Sunday, May 26, 2013

Mile 1 - WAS/WERE
A tip a day to keep rejections away

Let’s call this a marathon…of words.  I’m going to post one writing tip a day to help you become a better writer.  Some of them you may already know.  It all depends on how far along you are as a writer. 


What are my qualifications?  For several years, I’ve written the monthly Pet Vet column for the Post Bulletin newspaper.  I’ve had articles published in RunMinnesota, DVM360 journal, and The Wagazine.  I’m in a wonderful critique group that meets weekly to tell me everything I’ve done wrong.


Save yourself some time by learning from my mistakes.


Abbreviations are as follows:

MS = manuscript

CP = critique partner

WIP = work in progress



Perhaps you think everyone should know this “rule” by now.  But they don’t.  Or else they do, but it crops up in their MS anyway, like dandelions in the spring.


Here’s the rule: 




Yes, there’s a fancier way to say this, but I wasn’t an English major in college.  (Biology major/Math minor—in case you wish to make fun of me, please do it properly.)  So don’t worry.  I won’t talk on and on about passive verbs.  I’ll make this quick before your eyes glaze over from boredom.


Speaking of boredom, “passive” is really just another word for “boring”.

“Active” is more “wham, bam, thank-you ma’am”.


Perhaps that offends you…but at least now I’ve got your attention.


Let’s start again…at the very beginning.

A very good place to start. 
sound of music photo:  som-maria-captain-dancing-spinning-gif-2_zps8f04ba5a.gif
(If you suddenly hear Maria VonTrapp in your head, then perhaps you love The Sound of Music movie as much as I do.  Please sing the rest with me!)

When you write you begin with was, were verbs.

When you edit you begin to hack and slash…“was” and “-ing”…add action verbs.



Here’s a (boring passive) example:

I watched as the kids were playing in the street.

This violates two “rules” at the same time—overuse of a dreaded “-ing” AND the boring “was”.


In the example above, replace “were playing” with “played”:

I watched as the kids played in the street.


That’s better, but to be even more active and descriptive, try this:

I watched as the kids threw footballs in the street.


Big problem, easy solution

How to fix your “was/were” predicament quickly and efficiently?  Do a search of your MS for the word “were” (for my version of Microsoft Word, I hit “Control” then “f” and a word search pops up).  Plug in “were” and discover just how many times you use it (as a crutch) in each chapter, each page, or (gasp, horrors) each paragraph.  After you find it a billion times, make the necessary changes.


When you’re done, then do the same thing with “was”.   (BTW, this word search is so helpful.  I use it all the time for everything—to find overused words, or even just my place in the book if I need to find something quick.  I love it, love it, love it.  Make it your friend, and it will serve you well.)




That’s it—your quickie tip for the day!
See you tomorrow for Mile 2!

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