Being relatively new at the revision and editing process. I have come to the conclusion I can either wing it or research it. I’ve already tried winging it and it didn’t work very well. So I did a bit of research. First I built a revision list. Then after completing the list, it is now time to go bad word hunting.
My two words to search for are “just” and “was”. Found 24 instances where I used “just”. Not too bad, but not great. I want to get rid of every one of them. Then I searched for “was”. Ouch! 265 instances of “was”. That word is a very good indicator of passive sentences. Before deleting all the bad words, I did a bit of investigation. Consider this sentence:
I was just trying to be a good writer.
Uh-oh, it has both bad words in it. It also sounds weak. I found that the word “just” when used this way is called “Hedging your bet”. It’s better to be bold, so we will omit “just”.
I was trying to be a good writer.
Hey, it actually is better. Not a whole lot, but we are getting there. The sentence is a passive sentence. So let’s remove the word “was”
I trying to be a good writer.
Ugh! That sounds horrible. I need to revise it and I’ve decided to change the tense of “trying”
I tried to be a good writer.
Much better sentence. Still not there. This sounds like I tried and failed. It has completely changed the tense of the sentence. Writing in present tense and then throwing up this sentence would be jarring. Instead of changing “trying” let’s add “am”
I am trying to be a good writer.
Much better. Compare this sentence to the original. This denotes action, firmness and an onward journey. The original sounded a bit whiney. Now the question arises, should I always delete “was” and “just”? At first glance, the answer is yes. My twisted brain decided to go a step further and see if there is any possible way to use the original sentence.
Suppose you have a character that is sniveling, whiney and pathetic. A character that the reader hopes dies first. What if I gave the character this sentence to say?
“I was just trying to be a good writer,” he sobbed.
Yes, context matters. I can definitely see the character talking like this. But let’s make sure. Using the same weaselly character, I’m going to give him the final sentence without the “just” and “was”.
“I am trying to be a good writer,” he sobbed.
Meh. I like the “just” and “was” instead. This whole exercise has taught me that there are no bad words. Words that appear out of context seem bad, but can be used in other context.
I think I’m turning into a word nerd.