We all know this list of to be words: is, am, are, was, were, has, has been, were, will, be, being, been and the ing words. I think using a little passive speech is okay, but I try to avoid most of it. You can add action if you avoid the passive verbs. An example is writing Roger headed over to Tommy’s house to play instead of writing Roger was headed over to Tommy’s house to play.
Until you learn to spot these verbs on my own, it will help to set your Word program to tell you when you’ve used passive words in your writing. This is what I did, and now I can see most of them as I write, so I can reword the sentence as I go.
Adverbs ending in ly
I’m guilty on the ly adverbs and try to remove some of them on the rewrite, but not all. I know some people take all of them out, and you would probably be encouraged to do so, but I think a little of something is okay, and not that distracting to the reader.
Okay, this one can get annoying fast, if you use them in every sentence. I have to watch myself here because I tend to describe things too much at times. The reader doesn’t need know that Sandy has long, silky, black hair, the kind that shines in the sun like a raven’s feather. This is overkill, and the kind of writing I started out doing because I love adjectives. Today I try to watch this better, and use one adjective instead of a string of them to describe something, or somebody.
Using clear and specific words when writing sentences
I am guilty of this one too, but I have learned to watch it closer. I have learned over the years that you can’t write it, or things, or even he, or she, or they in places because how will the reader know what you are talking about, and who you are referring to unless it is stated in the previous sentence? Most of the time, I do a decent job avoiding this pitfall.
Showing versus telling
Showing, not telling, is probably the biggest thing I still have to work on. Along with this are the POV shifts, especially since I got the bright idea to write a novel in first person instead of the usual third person I am accustomed to.
I have to remind myself to write as if I am painting a picture for the reader to see. So instead of saying Jill loves hamburgers, it would be better to say Jill picked up the hamburger, juice running down her hand, as the smell of onions and roasted meat wafted to her face, urging her to dig in.
How many of you find that you do all these things when writing? I probably do two or three of these on a consistent basis. I always have to watch myself. I do think it’s best to stay aware as you go, but not let any of this get in the way when you’re in create mode. I let most of it go, and take care of all this stuff in the rewrite stage. I feel better when I have the basic story down on paper.