Public Apology for Overuse of the Word “Was”


Yes, I’m sorry. I had no idea how extreme my overuse had become. It took me 3 days to change all my “was” from abusive to proper use in How to Win Friends and Influence Magicians. (I tried to eliminate “was” except for when the subject truly was the adjective or object.)

I’m pretty happy with the result after all my “checking” (which I’ve almost finished). Here is a short example in the form of my book synopsis. Do you think it’s an improvement?

Here is the original synopsis:

I’m a normal girl. I am. I love shoes, fragranced body care, and hair products. I love all the “chick flicks” that have come out in the theaters in the last 2 years (and a lot of the old ones) and I obsess about my wardrobe.  I respond positively to most of the marketing directed at females in my age group.
My name is Colleen Underhill, and the only abnormal thing about me is that I just discovered I am (or I became, or I was turned into) a magician. Not the disappearing bunny kind, but the power-shooting-out-of-your-hands kind of magician.
My problem now is that I do NOT believe in magic. Well, I believe in it, as it I have seen it shooting out of my own hands, but I am morally against it. No hexes, no spells, no incantations, no potions, no amulets, no tomes, no casting circles, no eye of newt, none of that. I am specific because people are pushing me about it. Whatever they say about “how it’s done”, this is a morality issue for me and I am not going to cave in to their pressure.
 
But what do I do now?
 

And here is the “checked” synopsis:

I’m a normal girl. I am. I love shoes, fragranced body care, and hair products. I love all the chick flicks that have come out in the theaters in the last 2 years (and a lot of the old ones) and I obsess about my wardrobe.  I respond positively to most of the marketing directed at females in my age group.

My name is Colleen Underhill, and the only abnormal thing about me is that I just discovered I am, or I transformed into, a magician; not the disappearing bunny kind, but the power-shooting-out-of-your-hands kind of magician.

My problem now is that I do NOT believe in magic. Well, I believe in it. I have seen it shoot out of my own hands, but I oppose it in a moral sense; no hexes, no spells, no incantations, no potions, no amulets, no tomes, no casting circles, no eye of newt, none of that. I have to be very clear because people pressure me about it. Whatever they say about “how it’s done”, this is a morality issue for me and I will not cave in to their pressure.

But what do I do now?

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Categories: My Books, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , | 17 Comments

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17 thoughts on “Public Apology for Overuse of the Word “Was”

  1. So many things sneak into our writing, and we don’t even notice!

  2. Kate, you can get into trouble with this kind of editing by making what sounds like a nature voice, a voice that speaks to us (flaws and all), into a ‘written word’ voice.

    It sounds more natural for your protagonist to say “but I am morally against it…” than “but I oppose it in a moral sense…” This not only has to do was with the ‘to be’ verbs but with idioms. “I am morally against it” is a natural way of speaking American English.

    Just one writer’s point of view. I’m concerned that you’ll over edit and injure the naturalness of the voice.

  3. TALK ABOUT EDITING! WHAT I MEANT TO WRITE IS:

    Kate, you can get into trouble with this kind of editing by making what sounds like a natural voice, a voice that speaks to us (warts and all), into a ‘written word’ voice.

    It sounds more natural for your protagonist to say “but I am morally against it…” than “but I oppose it in a moral sense…” This not only has to do with the ‘to be’ verbs but with idioms. “I am morally against it” is a natural way of speaking American English.

    Just one writer’s point of view. I’m concerned that you’ll over edit and injure the naturalness of the voice.

    (WOW! I OVERUSED NATURAL, NATURNALNESS…)
    :0)

    • Good point! I have changed it but I’m going to re-read once more when I’m done. That way I can get a good balance.

      • Bet you know this already, Kate, but reading your fiction aloud helps a lot. You’ll get a feel for what YOU like the best, catch false notes, and find the too many ‘was-es’.

        Best wishes! I downloaded a Kindle to my pc and am looking forward to reading How to Win Friends and Influence Magicians.

      • Whoo! That would be challenging at my house!

      • Bet it would!! Hadn’t thought about that…
        :0)

  4. I’ve nominated you for the Kreativ Blogger Award.
    http://quillwielder.com/2012/05/26/kreativ-blogger-award-2/
    Congrats!

  5. Congratulations, Kate. But Maria is right, you can over do it and loose a character’s voice. I leave the ‘was’es as they are in dialogue for that very reason. I suggest you leave the ms alone for a while, then read it aloud, that should pull out anywhere where it doesn’t sound like your character.

    • Yeah, that’s a good plan. I’ve got a monster busy Sunday so I won’t even have the opportunity to look at it after today. I’ll finish up the “ing”s and then give it a nap.

  6. Hi, Kate! If you can’t read aloud to yourself at home, try putting your ms on your kindle (or other text-to-speech capable e-reader) and listen to it in your car, through headphones. Doing this with my own stories helps me to listen for the naturalness and tone of my writing. In the annoying computer voice on my kindle, anything that’s “off” is instantly highlighted.
    But sometimes those things that “sneak in” are part of our style as writers, and (maybe) should be left alone.

  7. I need to clarify….I meant listen in your car OR through headphones….but not through headphones when you’re driving…that would be a very bad idea!
    We were writing about editing and proof-reading, weren’t we???
    I can’t believe I posted it that way – I try to be so careful. I’ll stop laughing in a few minutes.

    • Lol! I’m not even allowed to listen to the radio very much in the car because the kids consider that “chatting time”. It’s OK. I have a powerful mental voice and pretty good concentration.

  8. Pingback: I Got a Pocket, Got a Pocket full of SUNSHINE AWARD « Ranting on the Lolo

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