You’ve Been Had!

In the process of writing, you learn constantly – from yourself and others. There are lots of great blogs and books out there helping you to improve your grammar, sentence structure, plot, character development and anything else you can imagine pertaining to writing. If you intend to write, you should pay heed to the good advice of others.

So, here’s a little observation from me that I hope you find useful.

I had been editing and re-drafting my second novel when it struck me that I had used the word had far too often. I had gone back over the manuscript and had discovered literally hundreds of occurrences. I had also started to notice when reading other writer’s work that they had overused the word as well. It had really started to bug me!

It’s funny, when you notice a written ‘tick’ like this, it can be very annoying. However, it can also be very useful. In this case, it made me think about how I might structure my sentences better to convey past tense – without inserting ‘had’ over and over again.

For example, the second paragraph could easily be re-written thus:

While editing and re-drafting my second novel, it struck me that I consistently overused the word had. I reviewed the manuscript and discovered literally hundreds of occurrences. As I read other writer’s work, I noticed that they too were overusing this word. It really started to bug me!

I don’t know about you, but for me, the second version scans much better. None of the sense of time or place is lost nor is the tense affected. It is also a much leaner 48 words versus 63 in the original.

I now try to use ‘had’ as sparingly as possible; thinking harder about how to replace it and improve the sentence structure as a result. Obviously, there were and are times I had to use it!

I’m sure lots of you have similar examples and I’d love you to share them with me.

Peter Carroll

About Peter

Peter Carroll is a Scotsman, author, musician and wildlife enthusiast.
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