by Tim Kane
I recently decided to switched the tense (and the point of view) on a finished manuscript. (Crazy, I know.) However, it did reveal something interesting about my writing. I’ve been through this manuscript dozens of times. Yet by switching the tense, I now notice how weak some of the verbs seem to be. Things that should have screamed out for help in previous revisions, are now being addressed.
If you’re like me, revision often transforms into a reading fest. I get caught up in the action and the characters. Yes I make tweaks, but they’re stylistic ones. A turn of phrase here. A different action there. The nitty gritty of verbs often gets overlooked. Not now.
I have to pay attention to every single verb. I’m dug in. It’s trench warfare. I have no choice but to proceed verb by bloody verb. Yet, it’s working. There are countless verbs that went from bland to fantastic. And my floor is littered with slaughtered helping verbs.
So, next time you need to do a serious, down and dirty, edit, consider switching the tense. You might have to switch it back at the end, but the benefit will be a close and thorough examination of your verbs.