I hate you, Was.

It’s not a visceral hatred. I consider you to be like a nasty habit, was. I lean on you like a little writer crack pipe, or a nasty gambling addiction.

I’ll write, and you passively creep in, unnoticed. She was this. He was that. There was this. Was was was.

I’ve struck you down. I eradicated you from chapter 1. The stain of passive voice has shifted! It is now awkward voice. What’s wrong with passive voice? Weak writing? Wazzat? Who decided these rules, anyway?

If you haven’t figured it out, I read a top 10 stuff you’re doing wrong in your indy writing OMG!!11 post. I read down it, and I’m all smug, like you do, saying, “nah, I don’t do that. I’m freakin’ perfect. My stuff don’t stink. What are these guys sayin’? Was. Who writes in passive voice?”

As a precaution, strictly a precaution, no reason to panic, I ran a search on “was” in my manuscript.

Aw. Um. Good thing I didn’t tell anyone my thoughts on this, because I’m a passive using fool. LOOK AT ALL THOSE INDIRECT VERBS! The place is crawling with passive language. I blotted out a few extra non-threatening wases just because they looked like unwashed gremlins who’d sneak in a snack after midnight, in the bathtub, and repopulate my novel. The horror! The horror!

My goal is to write as well as Josef Conrad. I, after all, am a native speaker of English. He learned it when he was an adult. I can do better, surely. ;D

17 thoughts on “I hate you, Was.

  1. It goes to line editing on Monday. But I figure the less of this crap there is to fix, the more time she can spend catching other crap. When I am done with “was” I get to start on “had”. I thought I had avoided past perfect as well, but if there is THIS much passive voice hiding, who knows how many of those buggers I’m gonna find.


    • We can’t use “Had” either? No, no, not the past perfect! I *like* the past perfect.

      Wait. “I thought I had avoided…” Hahahah! Look. ;D

      Yar, was reading that it costs less to fix a novel if you do the heavy lifting first, and as you say, easier for your editor to work on the important stuff, than this basic level writing crap that we cling to. Augh.

      I suppose I’ll go hunt down the hads. Was. Had. Is nothing sacred?


    • No more. No more! Explain the it problem… other than it being the last two letters of a certain word. (Bruce is going to give us a list that dances around the obvious. 😀 ) Do you have the blog address? I may as well tuck that into the new phase of writing for me: The adolescent awkward this-isn’t-how-I-write stage. Gah! I discovered my “Was” obsession came from Kristin Lamb’s 10 Ways to Hook the Writer list here: https://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2015/04/17/ten-ways-to-tighten-your-writing-hook-the-reader/, “Tighten the Prose.” If 47,000 people jumped off a cliff, would you do it too? That’s the number of her followers.


  2. I hate to tell you this Matt, but every single word you wrote in your post above, their order, tense, “voice”, all of it, probably breaks somebody’s English rule.

    An interesting study would be to survey the great classics and see how they would hold up to today’s “must be penned by the finger of God to be acceptable” standards. Well except for bestsellers like Captain Underpants.

    I read my substantially sized book through fourteen grueling times and there’s no way I’m doing it again.


    • LOL! Yes, I hear ya on the book re-reading thing. I know my prose violates the standards established by Homeland Security and sourdough miners in Oregon, but my blog voice is a little different from my officious and pompous bloated writing-a-book voice. This, this is me. If you read enough of my posts, you’ll see that I’ve got a very particular voice. Er, particular except for my twin writer buddy from San Francisco, Mr. Anthony Vicino. He writes the same as me, but with more potty words. 😉

      I was considering (passive!) the fact that my blog posts do step on great-grammar’s toes in her pink foam slippers from Uncle Murdock’s Department Store and Feedery, but if I edit my blog posts for excellence, I’d (change of tense mid-sentence) never get one of those little awards people give away.

      Wait. I don’t have any little awards. Whatever.

      😀 Charlie and his Superhero Underpants? What an unlikely book.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yeah, what comes immediately to mind: The Epic of Gilgamesh, written on clay tablets and the Gettysburg Address, written on the back of an envelope. I can’t remember who it was, Edgar Rice Burroughs’s or Mark Twain (or both) who sent in manuscripts to his publisher in scrawled handwriting, complete with messy scratchouts. None of this would be tolerated today. No, today’s Indy author has to do it all (chores that used to be the preview of publishers).

    Some quotes by famous writers:

    If you can tell stories, create characters, devise incidents, and have sincerity and passion, it doesn’t matter a damn how you write.
    – Somerset Maugham

    It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous.
    – Robert Benchley

    I have been successful probably because I have always realized that I knew nothing about writing and have merely tried to tell an interesting story entertainingly.
    – Edgar Rice Burroughs

    Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.
    – Barbara Kingsolver


    Check these comments too:

    “People who are sticklers for grammar and who blow up over typos tend to be perfectionists who never get their writing out to the world because they’re too concerned with making it perfect — which it will never be.

    When you see a writer who is über prolific, you’ll find that they make the occasional error. That’s because they don’t get hung up on getting it perfect — they get hung up on getting it done.”


    Obviously, one should strive to write well. A badly written book will only hurt the author. But don’t become so obsessed with rules that a possible gem never sees the light of day.

    Liked by 1 person

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