Irreconcilable Differences

Good morning. Welcome to Day 10 of the  A to Z Blog Challenge. Today, I’ll focus on the letter “I”.  I’ve decided to blog about irreconcilable differences.  These are the beliefs which cannot be brought to agreement and settled by any means. Basically, it’s when people agree to disagree. Two people stand each in their own corner, refusing to give ground no matter what. Both refuse to look at the matter from the other’s point of view. A perfect example of this was the American Civil War. The North had its opinions, the South had its own and compromise wasn’t an option. Image

Irreconcilable differences are often cited as the reasons for divorce too, but today, I’m not talking about those types of difficulties. I’m talking about the irreconcilable problems which occur when an editor and an author disagree on changes to a manuscript. It’s ironic when an editor reads your manuscript, tells you she absolutely loves it, and then insists you make so many changes to the writing you not only lose the story as you wrote it, but you lose your author voice. I have worked with wonderful editors who have helped me create exceptional books, but I’ve also come across others that would destroy what you’ve written if you let them and make the work more theirs than yours. 

An author’s voice is what makes him or her unique, different from every other writer out there. It cannot be accurately duplicated because it comes from the writer’s soul. What can cause these irreconcilable differences? Many things, but probably the biggest one I’ve come across is culture. British and Canadian authors are not American. They adhere to a different set of language conventions and while some of them are similar, others are not. As a Canadian author published by an American publisher, I strive to meet their rules and standards when it comes to spelling, even when the word jars me. As a Canadian, I have difficulty with the way some American words are used. For example, the words “towards” is used without the “s”, so it becomes “toward”. Possessives require an additional “s” as in Chris’s.  Let’s look at “since, because, and as.” Since can mean because and so can as, but are they really interchangeable.Consider: “Since I love you, let’s get married. Because I love you, let’s get married. As I love you, let’s get married.” They all mean the same thing–are all grammatically correct, but to my Canadian heart, only the first actually sounds correct. Canadian schools teach you never to start a sentence with “because, and, or but.” Doing so may not be wrong per se, but for us, it simply isn’t done. As well, you are never to begin sentences with however, moreover, therefore, etc. These words are to be used between a semi colon and an comma.  For example: I love this house; however, the location is the pits. That brings up the whole semi-colon debacle. Let’s not forget the use of the redundant comma with too as in “I like lobster, too.”

Another problem which often rears its ugly head in the understanding or misunderstanding of passive versus active construction. According to http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~jlynch/Writing/p.html Passive voice is explained as follows:

The active voice takes the form of “A does B”; the passive takes the form of “B is done [by A].”

Writers are often instructed to avoid the passive voice, and there are two reasons for this advice. The first is that sentences often become dense and clumsy when they’re filled with passive constructions. The more serious danger of the passive voice, though, is that it lets the writer shirk the responsibility of providing a subject for the verb. Dan White gives an example:

“I’m sorry that the paper was poorly written.” If you’re going to apologize, apologize: “I’m sorry I wrote a bad paper.” The active voice forces one to be specific and confident, not wimpy.

And the stakes can be higher when you’re talking about atrocities worse than bad papers. This is why nefarious government and corporate spokesmen are so fond of the passive voice: think of the notorious all-purpose excuse, “Mistakes were made.” Then think about how much weaseling is going on in a sentence like “It has been found regrettable that the villagers’ lives were terminated” — notice especially how the agency has disappeared altogether. It should make you shudder.

In your own writing, therefore, it’s wise to favor the active voice whenever you can. Instead of the passive “The point will be made,” try the active “I will make the point” — notice the agent (“I”) is still there.

Don’t go overboard, though. Some passives are necessary and useful. In scientific writing, for instance, sentences are routinely written in the passive voice; the authors are therefore given less importance, and the facts are made to speak for themselves. Even in non-scientific writing, not all passives can be avoided.

Don’t confuse am, is, are, to be, and such with the passive voice, and don’t confuse action verbs with the active voice. The real question is whether the subject of the sentence is doing anything, or having something done to it. I have been carrying is active, while I have been carried is passive.

Asking a Canadian author to remove all instances of am, was, is, are, were, etc. from their writing simply doesn’t work and changes author’s voice beyond recognition. Yes, passive constructions are to be avoided at all cost, but ” cheeks can still hurt and fingers come away with blood on them.” 

Am I being irascible? Probably. Am I being immature? I don’t think so. I am the author. The story is mine, and while I agree edits are important, they cannot and should not change the author’s voice or what he/she intends to say. There is a wealth of difference between I was eating pizza when he dropped by and I ate pizza when he dropped by.I’ll gladly make changes that are good for the book, but I can be as inflexible as an iron rod if I don’t agree. Aren’t you glad you aren’t my editor? 

Don’t forget to check out the other “I” blogs on today’s  A to Z Blog Challenge.

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