Friday, April 16, 2010

Replace Those Dull Verbs

“Analyze the verbs in your first pages and see if you can replace passive verbs or dull verbs like see, look, get, put, and walk with more sensory verbs that jab at the reader.” --Jessica Page Morrell in Between the Lines.
I read a number of stories this week (both in critique groups and submissions) that suffered from poor word choice. In one, the word “was” appeared fourteen times in about a dozen paragraphs. “She” and “he” were other culprits. The story I finalized on Wednesday fell into this group at one time. The difference between my story and the others was that I made a conscious effort to fix my prose before sending it out.

I rejected a submission today because of poor grammar. I planned on accepting it; but as the errors piled up, my enjoyment of the story decreased. As David Shapiro put it in his Six Questions For. . . post, “If the writer doesn’t care [enough about grammar errors to clean them up], why should I?”

Am I getting off point with all this grammar stuff? Not really. Word choice and grammar are two things that separate the good writers from the mediocre ones.  Writing is hard work. Rewriting is harder. It’s often easy to see which writers are serious about their craft and which ones aren’t.

1 comment:

Koala Bear Writer said...

I've been warned about "was" in a few of my stories. It's the easy way out. The good writer works harder, finds better words (and then doesn't have to use adverbs or the -ly words). As a reader, you may not always notice the dull verbs in a book; but when you read a book with strong verbs, you will notice how much more interesting it is. :)