Fiction novelists are story tellers. Maybe I should be even clearer than that- genre fiction novelists are story tellers. The work is about the story. It is NOT--I can't repeat this enough--NOT about grammar rules. Have I made you upset yet? Trust me when I say this, a strong story will win every time over excellent writing skills. A professor made this comment in one of my break out sessions, "we graduated this fellow who had a genius for writing, but he could not tell a story to save his soul."
What does this have to do with learning passive voice? A lot. Many writers mistake strong writing skills for strong story telling. They will tell people to be sure that they "never" use passive voice. Every sentence must be active so your story sings or...you will never be published. dum, dum, duuuum. Trust me the last thing a writer wants to hear is that they will "never" be published. And so, they diligently go through and get rid of every 'to be' verb in their 75,000 word manuscript. Why? Because everyone knows that 'to be' verbs are passive. And, passive means...you will "never" be published. Gah!
Relax, my friends. According to an excellent paper from The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, entitled Passive Voice, the above revelation is a myth.
It is myth number 2 "Any use of the verb 'to be' constitutes the passive voice." Wrong. "The passive voice entails more than using a being verb. Using 'to be" can weaken the impact of your writing, but it is occasionally necessary and does not by itself constitute the passive voice."
Myth number 4 will have rule followers shaking in their boots. It is a myth to say, "you should never use the passive voice. While the passive voice can weaken the clarity of your writing, there are times when the passive voice is okay and even preferable."
To which I say, YES! Writers waste too much time worrying about getting rid of the word "was" in their stories and not enough time looking at conflict, character growth, strength of scene and over all plot development. Why? Because it somehow "feels" easier to cling to basic "rules" like search and destroy all 'to be' verbs and repetitive words-when those things are the last things you should work on. Note: I did not say not to work on them. What I'm saying is that they are not as important as the story.
Don't let passive voice "rules" bog you down revising and polishing the first three chapters when what you really need to work on is the more ambiguous scene, sequel, story plot, character arc and sharp dialogue.
It is the story that you need to spend time polishing. It is the story that will ultimately sell a book. When you write a story, write it as if your life depends upon keeping the reader turning pages. If you can do that, then you will sell your book.