Just de-was

So I told a friend I would post stuff from LTUE that would help him with his writing so this is the first and most siginificant post when it comes to making your writing “suck less” (thank you Larry Correia).

The first is the processing de-was-ing. I made up the term but it is going through your writing and removing all forms of the verb “to be”…such as “is”, “was”, “were”, “been”, “to be”. Why would you do this? Those are passive/weak verbs. You want strong verbs that show action. You characters need to do things. They run, they fight, they love, they don’t “was”.

Example: “I am the top of my class” or “I have the highest grades in my class”? The second sentence tells us the same thing but gives us more as a reader. It tells us details we crave to paint the picture in our head. “I was at the store when my phone rang” or “My phone rang while at the store.” ACTION!

Because my stories tend to be in the past tense (past perfect or some thing) I use “was” a lot. Then I use Word’s awesome replace feature to find all of the “was” and replace it with a highlighted “was”. This is done using the Format button under More>> on the Replace window. Then I go through my story and try to remove every highlighted word. I do that by rewording the sentence because in most cases we really just have the wrong word as the subject of the sentence. Like in the store example above. The phone is the real subject. The hardest “was” to remove are the ones where you are describing people or things like in the first example. Many times I try and find a sentence in the same area where instead of saying “He was tall” I can add in a comparison: “As he came in the room he ducked through the doorway. I looked up at his towering figure.” Same idea, WAY better visual. The only exception is in dialog. But that’s not to say you can’t look at the dialog and rephrase that sometimes.

I learned this last year and added to it this year thanks to Josi Kilpack that I had a wonderful conversation with Friday night. She told me her problem is with the word “Just”. I thought about that and decided to un-just-ify my story. I did the same replace method and came up with 307! My book is only 329 pages. What I discovered is that in most cases the word “just” isn’t even necessary in the sentence. In other cases, there is a better word like “only”, “immediately”, “right” which more acurately describes what your are talking about. Again, you will find places where it is appropriate and dialog can be left alone but still worth a look.

Why? Just de-was.

This is the Novel Mage saying, *POOF*

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About markminson

Mark Minson lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He enjoys playing games with his wife and five kids. He loves to sing and can often be found whistling as he walks. An avid shoe-wearer, you might run into him strolling down memory lane -- either his or somebody else’s. He brings humor to life through his many accents and movie quotes. He found his magic long ago, in a high school far, far away and now happily shares it with you. May you find your magic and share it with others.
This entry was posted in fiction, Life the universe and everything, LTUE, mage, novel mage, novels, prose, writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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