Mike CoxIn the fall of 1964, Austin eighth grader Mike Cox eagerly opened a letter from The Cattleman. The envelope from the Fort Worth-based magazine did not contain a letter, but something better: A check for $35. That summer, he had written a story on old Fort Griffin in Shackleford County and sent it to The Cattleman after getting a green light on the basis of a query letter. The editor judged the piece publishable and the $35 is what he thought it was worth. Ever since, Cox has really enjoyed opening his mail, except for the bills. He's no longer in the eighth grade, but Cox is still writing. Since getting his early start during the Johnson administration, he's continued to sell magazine articles and books. Eventually, it occurred to him that he could get checks in the mail for other types of writing-related projects as well. On August 21, Cox will share some of his insight into the lunar world of moonlighting, from story-telling tips to case studies of some of his published efforts. An elected member of the Texas Institute of Letters since 1993 -- the same year two writers named James Michener and Bill Moyers were inducted -- Cox has written a dozen books and hundreds of stories over the years.
A fourth-generation Texan and third-generation writer, Cox began his day-job career as a newspaper reporter back in the hot lead type days. After nearly 20 years of daily journalism, he joined the Texas Department of Public Safety as a spokesman in 1985. He left the DPS in 2000 after handling media relations in some of Texas' stickiest situations, from the 1991 mass murder at Luby's in Killeen to the Branch Davidian standoff in Waco. After a brief stint with the Texas Press Association, he went to work for the Texas Department of Transportation in 2002 as communications manager. He and his wife Linda Aronovsky Cox have a ten year old daughter named Hallie who currently is at work on a novel for young readers called "Vampire Empire." That offers some evidence that being a writer is either an inherited condition or teachable. Excerpts from Mike Cox's "Any Dummy Can Write a Book: I Wrote This One" (a work in progress): Nothing wrong with passive-aggressive behavior in writing...
It's hard to exaggerate the importance of using the active voice in writing. (By way of example, I could have said, "It would be hard for the importance of active voice in writing to be exaggerated.")
After completing my history of the Texas Rangers, I went through each chapter, using the find function to root out all the uses of "was" and "were" I possibly could. These two "w" words are not the only signs of passive construction, but they are sure indicators.
The result of killing passive words not only is livelier writing, but shorter writing. I may have found a few non-essential words not connected to a passive passage, but in one chapter alone, the word count dropped from 14,739 to 14,529 merely on the basis of rooting out the passive.
In writing, being passive-aggressive is a good thing. Chopping would...
If a word chopper chopped wood, how many woulds would a would chopper chop? You may not be able to read that sentence aloud in a hurry, but chopping would helps to clear cut your writing.
The word "would" would be a good word to cut from your copy as often as you can.
Consider this sentence, personally perpetrated but chopped down before it appeared in my soon-to-be-published book on the Texas Rangers: "The rangers would elect their own officers, but they would report to the superintendent." "Would" is not incorrectly used in this sentence, but after taking it to the would-shed, here's how it read: "The rangers elected their own officers, but reported to the superintendent." Mike Cox is not currently teaching a class.