Two Wasted Words, and A Great Review

My editing has improved over the nine books I’ve written, the countless papers my son and daughters wrote for school, and the nonfictional and inspirational blog I write at . Editing, like writing, takes practice, patience, reading a ton, and a willingness to listen to others. I know I’m not the last word on editing, or writing for that matter, but I think I developed a niche that my readers like.

In this post, I want to explore two words, though sometimes useful and needed in certain places, might be limited in your writing by using better, more solid words in their place.

Word #1: It

This is a recent discovery for me, I’m embarrassed to say. Like I said, the word ‘it’ can be used in certain spots, but there are other times when it (no pun intended) should be banished.

An example: It was a beautiful morning.

For me, a below average sentence that doesn’t say much. In fact, that sentence includes two of the wasted words in my post. Can we improve on it? I think so.

What makes it a beautiful morning? A robin’s egg blue sky with puffy cotton ball clouds? A dazzlingly bright sun, warm on the skin? A gentle breeze that tickles the small hair on the back of your hand? Laughter from a child or children playing with their trucks in the sandbox?

Without saying “It was a beautiful morning” I just described a morning to you, one you can picture and feel and listen to.

An example: He never wanted to do it.

Do what? Write a nasty letter to a rival? Say something mean and ugly to a spouse? Pick up a knife and stab someone breaking into your house? Run a red light? Kiss the selfish, egotistical girl or boy he or she doesn’t like? Follow the orders of a bully? Snort the line of cocaine?

Instead of using the word ‘it’, describe what the ‘it’ is. It will strengthen your writing and paint a better picture in your reader’s head. In almost all cases, the writer wants the reader to picture the paragraph, to feel the sentence, to taste the description. The word ‘it’ doesn’t do any of that.

Word #2: Was

If you reread this passage so far, I’ve used the word ‘was’ twice. Can you spot them?

Typically, the word ‘was’ is followed by another word. The combination of the two creates a passive verb.

For example: It was raining. I was hungry. The morning was hot.

Any of those sentences do much for you? Can we improve them?

The rain blew sideways stinging my face, making it difficult to walk to my car.

I hadn’t eaten meat in days, and my stomach growled as I devoured the hamburger in three bites, leaving ketchup, mustard, and pickle juice running down my fingers.

Sweat ran down my back and from under my arms, and my feet burned, confirming I made a poor decision to run this late in the day.

I think readers have a better picture using my sentences that didn’t use ‘was’ in them. There is action in my sentences, rather than passivity. Passivity leads to boredom and might cause the reader to quit reading your story.

I hope these two tips help you. Let me know what you think, and thank you for following along on my journey.

My newest book, Fan Mail received a terrific review from Bella Wright and BestThrillers, and I wanted to share with you. It reads:

The Bottom Line: An emotionally explosive and life-affirming coming of age story wrapped within a simmering crime thriller.

Fan Mail is a coming of age story centered around the lives of seven brothers – two biological, and five adopted – in the Evans family. Several of the boys are sophomores at Wisconsin’s Waukesha North High School, where a car bomb wreaks havoc in the school parking lot. 

Meanwhile, two of the Evans boys are in a contemporary country music band that is rapidly gaining momentum (Tim McGraw is putting three of their songs on his next album). But they get a taste of the dark side of fame as they are receiving menacing fan mail (fans of Lewis’ Blaze In, Blaze Out– while technically not a prequel to Fan Mail – may recall the storyline beginning there). 

The FBI believes the sender is someone they know. Most likely, a classmate. Could the sender also be capable of violence? 

Among the numerous compelling individual storylines is that of Brian, who believes he is the cause of their father’s heart attack. Before the incident, the boys’ father seemed to be upset that Brian – who is bisexual – and adopted brother Two were “hanging on each other.” In addition, Jeremy may have discovered Brian’s search history, which included research into how to become an emancipated minor. As a consequence of these and other influences, Brian fears that his father may even regret adopting him. 

Investigations into both the car bombing and threatening fan mail simmer throughout the first half of the book, gathering steam en route to an explosive climax toward the end. Meanwhile, author Joseph Lewis reminds us throughout the story that adolescent dreams, desires and traumas often loom larger in the minds of young men than external threats. As usual, Lewis explores all of the above thoroughly, while leaving himself just the right number of loose ends to tackle elsewhere. 

Given all the focus on the Evans family, Lewis also fleshes out their surrounding community of friends like never before, which is both narratively important as well as essential for some of the book’s hardest-hitting scenes. In one of our favorites, close family friend Jeff – whose car was completely destroyed in the school bombing – visits Jeremy’s hospital room and gives him some straight talk about his approach to parenting Brian.

Fan Mail works reasonably well as a stand alone book, and newcomers to the Evans family saga will find themselves immediately engrossed in Lewis’ complex, high-drama narrative. With that said, we recommend readers binge Lewis’ earlier books (especially Betrayed and Blaze In, Blaze Out) in order to get the most out of the references to earlier experiences and storylines. Bella Wright,

Purchase Fan Mail prior to March 30, 2023, use code: PREORDER2023 to receive a 15% Discount!

Blaze In, Blaze OutA Literary Titan Gold Book Award Winner! A Reader’s Favorite Award Winner! A Reader’s Ready Recommended Read! A BestThriller’s Editor’s Pick! Best Action Thriller of 2022 by BestThrillers!

Eiselmann and O’Connor thought the conviction of Dmitry Andruko, the head of a Ukrainian crime family, meant the end. It was only the beginning. They forgot that revenge knows no boundaries, vindictiveness knows no restraints, and ruthlessness never worries about collateral damage. Andruko hired contract killers to go after and kill O’Connor and Eiselmann. The killers can be anyone and be anywhere. They can strike at any time. They care nothing of collateral damage. Andruko believes a target is a target, and in the end, the target must die.

Betrayed: Two Top Shelf Awards: 1st Place Fiction-Mystery; and Runner-Up Fiction-Crime; A PenCraft 1st Place Winner for Thriller-Fiction! A Maxy Award Runner-Up for Mystery/Suspense! A Literary Titan Silver Book Award Winner! A Reader’s Ready Recommended Read Award Winner! A Reader’s Favorite Honorable Mention Award Winner for Fiction-Crime-Mystery!

Betrayed is Now Available in Audio Book, Kindle and Paperback!

A late-night phone call, a missing kid, a murdered family, but no one is talking. A promise is made and kept, but it could mean the death of a fifteen-year-old boy. Greed can be all-consuming, and seeing is not believing. No one can be trusted, and the hunters become the hunted.

2 thoughts on “Two Wasted Words, and A Great Review

  1. As a fiction writer, this post has really resonated with me. The tips on using words like “it” and “was” effectively really spoke to me and I can see how these small changes can make a big difference in my writing. I particularly appreciated the example sentences used to illustrate the points. Thank you for sharing this valuable advice, and congratulations on your latest book receiving a great review! I look forward to reading it.

    Liked by 1 person

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