How do you pluralize the word ‘was’? Wases? Wasses? Was’s? Wassssss? I don’t know. However you do it, I effing hate that word at this point. How could one hate such and innocuous word as ‘was’ you ask?
You see, I’m in the middle of the editing phase for my first novel, The Arrangement. My very kind editor over at The Wild Rose Press gave me the following comment on the document: “Was is a trademark of passive voice – it’s used close to 1200 times in the manuscript. Please reduce to fewer than 400.”
At first I thought, no problem. Do a little find/replace in Word, bing bang boom, done.
There were some places where getting rid of ‘was’ was (see what I did there?) easy. Take this sentence for example:
No sooner had she sent the last text than he was calling and she was rushing to a dark corner to talk.
My use of ‘was’ here was admittedly pretty lazy and unnecessary. All I had to do was take the stronger verbs “calling” and “Rushing” and turn them past tense. Here is the sentence after the changes:
No sooner had she sent the last text than he called and she rushed to a dark corner to talk.
Better! I’d say about a quarter to half of the instances of ‘was’ I needed to get rid of fell into this category.
There were also a bunch of cases where I just needed to use a stronger verb to get my point across without using the dreaded W word.
Before: “Told him I was going through my mental lists.”
After: “I mumbled something about going through my mental check lists.”
I used mumbled here and re-formatted the sentence a little to get rid of THE WORD.
Then there were the ones that I had to totally restructure the sentence to make it work. Like these two:
Before: Churn Up the Volume was the biggest client Zenith had landed so far. Jeremiah was beyond tense trying to make the client happy.
After: The pressure to impress their biggest client to date, Churn Up the Volume, weighed on everyone at Zenith. But no one more so than Jeremiah, making him increasingly tense.
As you can probably guess, this was a HUGE undertaking to get rid of around 800 times I used ‘was’ in a sentence. I can remember actually cheering a couple times when I saw that what Word had picked up as ‘was’ turned out to be ‘washed.’ I won’t lie, there were a few times I deleted entire sentences because I couldn’t think of a damn thing to do. This is when it comes in really handy to be able to distance yourself from your writing, and not get so emotionally attached. Yes, I may love that sentence, but I had ‘was’ five times in a row. Time to go 😉
I had to pace myself and take a lot of breaks because my brain would start to go all wonky and not be able to think of words after about an hour of this. In the end I went from just under 1200 instances to 370. Not too shabby. And now when I write in the future I know to stay away from the word-that-shall-not -be-named. Learn from my mistakes people, please.
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