I'm going to share a little story with you, and you'll probably wonder what it has to do with writing. Bear with me--I'll make the connection in a moment.
I recently bought a 1990 Toyota Camry. Now, I'm sort of a car-oriented woman, and I pride myself in being able to identify the make and model of most cars I see on the road. Even so, I have to admit I didn't recognize the Camry when I first saw it. It was a fairly generic looking car.
Now that I'm the proud owner of a Camry, I notice them everywhere. Apparently, the Camry holds up pretty well, because just about every fourth or fifth car on the road happens to be one of the exact size and shape as mine, a 10 year old hunk of semi-rusted metal, gears and rubber. Many of them are the same burgundy color. I had to memorize my license plate number just to make sure I didn't hop into the wrong chariot in the K-Mart parking lot.
What does this have to do with writing, you say? Well, here's the connection I promised. Sometimes, we fail to notice things until they become familiar to us. I didn't notice Toyota Camrys, and now I can see that they practically own the road. The same holds true for some of the inherent flaws in our writing. We don't notice them until we're familiar with the concepts and we know them inside and out, like a beloved old car. So, welcome to the Used Writing Glitch Lot. I'm going to sell you a few concepts. Once you own them, you'll recognize them anywhere.
#1 - Wimpy Verbs
Wimpy verbs suck the energy from your writing. You can't always cut them, but you can usually find ways to change them and make them stronger. Weak verbs can be those "to be" verbs: was, were, are, is. Vague words used to describe emotions and thoughts are also weak, so be on the look out for words like felt, feel, thought, think. Most other verbs that don't convey a very specific thought, emotion or action are weak: Went, looked, seemed.