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!