blog post #65 by Science Fiction Author Clara Bush
QUESTION: Which of the following examples is well-written, according to current standards?
1. That was when they did what Spock and Mrs. Robinson paid them to do…
She ran to Starbucks for a latte.
She was running to Starbucks for a latte.
(Was and were are indications of passive voice and drain the life out of you prose.)
It took me years to figure out what the heck an editor meant when she wrote use active voice instead of passive voice, and I’m an English major. All she had to say was: GET RID OF WAS —or at least as many as you can.
When The Light Came On
It finally clicked when I did a find search in Microsoft Word for all was and were words. It was an eye opener to see how many times I’d used the profanity in my manuscript.
It was tedious, but amazingly not difficult to fix. I watched as my prose transformed into something more artistic.
How To Do A Search And Rescue
Using Microsoft Word:
- In top toolbar click EDIT
- Click on FIND
- Click on ADVANCED FIND AND REPLACE
- Prompt box appears
- In FIND WHAT box type WAS
- Check the box to highlight
If you can replace a was (or were) with an action verb, you will find that your prose is now showing rather than telling—more alive.
Take a look at Sturgeon’s opening sentence to his novel More Than Human:
Now compare that to:
This is from Sturgeon’s Godbody:
Steps: On Pixabay by computerkugel
How about you? How often do you find yourself resorting to the use of was (or were) in your manuscript? Do you worry about them? How do you fix them?
1. A Wyso/Danny ring handcrafted by my Native American friend, Neal Paquin of Santa Fe, NM, especially designed for my first novella, Wyso and the Other Creepy Kids on Gerard Street. (Picture to be posted some time. I need an attractive finger. Eddie, my cat, won’t cooperate. Neither will Cassidy, Sunny, Stella, or Apple (the last two are dogs). And I’m not much on selfies, especially, a selfie of one of my fingers.
2. A $20 gift certificate to Amazon via email.
3. My opinion of the first twenty pages of your novel or novella. (Not that my opinion is worth anything, but it is someone else’s opinion. Something I look for every chance I get. Just thought you might be looking also.)
BTW: I changed the date of the drawing from November 21, 2014 to November 24, 2014 because that’s my typical Monday blog time. Winner will be announced in next Monday’s blog post.