When I saw today’s topic, I was kind of excited to read what another writer thought of as her five best characteristics to writing. I was surprised to find out she didn’t even list one. Instead, she went on to talk about always being prepared and the fact there are no cut and dried answers when it comes to writing.
Just in the short time I’ve been writing, I’ve been told many different things that should or shouldn’t be done when you write. For example, using the words ‘was’, ‘were’, and ‘had’ are a big no-no as they cause your writing to be passive. I didn’t quite understand what they meant. One of the first critiques I received back in fact had all the three of those words highlighted.
After receiving different critiques back from others, I went into Word, pulled up the Find/Replace menu, and one at a time went through my entire manuscript I had so far and replaced or rewrote a sentence for every last one them.
When I submitted the first chapter with all three of those word now gone, for the most part, I just knew I would get comments back about the passivity of my writing. But guess what happened in the very next critique I received back? Nothing was mentioned about the passivity. Instead I was told I actually needed to add some of them back in. I couldn’t believe it.
In this case, because I was talking about something in my characters past I needed a few was’s, were’s, and had’s after all. Here’s what the person told me, “I know that “was” is bad, but everything in moderation. It’s okay to have a few in there, when they make the most sense. The reason they are “bad” is because people overuse them.”
So this got me to thinking. Something else I have issues with is the showing verses telling. What finally struck me is that when those passive words are used you are telling the reader something in stead of showing it. For example, I could simply say: She cried. The sentence is perfectly fine but it doesn’t draw you in. So instead what about something like this:
Tears began to burn Sissy’s eyes. She tried to fight back the inevitable drops that seemed to always win out. Then all at once they splashed out over the rim leaving a trail of moisture in their wake.
That may not be perfect but I know it will get a much better reaction than just “She cried.”
I guess my point to all of this is that there are no stead fast rules we must follow as there are always exceptions to everything. We just need to be true to ourselves as writers so we can then produce the best work we can.