First, I’ll launch into the first question you should ask. It might seem basic, but it can’t be overlooked.
1) Are you using passive voice?
When I’m critiquing manuscripts with passive voice, it signals to me that I’m reading a first draft or the work of a beginning writer. I recommend going through your manuscript and circling every time the verb of being shows up, and consider whether you can find an alternative. I’m not always against the verb of being. I’m all for it. In small doses.
2) Are you using placeholder verbs?
Often, in a subsequent draft that I read, I’ll see a pruning away of the verb of being only to be replaced with what I call placeholder verbs. You’re probably friends with these verbs. Run, walk, sit, nod, smile. Many writers strike up an acquaintance with these verbs, and I’m no exception.
Why is run a placeholder? You want to know more about your subject. You want to know if she’s the sort of person who waddles, or sashays or darts. It’s best to be more specific so that we are seeing the specific action from a particularized character.
3) Are you using sensory verbs?
There are some writers who compose sentences that make me want to read them out loud. And chances are, it’s because they’re using sensory verbs—these are verbs that usually imply sound, although sometimes scent and tactile info as well.
Below, is short list of sensory verbs that I love to use in my manuscripts. I’d love to hear from you. What are some of your favorite sensory verbs?
Hillary’s Favorite Sensory Verbs