumbag husband in this case.  The situation forced her to stab him in the chest – I hope you’re tempted to read my new novel – and so I had to keep that passive in.  Also, there was one sentence when the curtains had been drawn hastily (and yes, I know adverbs are also evil, but there isn’t a verb in the English language to describe the act of shutting curtains quickly when you’re in a hurry for a bit of nooky).  Generally, curtains can’t draw themselves, not even when I’ve written in a ghost, so that had to stay in as well.  So there, George Orwell, but you did write one of my favourite novels 1984 and you’re proper famous, so I’ll shut up now.

And don’t get me on the subject of dangling modifiers, I’m still not entirely sure I’d know one if I saw it but it sounds a bit smutty to me.  Don’t worry, I've taken out all of the ‘reallys, quites and verys’ out, so my novel should be nicely streamlined by now.

As I like to keep up with the times, I've created a mailing list with Mail Chimp so you can get a newsletter whenever I release a new novel.  But unfortunately, not an actual chimp.  You can sign up by clicking on the link or the little signy-up-thingy at the top of the blog.  I won’t send you spam or regular updates of my hamster’s doings, just when I’m releasing new stuff.  So far, I have one subscriber, which is me, so please put me out of my misery and subscribe to my mail list.

Here it is – the cover reveal to my novel Ashwood House due out on 28th February.  It’s a supernatural thriller with a stabbing, hastily drawn curtains – and a blue ghost.  There’s more to come...

Many thanks to Ryan Ashcroft of Love Your Covers for his excellent design and prompt service.


  1. I'm looking forward to reading your new novel, LK - and I've just subscribed to your mail list, too!

    Oh yes, "never use the passive form", "show don't tell" - all good advice as far as it goes, but I don't recommend following it blindly. You have to find your own voice and write in accordance with it. By all means use the passive form if you want to!

  2. Thanks for subscribing - I'm nearly into double figures now!

  3. Just about to sign up! The mailing list experiment hasn't quite worked for me but it's early days. Looking forward to your mails!