Agh! I can’t stand to read another book with too many wases! You may think this is just a thing of mine, an excessive sensitivity, but if authors knew this one simple little thing, they could write a lot better, and I could put a lot more books on the Awesome Indies list. I reject many otherwise good books for this one reason.
Only use the verb to be and its forms was, is, are, were etc if nothing else will do.
You can kick and scream against rules if you like, but if your book is riddled with the word was (as many Indie books are—never traditionally published or properly edited books), it is quite simply bad writing. The worst use of such verbs is when they are combined with unspecific words eg there was, there were, this is and this was, or when combined with an ing ending word eg was speaking. The later usage removes the reader from the action, thus loosing immediacy in the writing.
If your book is like this, please don’t submit it to me for review. Better still, don’t inflict it on the reading public at all. If I wasn’t so dedicated to Indie publishing, it would be enough to turn me off Indie books.
Even in books that are otherwise free of this flaw, it often slips into descriptions. I’ll give you one example because I’ve talked enough about this before. See related links below.
There was water on the road and smoke in the air.
Water covered the road and smoke filled the air.
or better still, relate the description to the person whose point of view you are in.
Water splashed beneath his feet, and he coughed in the smoky air.
Okay, one more.
He was wearing a green jumper and black boots.
He wore a green jumper and black boots.
or better still relate the description to character. Use it to tell the reader more about the wearer.
He picked at the pillings on his green jumper and ground the toe of his black boots into the dusty ground.
He was running towards me.
He ran towards me.
Do you see how much more immediate the second one is?
Now go through that manuscript and search for the word ‘was’. When ever you find one, ask yourself if you could write it better without that word. I’ll bet that in most cases, you can.
I am eternally grateful to editor Selena Hanet-Hutchins for telling me this. This one point revolutionised my writing, turned it from the writing of an amateur to that of a professional.
Please shout this little hint far and wide. I want every author to understand this, because once they do, they’ll see how much better their writing is and they will never write that badly again.
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