Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Editing 'was' and 'that'

I admit to have a serious distaste for editing. As a portion of things I have to do to get my books ready for publication, it is my least favorite part of the process. However, it has to be done, so it does get done. I tend to edit in stages because trying to tackle everything that's wrong with a novel at one time is crazy-making.

I just recently ran across a writing article, which I cannot put my hands on right now, that posited doing something called a 'was' edit. I pulled up my current novel in editing "Wearing His Ring" and the word 'was' appeared 932 times throughout the manuscript. That's almost a thousand words out of a 60,000 word manuscript. That's only .6% of the manuscript, but it feels like a lot more. Especially once I started to go back and look at where I used all those 'was's.

Combing through the manuscript I realized I was in love with the past progressive form. It's not wrong, but it robs some strength from sentences where it isn't necessary.

My other favorite overuse word is 'that'. I often use it in place of 'it' which would probably make more sense. I also use it as a filler word. "I have found that when one wants to know things directly from other beings questioning is generally required." (Yes, this is dialogue. Yes, this character actually talks like that.) I've gotten a little better about it over the years. I remember when 'that' appeared in nearly every other sentence in an older work.

Overall, keeping an eye on both of these words will, I hope, improve my writing. If nothing else, it gives me something to focus on while I work my way through the manuscript.

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