Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Writing Tip Wednesdays ~ 4/4


The hardest part of writing, for me at least, is editing.  Until having critique partners at Critique Circle look at my work and tell me all the things I did wrong, I didn't know about the rules of writing.  That said, don't worry about this stuff too much while you are actually writing.  Creating is much different from editing.  Thinking about the rules make it hard for me to put two words down, let alone create an entire scene.

The most helpful editing tip a critique buddy told me was to try not to use the word "was".  Every class I took said - show, don't tell - but I didn't really understand what that meant.  However, if you are using was, were, is, or are in your writing, you are probably telling.  Another way this is stated is passive writing.  The action isn't happening, but instead the narrator tells the reader what happened.

Consider this group of sentences:  The pedestrian was hit by the car.  The car tires were screeching when the vehicle came to a halt.  A spectator was running around screaming.  911 was called and the ambulance soon arrived. 

Horrible to read, right?

For more action and less passive wording, consider what happens when I take "was" out of that group:  A car slammed into the pedestrian.  The vehicle's tires screeched in protest as the acrid scent of burnt rubber issued from beneath the car.  A spectator ran around, uselessly screaming.  Within minutes of the 911 call, an ambulance zoomed onto the scene.

One of the easiest ways to get rid of was is to look for any was -ing word constructions:  was running, was singing, was eating.  Change these to the past tense form (which will automatically give your writing more action): ran, sang, ate.

The trickier ones to find have a word between was and the -ing word:  was seldom trying, was always teasing, was still shouting.  These should be changed: seldom tried, always teased, still shouted.

You can't always get rid of was, but taking out as many as possible, restructuring sentences with "was" in a more action-oriented way, will definitely give you an edge on the whole "show, don't tell" philosophy.

A great resource I use all the time for more editing tips A-Z can be found here.

Happy writing! Have a wonderful week!


  1. Good post! Passive writing - the bane of my existence. One day ( I hope), I'll even manage to weed it out on the first edit. In the meantime, I'm enjoying your writing tips, Chantel!

    1. Thanks so much, Kimberly! I'm glad you are enjoying. I think passive writing is horrible for all writers... at least I know I struggle with it!


I love hearing your comments! If you enjoy what you read, have a question, or just want to tell me off ;-), please say it all here!

I did have to restrict anonymous users because there was way too much spam. Sorry about that! If you can't post here and need to reach me, check out my "About" page and contact me through one of those methods. Have a great day!