editing / writers tips

Writer’s Tip #1: Allow ‘Was’ Only Twice Per Page

When you read your story, does it sound off? Maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know you’ve done something wrong?

Sometimes–maybe even lots of times–there are simple fixes. I’ll point them out. They’ll come at you once a week, giving you plenty of time to go through your story and make the adjustments. Add comments with your favorite editing fixes.

Does your writing sound passive, bland. Does it lack excitement even though you’ve added lots of it? Here’s one way to fix that.

You probably have more than two instances of was on each page. Was and is are passive. They throw your reader out of your story, put them in their easy chair, outside the drama and trauma. Here’s how you fix that:

  • Use MS Word’s search function (Edit-find) and locate each occurrence of was. Are there more than two per page?
  • Replace as many as possible with an active rephrasing. For example, The boy was riding down the street. Replace that with, The boy rode down the street.
  • Don’t you already feel the tension? Why did he ride down the street? What’s going to happen?
  • If you use was or is more than 2-3 ‘ times per page, that’s why your story feels passive

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Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-fifth grade and creator of two technology training books for middle school. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy midshipman. She is webmaster for five blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, IMS tech expert, and a weekly contributor to Write Anything and Technology in Education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller for her agent that should be out to publishers this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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