Sunday, October 23, 2011


One of the first things a new writer learns is that the word "was" does not belong in her story in any kind of large quantity. I learned that the other words to avoid can include "that" and "just" and well . . . about any other word we tend to overuse.

But "was" is a biggie.

Awareness kept my wazzes to a minimum, as did my critique partners. Fast forward to no cps and a natural tendency toward laziness. Of the 15,000 or so words I sent out to be read by other authors to make sure I had a grip on the story I'm writing, "was" made up about 18,000 of them. At least that's how it felt when I went through and made revisions.

I think I'm cured. My manuscript is not was-less, but it is less was-y. My plan is to finish this story with a minimum of wazzes.

How about you? Have you ever known better? Let a bad habit infiltrate your work?

CR: The Baby Thief by L.J. Sellers.

It's all better with friends.


  1. We have a similar writing process. ;)

  2. I tend to over-hyphenate words that my editor says should be one word and hyphenless or simply a double word.

    Thank goodness for "Track Changes." It makes the revision process to find and correct all those hyphens much simpler.

    So, I suppose you could say my manuscript is now less hypheny, but not completely hyphenless.

    At least I'm avoiding hyphen-mania, or (as my editor would insist) hyphen mania.

    Thank goodness I don't have to deal with WASiness.

  3. Susan, it's a little scary to think you—or anyone—might write as badly as I do the first time around.

    Fran, those hyphens can be confusing. I don't have a good handle on them either. Let me just add one more thing to my growing list. Sheesh.

    Oh, Jess . . . I love em-dashes too! They do so many things. Perhaps if I had more focus, I wouldn't need them.

  4. Wasses are an indication of passive and one of my crit partners is the chief of the Passive Police. I get my wasses pointed out.

    My own buggabo was adverbs, Nowhere are adverbs more easily used than with a dialog tag. So, I've written my latest without a single 'he said', 'she said' or anything remotely like it.

  5. I'm very happy to announce that my wasses have been only notable for their absence in the last few scenes I've written.

    There is something to the toil of extracating the bugaboos from miles of words to make the lesson stick.

    I hope.

  6. On first drafts I never am too concerned with any of the wases, hyphens, or adverbs. I realize this method creates more work in the long run but I find that running with my train of thought leads to better writing. I suppose there is no wrong way - as long as the final draft is the best it can be.

  7. Very wise, Bruce. Get rid of that internal editor while you create the story.

    Wish I could . . .

  8. I think Bruce has the right idea. Get the story down first, then worry about the details. I learned (from Karen Syed) to search and highlight those overworked words. Boy, do they stand out in color! I cut a horrifying number. It takes awhile to rewrite some of it, but it does help. My sympathy, Peg. It's shattering to see how many times we use those words.

  9. I love it when I'm so in the zone that my internal editor is completelly muzzled. It just doesn't happen each time I sit down to write.

    And man . . . those words. It's like getting stuck in some weird Twilight Zone story. Where people communicate with the same words, over and over.

    Thanks, Ellis.