by Tim Kane
Revision never happens in one pass. Often, authors need to make several passes through their manuscript or scene with a lens. Today, let’s focus on verbs. So often we (and I’m a culprit too) fancy up our sentences with adjectives and adverbs. The verb is the powerhouse. A strong verb means you can chop away those modifiers.
Avoid these when possible. Helping verbs only get in the way. Often they can be simply eliminated.
“He began to skim the newspaper.” Should become… “He skimmed the newspaper.”
This creates more helping verbs and the dreaded “to be” verb. Whenever possible avoid passive voice. This usually means rethinking the sentence as a whole.
“Her schedule was going to be packed today.” Can become… “Trivial events packed her schedule today.”
Often, beefing up the verb means you can chop the adverb (which is only there to spice up a weak verb).
“Howard generally talked too much about his talent.” Beef up the verb, and you get… “Howard bragged about his talents.”
Get Out the Get
Have you ever tracked how many meanings “get” has? It is a profoundly vague verb. Ditch it by defining it.
“She got a cold.” Becomes… “She caught a cold.”
“He got home after midnight.” Switches to… “He arrived home after midnight.”
Next time you want to streamline your manuscript, start with a verb pass. This will instantly tighten your text and make it flow.