Today we’re tackling crutch words.
A quick and easy editing tip you see all over the internet is to eliminate crutch words like “was”, “had”, and “that” from your writing. These words sneak into your writing and take the place of stronger, more exciting verbs. Basically, they detach the reader from the action of the sentence; eliminating them creates more intimacy and immediacy in your writing.
After I’ve churned out my first draft, I’ll do a Find-and-Replace in my document that bolds each occurrence of whatever crutch word I’m currently battling: usually was, had, that or just. Then I’ll print the document out, take it outside, and attack, tweaking and snipping and scouring each sentence until I’ve rid myself of as many of these pesky pests as possible.
Practical Application: The Elimination of “Was”
In this particular scene I’m showing you today, my mission was to study every instance of “was” in my writing and decide how I could best eliminate it, making my writing clearer and more creative. Setting yourself specific tasks like this can jumpstart creativity during editing sessions: giving yourself a problem to solve, a restriction in which to work in, forces your brain into action. (A great tip for if you’ve been stuck staring at your Word document for hours, idly scrolling, occasionally making vague grunts.)
Okay. This is the beginning of a chapter in the second book of my fantasy WIP. A supernatural disaster hits the town while my characters are sleeping, trapping them in their dreams; in nightmares of their own creation. It’s rough, and silly, and stop looking at me okay?? Anyway. cracks knuckles
Charley was dreaming he was back in the bar, dancing with the girl from that night.
So my MC is having a dream. This sentence is weak, relying on “was” for two of its verbs. Here’s what I replaced it with:
His dreams took Charley back to the Brew House, into the arms of the woman he’d danced with earlier that evening.
Easy enough elimination, serviceable for our purposes!