To Be or Not To Be…

Recently, I posted a sample query online for users to critique.  (Critique is a civilized-sounding verb meaning your work will be shredded, slaughtered, and completely annihilated).  Hey, it wasn’t all bad though… one person didn’t have much to offer because he/she stopped reading after the second sentence.   That really boosted my confidence because after I fixed the intro (hook), I’d be golden.  Seriously though, I’m not that dense; I know the person quit reading because he/she hated it that much.  I just like to put a positive spin on it to keep my spirit and courage intact.  Without spirit or courage (and thick skin), I’ll never survive.

Refusing to be defeated, I latched on to one comment that hit home:  My overuse of ‘to be’ in the query.  (present tense  ‘is’, past tense ‘was’).  I used it 6 times in my query draft and 4 times already in this post.  Yikes!  I had no idea.  So, I checked my draft manuscript, written in the past tense.  Guess what?  I have a ‘was’ problem.  This struck me like advising a public speaker that they say ‘um’ constantly during speech.   

Now, everywhere I look, I see ‘was’; my eyes zero in on it.  This might discourage some people, but I love nit-picky details and a challenge.  And my chiropractor and massage therapist love me because I visit regularly with neck and shoulder knots, caused by hours of sitting in front of a computer obsessing about ‘to be’.

Sample (wordy, passive):

The officer hadn’t seen this public defender before, and from the looks of him, he figured the standards had been dropped; he had a pulse, so he was in.

Revised (tighten up sentence, use active verbs):

The officer didn’t recognize this public defender.  Judging by his appearance, standards dropped to only require a pulse.

I’m still learning, but someday I’ll get better!


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