One of the most common pieces of advice I hear about editing is to go through your manuscript and edit out every use of the verb to be (is, was, were, etc.) For the most part I agree. Passive verbs are never a good thing and adjectives are rarely a good thing. I started editing this month with over 1,000 uses of was in my 280 pages. That means I used the word was on average more than three times per page. This is obviously too many, but somehow when they are my was’s its harder to cut them.
After two weeks, I’m down to about 750. I know this number needs to get smaller. However, I’ve also come to believe that making a sentence more complicated just to get rid of a was isn’t the right course of action either. She appeared have hair that was blond is a worse sentence (in my opinion) than She was blond. It seems like there are times when the right word to use is was … not seemed or looked or could have been. I don’t know though … maybe I’m just making up delusions so I don’t have to do the hard work of diminishing the next 800 forms of to be. If I don’t finish that, I’ll never have to move on to all the uses of actually, obviously, and apparently. I’ll also never have to face the fact that I’ve used the word glad 38 times even though I can’t remember the last time I heard someone say the word in real life.
I should get back to editing. Do you have any words you hate editing out of your writing? Or if there are words that particularly bother you when reading a book?