February 20, 2013

to be or not to be -- not in my book

If the title of this post is "To be or Not to be -- Not in My Book," than the subtitle is, "Or How I'm Learning to Use Active Verbs in My Novel, but Not in My Blog Posts."

This week I began the delightfully painful and always humbling portion of editing my novel: grammatical line edits. Thanks to my Savvy Author membership, I use a two part approach to this. In the first (where I am now), I use their Autocritter feature to identify overused words or phrases, which do not meet the industry standard.

My common overuse offenders include:
  • all
  • could
  • just/then
  • knew/know/think/thought
  • see/saw/look
  • so/very/really
  • that
  • there/it
  • was/were/am/is/are/be

To make myself feel better and like I know the English language, the commonly overused words I did not have in my book are:
  • !
  • as
  • feel/feeling/felt
  • hear/heard
  • taste/smell

Quick note: The Autocritter resource does not suggest you entirely eliminate any of these components, but suggests how many instances there should be in the amount of provided text based on industry standards. I admit I don't know how it knows (I imagine an algorithm of some sort, which makes me not want to know any more).

Some of these fixes were easy. Do a search for "could" and "really" and find ways to remove or rewrite. Using inactive verbs, such as was/were/am/is/are/be seems to be where I most struggle. (See, I can't even talk about it without using them!) I spent some time reading up on active and inactive verbs and wanted to share a few examples of how to spot and remove them.

Example 1
Original: I was going to call.
Changed: I meant to call.

Example 2
Original: My mother is going to join us for dinner.
Changed: My mother dine with us.
Changed 2: My mother will join us for dinner.

Example 3
Original: He was running away from his hopes and dreams.
Changed: He ran away from his hopes and dreams.

Again, I need to keep in mind I do not have to remove all instances, but in many cases, I can eliminate "was," which is my most used of the lot, easily and make a better sentence. Removing forms of "to be" makes for tighter copy. While that may mean losing some word count (not what most writers want to do), it should make for a happier reader.

My book is written in third person, past tense. Thanks to this exercise and the ensuing research (which I should share, but frankly need to get back to my edits, so sorry!), I took a moment to refresh my knowledge of grammar. It amazes me how quickly I forgot it.

Yesterday, I asked my Facebook fans what their most overused words include. Now, I'm asking you. Please share in the comments below.

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1 comment:

  1. Great read.Sounds interesting.Thank you for sharing.
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