Passive Was Words

EditingBefore I re-publish Mystery Light in Cranberry Cove through CreateSpace, I decided to read through and correct errors I had made in 2010. This book was the first book I self-published.

Initially, I went through Blurb to create paperback copies. They were fairly expensive, and this 31,000-word story geared towards kids between the ages of ten and fourteen cost me almost nine dollars to get to my door. With the US / Canada dollar exchange, it would cost a little more today.

Fast forward to CreateSpace, and now this same book will cost between four and five dollars.

Before I reprint it though, I want to improve the reading experience. After all, I’m a better writer now than I was six years ago. I have learned a lot about storytelling and editing. This novel was also my first experience working with an editor, and perhaps I may have not fully realised what should and shouldn’t have been changed.

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How to Annihilate Was

In a previous post I made a confession: I am a was girl. Was makes our sentences passive and we need to wipe them from the face of our stories unless they’re absolutely necessary. But how do we go about doing that?

Knowing we must do something is different than knowing how to do that something.

Let’s take a look at how I’ve tackled the was words in my current project, the fantasy novel Shadows in the Stone. Chapter 15 contained 4814 words, including 86 was words. When I finished, there were only six of those three-letter words remaining.

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Shadows in the Stone Update

Can you believe it’s already February 8th? Where is winter going so fast? And where is all the work I had planned to finish in that first long, glorious month of the year?

Sadly, I had lost focus on my fantasy novel, Shadows in the Stone, and worked on it very little during the first 31 days of 2012. I could beat myself up about it, but instead, I think I’ll lay down the law. This always works better for me, and it’ll force me to think about that looming deadline when my novel goes to print.

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I am a ‘Was Girl’

I didn’t know I was a ‘was girl’ until a few days ago. A fellow writer and I had exchanged chapters of our fantasy novels and she told me I used was a lot. She said it created passive sentences. Passive sentences are not good.

I had never been told this before – or if I had been, I didn’t hear it – , so I was a little sceptical. I ran a search through the chapter I was editing. To my surprise, there were 78 was words. Eek! My next chapter which had half the number of words as the previous had 47 was words, and the next had 75! Sometimes I had four in one paragraph. This wasn’t good.

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