Monday, February 28, 2011

Essentials of writing - Active voice versus passive voice

In your endeavors to have your novel published, you must take a good look at your writing voice. The use of an active voice as apposed to passive voice in your writing will greatly improve your chances.  Let me explain the difference between the two. When you use an active voice in a sentence, the subject is doing the action. We'll use the following sentence as an example, "Jack loves Jill." In this sentence Jack is the subject, love is the action he is doing, and Jill is the object. If this sentence were passive it would read as follows, "Jill is loved by Jack." Hopefully you can see the difference between these two sentences.

If you notice that your writing is in a passive voice, then you realize you must now change it from passive voice to active voice. The easiest way to do this is by locating the subject, the action, and the object of the sentence. Look at the following example;

Extensive training on the new safety procedures was required to be attended by the maintenance staff.

First, identify the subject of the sentence - who is doing the action? The training is not doing an action therefore it cannot be the subject. The only person or thing doing an action here is the maintenance staff. They are attending the training, the action being done. That makes the maintenance staff the subject of the sentence. The object is the safety procedures.

Now you must rewrite the sentence placing the subject before the action and the object. It would then read as follows:

The maintenance staff was required to attend the extensive training on the new safety procedures.

The way it is now written makes it clear to the reader who is doing what.

Now let's take a look at verbs which is perhaps the most important part of the sentence. The verb or compound verb states something about the subject, and the express action. In each of the following sentences the verb or compound verb is bold.

"Dracula bites his victims on the neck." The verb "bites" describes the action.

"In early October, Mary will plant twenty pansies." Here the compound verb "will plant" describes an action that will take place in the future.

After you have located the subject you must now locate the verb which is the action in your sentence. Remember the subject must be placed at the beginning of the sentence and you will also need to drop the preposition "by" if it is present in your sentence. If nothing in your sentence is performing the action expressed in your verb, you will need to add a subject.

If you're thinking, "I have to do all that through out my entire manuscript?" I can only remind you of the hard work it takes to be a writer. Followed by, if you want your manuscript to be picked up by an agent, yes you must complete all that work. Please keep in mind you must also have a good story, but a good story badly written will not get a request for full manuscript, and a bad story well written will not get a request for a full ms. You will need a good story well written. If you have a good story, which I'm sure you do, you don't want it to get rejected simply because it was not written properly. Yes an agent will reject it if not written the way they want it, and no the agent will not edit it for you.

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