Are there rules to follow when writing a novel? You bet there are, and, one of them to refrain from using a passive voice. What is a passive voice? Verbs are either active or passive. In active voice the subject is doing the action and in a passive voice the subject is acted upon.
Eliminating passive voice is probably the second biggest problem for new writers, but it is a simple fix with just a few tips to remember.
SHIFT YOUR FOCUS
Whether you do this during your first draft, second draft, or any draft stage or wait until you are ready to begin your edits and revisions, look at each sentence individually. Can you shift the focus on the subject? If you can then you’ve written it in a passive voice and you need to change it. Example: The food was eaten by the cat (passive); The cat ate the food (active).
Passive voice sentences usually include one, or more, of what is considered “weak words” in the writing world. A word like am, was, were, is, are, and phrases like, will have been, to be, being, had been, will be, have been create passive sentences. Can you keep these words out of every sentence in your manuscript? No. But, you should try to eliminate the ones that you can by eliminating as much passive voice as you can. As you edit and shift focus on your sentences you will find you don’t need these words and your sentences will become tighter. Example: “Debby will be due in September.” or “Debby is due in September.” Taking out the “will be” and “is” and change to “Debby should give birth in September.” You could still keep the “will” just take out the “be” and still have an active sentence. “Debby will give birth in September.”
With all the pressure to eliminate passive voice, there is sometimes when a passive voice is preferable. When the person or subject that is acted upon is more important, you should use passive voice. Having passive voice sentences every now and then in a novel isn’t going to hurt your writing. You just want to make sure it’s not every sentence. Example: President Lincoln was shot today. Since the President is important, you would use passive voice.