To Be or Not To Be

These days, it’s hard to be anywhere when you have no internet or phone connection.  Absence is one of the trials of traveling around the country like we are–you never know when you will be out of touch.  I’m writing this from the local Ignacio, New Mexico, library on the Ute Indian Reservation.  All you readers and writers out there, remember to support your local library!

“There are eight computers lined up against the south wall of the library.”

Hey writers, do you know what is wrong with that sentence?  It reeks of dullness.  When I read it, I think, “So what?”  Unless, of course, your point is:  “Here’s a list of the things I see, a rather uninteresting list and they don’t do much but sit there.”   Your reader doesn’t know why, but is disappointed and unexcited by your writing when you use a “to be” verb phrase, especially at the beginning of a sentence, paragraph, or chapter.  Like Hamlet, these items exist, but don’t contain any action.  Even Hamlet wasn’t all that interesting until he decided to act.

It is, there is, there are, etc.  When you are editing your work, look for these “to be” verb phrases and replace them with more interesting, active verbs.  Doing so might even lead you into a nice metaphor or simile.  As in:  “Eight computers strategically line the south wall of the library like little soldiers waiting for duty.”  Okay.  You may think the sentence is a little silly, but at least it’s interesting.

So, find these little devils and perk up your writing by replacing them.  You will be surprised by how much better your story or article will read.  I was.

I may be posting from the Sky Ute Casino next time.  They are supposed to have a pretty good buffet.  Oops, was that a “to be” beginning back there?

A Critter Has Fresh Eyes

South of Tucson where we are presently parked, the pollen count is at a record early high.  Fortunately, I’m only allergic to rabbit brush, or chamisa, and there’s not much of that growing around here.  I love rising to the sound of doves, cactus wrens and finches, and knowing the sun’s going to shine a nice, warm 75 to 80-something degrees.

Today I was once again reminded of how important it is to have someone critique my work.

No matter how many times you edit your own writing, no matter how well you know grammar, and no matter that you may be a whiz at sentence structure  (this one’s getting a little out-of-hand), you are going to miss something.  You won’t see it because you are “inside the box.”  You need the fresh eyes of an experienced reader.  Preferably one who knows how to write well.  But even one who doesn’t write can give good feedback on a reader’s impressions, and isn’t that what it’s all about?

I recently downloaded three free ebooks and one for $3.99 (we poor consumers don’t realize this means $4.00) from Amazon, and all were four-star rated by readers.  My goodness–all three were interesting and showed promise, but all three were full of grammatical mistakes and poor sentence structure–problems which should never get by a decent critique.  Problems which would never get past an agent or an editor.

These days, with so many helpful critique sites on the web, and most of them free, there is no excuse for poorly-edited manuscripts.  I suggest every writer join one of these sites, or two or three, until you find the right fit.  I find that Critique Circle works best for me, and I don’t know what I would do without those marvelous “critters.”