Monday's Motivation

Editing Tip #3: Avoid the Passive

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Even great writers struggle with passive voice. It’s part of how we phrase words, but it negatively impacts your novel. A normal sentence is written– subject+verb+object.

Take the sentence below:

The fire destroyed the home. 

Who does the action?–the fire

What is the action?–destroyed

What is the object of that action?–the home

When writing with a passive voice, the sentence gets turned upside down. The object starts the sentence, followed by the action and the subject.

The home was destroyed by the fire.

1. Passive voice rids your writing of strong verbs. In their stead, we often use to be verbs. My crutch to be verb is the word “was”. If I find this word in my writing, there’s a good chance I’ve written a sentence with passive voice. Keep in mind to be verbs do not guarantee passive voice, but check over their presence in your writing.

2. When I find a passive sentence, I must examine the sentences throughout that paragraph and page. I tend to get in “writing moods”. If I’m writing passive, I’ll probably stay in that mood throughout my writing day.

3. Understand passive voice has a purpose. Overuse of passive voice takes description out of our writing, but at times, passive voice is necessary and useful. If you wish to slow down a scene, you may insert some passive voice. But make the use of passive voice deliberate, rather than unintentional.

4. Finally, know your purpose and goal. Your purpose is to tell a great story. As you edit, don’t lose heart. No writer is perfect. Pick up your favorite novel and examine for passive voice. In most cases, you’ll find multiple examples throughout the pages. Continue to hold yourself accountable in this area, but let these examples encourage you in your journey.

4 thoughts on “Editing Tip #3: Avoid the Passive

  1. Thank you, Kailee! This was (oops) helpful…
    The strong writing by Kailee was helpful for me to be less passive…
    Kailee wrote an article that helped me…
    Kailee’s helpful article…
    Kailee penned a teaching to strengthen my writing. 😉
    Thanks, Kailee!

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