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OK, folks, you didn’t take me seriously about Ken Rand’s The 10% Solution. I have my ways of knowing. Listen, though: this is an editing tool not to miss. It’s only 60 pages. Talk about brevity. And brevity is one of Rand’s cardinal principles (along with clarity and accuracy.)

Using one of Rand’s exercises, I quickly went through part of my novel manuscript with the Search function seeking one of my bad habits, the overuse of the word “was.” I’m reluctant to show my clunky writing, but here are a few examples of how searching for “was” allowed me to snip away the passive voice and craft a better sentence. Often less wordy, too.

These examples are from book four of The Entire and The Rose, Prince of Storms, due in a little while to my publisher. First sentence is the original, second gets rid of “was.”

Avva ceb didn’t know what it was to ride across the steps with an Inyx in your mind. Avva ceb had never ridden across the steps with an Inyx in her mind.

It was heartening to think someone had come by to see her Her spirits lifted to think someone had come by to see her.

When Anzi found her, the old woman was surrounded by juveniles. When Anzi found her, juveniles surrounded the old woman.

Each branch was talking Each branch spoke.

Soon there was a distant drum of hooves. Soon she heard a distant drum of hooves.

His sleeveless long tunic was belted tightly around his emaciated form. A belt cinched his sleeveless tunic around his emaciated form.

Entering the residential hall, she noted that Emar Vod was not at his usual sentry duty. Entering the residential hall, she noted Emar Vod’s absence from sentry duty.

At the prefect’s feet was an abandoned sword. At the prefect’s feet lay an abandoned sword.

Manifest was full of voices. Voices filled Manifest.

Sometimes “was” is a good choice. Sometimes passive voice is really just fine. As here, IMHO: Avva ceb was dried-up, without guts or passion.

So, as with most writing advice, the choices must still be yours. you must still make the choices.


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