A very quick post about “was”

If you’ve spent any time writing, you’ve probably heard some residual hatred for the word “was”.

This is meant to be a fast post, so I won’t blather.  The theory goes that using “was” is lazy.  It’s “telling” instead of “showing”.  If you go back through your writing and find every instance of “was” and replace it with something else, your writing will be stronger.

I am currently 2nd round editing my WIP and I came across this sentence:

  • The front porch to their house was uncovered and Liz looked up to a thick blue sky that went on forever

Left as is, it’s serviceable, if mediocre.

Here’s how I rewrote it, eliminating “was”:

  • The uncovered front porch opened up to a thick blue sky that went on forever

Here’s why I like the new version better.

  1. I mostly try to stay away from “the thing was something”.  Obviously, it’s everywhere in a first draft, but “the uncovered porch” is way better than “the porch was uncovered”.  Mostly, I find this is how you can eliminate was:  Her hair was green = her green hair.  Or His voice was strained = his strained voice
  2. I like that it eliminates “Liz looked up”.  Anytime you show your character looking at something, you’re adding an extra step between the writing and the reader.  If I keep “Liz looked up”, the reader has to do extra work to get to the “thick blue sky”.  Essentially, they need to imagine Liz looking at the sky vs. imagining the sky.  If that makes sense.

Anyway, it’s a quick example of how little changes can drive big impact to your story.

Get writing everyone!

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