Not normal...but lots of fun.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Oops! I Said It Again!

Not very long ago, I discovered the bad words for every writer: was, is, are, be, etc. Pretty much all those 'to be' verbs come with a no-no sticker attached. At least, if you happen to be a writer. They (and by 'they' I mean the books on writing) tell me it sounds better to use an "active" voice instead of an "inactive" one. And those 'to be' verbs fall under the category of "inactive".

But I can't stop using them! I didn't realize how often I did use them until someone had to tell me you shouldn't. Ignorance was bliss. But now, every sentence I type comes with a sudden flash of warning: You can't say that! Change it to something else! Kyla, you 're using a bad word again!

Argh. I want to go back to my former ease in writing and not worry over the bad words until it comes time to rewrite and revise. But how do you recapture lost innocence? Will I never write a word without worry again?

How important can not using those words be? Should you never use a 'to be' verb? Are there certain circumstances in which you should?

Does anyone else struggle with this annoying habit? Or do you have other bad habits you find hard to purge or ignore? I'd love to hear your suggestions, problems, and advice, so please share!

Personally, I'm sick of my internal editor and I just seemed to hire him. Any advice on how to fire him or at least get him to shut up until the second draft? Seriously, right now I just want to fire the jerk.

Does anybody else have trouble with their internal editor? Did you only discover him/her after reading advice books or sites? Is it a common affliction among writers? Please leave your opinions in the comments below!

Until next time, happy reading!


  1. OMG I know exactly what you mean! I haven't written a story in a while, but I used to write a lot of them. I'd heard of that rule, and it's the most annoying thing trying not to use any form of "to be" because we use it in conversation so often! Part of me just wants to ignore that "internal editor" and tell it to shut up, but another part of me is grateful that I'm (oops, "I am") learning from my mistakes.

    Thanks for following, by the way! So far, I love your blog (even though now I'll always be nervous on whether my grammar is proper since you, as a book-writer, probably recognize every one of my mistakes :P)

  2. Teachers drilled that rule into us in middle school or so, and I get really irritated by that voice in my head telling me not to use the "to be" verbs, but it's so hard to avoid them. Even now, as a college student, I try to fight off the "to be" monsters, but I do fail more often than not. If you imagine them as little monsters that you need to fight off the page, maybe that will help you. ;) Now I want to draw one; I wonder what they look like...

    I write short stories when I have time, but I'm slowly getting to the point that I just ignore my "to be" verbs. I feel like this does actually negatively affect the quality of writing a bit though.

    Also, the random baby seal made my night.

  3. I've actually never heard of this rule! With so many grammar rules I think there's no hope of me becoming a better writer lol!

  4. @Anna Ahh, I stink at this grammar stuff so much myself, I have no room to judge someone else. So, you really shouldn't worry about it. I love your blog, by the way. It's so cute.

    @Volunteer Nerdfighter Ooo, I love that idea. I'll have to try that. All those evil was's and is's turning into monsters for my main character to slay with her sword! Perfect!

    Ahh, well, I have the great delight of discovering I'm not as talented a writer as I once thought. I did mention ignorance was bliss...

    I loved the baby seal picture, too. Couldn't resist posting it. Glad you liked it!

    @Hazel Wow, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to make you worry, too. Don't worry too much over the grammar rules. Grammar is secondary to story, so what you write is much more important.

    And here's the best-known secret in the writing community: To be a better writer, write as much as possible. You'll get better despite yourself.

    Anyway, I think that there must be certain circumstances to use the 'to be' verb. Otherwise, we wouldn't have quotes like: "To be, or not to be: that is the question." --Shakespeare.

  5. Thanks! I enjoy writing and I hope what you say is true - that I'll get better the more I write, but I'm not worried about that right now as I'm writing simply for fun :)

  6. @Hazel Seriously, don't worry about it. You already have good grammar. And I love reading your comments! So thank you for taking the time to leave them!

  7. My internal editor is always on... the problem is, she is just so mean! So, I ignore her.

    I am definitely going to keep reading your blog because I have a feeling that I might learn something.

  8. @Waiting Lol. I can't take my new editor. Usually I'm caught up in the beauty of what I see of my story inside my head, and barely notice the words. Now, she won't shut up and I'm beginning to believe she's evil.

    Ahh! I doubt you can learn anything from me. I'm still such a beginner myself, I have no right to teach others. But thank you for saying it! That was an incredible compliment!