Sunday, October 26, 2008

Verbs, verbs, verbs

I ran across an article yesterday by James Van Pelt on writing mistakes made by rookies. Because I qualify as a rookie, I read what he had to say from start to finish. One point in particular caught my eye, which is that rookies rely too heavily on linking verbs: am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been.

Immediately after reading that, I opened the story I'm currently working on and looked specifically for those verbs. What I found shocked and horrified me. Every other verb had a "was" attached: was driving, was speaking, was walking. Ack! I had no idea I even did that. I changed all that I could to simple past tense: drove, spoke, walked. Suddenly my story lost 100 words. That's an issue with my own writing I'm now aware of and can avoid. Thank you, Mr. Van Pelt.


Jim Van Pelt said...

Hi, Jennifer. Glad to help!

You should order, immediately, Ken Rand's little book called The 10% Solution. Ken will show you how to go through your manuscript looking for a bunch of other habits that clog up our writing. The linking verbs are just one.

He asked me to blurb the book when it first came out, and I thought it only fair that I try what he suggested on one of my manuscripts. I lost well over 10% of the words without changing a single action or scene. The story sold to the next market I sent it.

Jennifer Campbell-Hicks said...

Thank you for the suggestion! I will definitely check out that book.