The Book Was Written Passively By Me

I’m elbows deep in editing my current WIP right now, and to my dismay and bafflement, I’m seeing a lot of passive language. I don’t know how I fell into the habit, because it’s not my usual style of writing, but it’s all over the place and it’s been tortuously slow editing it all out and changing it to a more active structure. I have to look at every sentence I wrote and find the subject, verb and noun and make sure they’re in the right order. It’s easy enough with short, simple sentences, but complex ones sometimes make my head ache trying to sort it out. This is going to be a long slog, and I’m sure it’ll take a couple more rounds of revisions than usual to make sure I catch it all.

I did write the first draft much quicker than I did my first one – less thought into sentence structure in an effort to just get it all down on paper may account for it. I wonder if subconsciously it’s not a reflection of what my main character is feeling in this story as well – not in control for a lot of the time, having things done to her instead of doing things herself. With that in mind I’m preserving some of it, rules be damned. It’s told in first person, so sometimes a passive structure feels more appropriate. Just not as extensive as what I apparently wrote.

A couple links I found useful when it comes to passive voice:

Seven Examples of Passive Voice (and how to fix them)

Passive Voice: Linking Verbs and Wordiness

Fiction Writing and Other Oddities: Passive Voice

I found the last one especially useful because I’m writing in first-person, past-tense, which means I do use ‘was’ and ‘had’ in the course of my writing. Differentiating between past-tense and passive writing can be difficult when many resources advise to just look for those two key words (plus a couple more) and delete them. I’m definitely guilty of a lot of ‘was +ing verb’ writing this time around though, which isn’t passive, but is wordy and a lot of times can be changed.

The good news is, I’m getting aggressive with my passive writing.

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1 Comment

  1. I especially liked, and could relate as a writer of a first person singular character, the second sentence in your second paragraph of this post. And the third sentence, too. Oh, hell, the second to last sentence in that paragraph as well! Just trust your gut instinct, too, okay?

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