4 Reasons to Ditch “There Is” and the Like in Stories

by | Writing | 8 comments

Zoe’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. —Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and multiple award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.

 See the end of this post for more information.

Here are the problems: there is, there are, there was, there were, it is, it was, and here is. Why do editors fuss over there is and the like?

1. Dialog should reflect what characters would say, but writers should tighten dialog.

Characters do say the above openers, such as there is.

Chase and Kristin drove past Cannamart. “There is one good reason I shop at Cannamart. The low prices.”

Sentences similar to this example still stop me. Most people would use the contraction There’s:

Better: Chase and Kristin drove past Cannamart. “There’s one good reason I shop at Cannamart. The low prices.”

But why not ditch there is?

Better: Chase and Kristin drove past Cannamart. “I shop at Cannamart for the low prices.”

This says the same thing and is less wordy.

2. There is and the like employ the overused verb to be and exhibit passive voice.

Jason machine-gunned orders to his staff. It was his way of preventing them from lollygagging.

The second sentence is wordy. The writer slows down the pace. “Lollygagging” alone works for the contrast between the fast, machine-gunned orders and the slow hires’ speed.

Better: Jason machine-gunned orders to his staff to prevent them from lollygagging.

Better: Jason machine-gunned orders to his staff and terminated their lollygagging.

 This example moves the first example from passive to active voice.

3. Here was (is) is wordy and passive.

Jan was in a good mood. Here was the right moment to tell Janice what he thought.

Better: Jan’s good mood furnished the right moment to tell her what he thought.

4. Passive expressions such as there were contain the uninteresting to be verb.

There were six maids in the queen’s chamber.

Ditch there were and add an interesting action verb.

Better: Six maids flitted around the queen in her chamber.

There were four deer in the flower beds.

Better: Four deer trampled the petunias in the flower beds.

There was bitterness in my heart.

Better: Bitterness gnawed my heart.

Search for there is and the like in your stories and try to rewrite the sentences, ditching the passive expressions.

What other problems have you seen in writers using such expressions as there is?

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“I finished reading Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days. I have AND will highly recommend it to anyone who dabbles in fiction. It’s one of the best “how to” books I’ve ever read.” Marsha Hubler, Director Montrose Christian Writers Conference

If you want to increase your chance of hearing yes instead of sorry or not a fit for our list at this time, this book is for you. If you want to develop stronger story plots with characters that are hard to put down, this book is for you. Through McCarthy’s checklists and helpful exercises and corresponding examples, you will learn how to raise the tension, hone your voice, and polish your manuscript. I need this book for my clients and the many conferees I meet at writer’s conferences around the country. Thank you, Zoe. A huge, #thumbsup, for Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days.  —Diana L. Flegal, literary agent, and freelance editor

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript is a self-editing encyclopedia! Each chapter sets up the targeted technique, examples show what to look for in your manuscript, then proven actions are provided to take your writing to the next level. Whether you are a seasoned writer or a newbie, you need this book! —Sally Shupe, freelance editor, aspiring author Paragraph

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Need to rework your book? Zoe M. McCarthy’s step-by-step reference guide leads you through the process, helping you fight feeling overwhelmed and wrangle your manuscript and into publishable shape in 30 days. Tailor Your Manuscript delivers a clear and comprehensive action plan. —Elizabeth Spann Craig, Twitteriffic owner, bestselling author of the Myrtle Clover Mysteries, the Southern Quilting Mysteries, and the Memphis Barbeque Mysteries http://elizabethspanncraig.com/blog/

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  1. Jodi Artzberger

    Extremely helpful post! Thank you! I recently received a review from PW and they commented that the pace was slow in parts. I was told the opposite by others (editors) but now I see (I think) what they were saying.

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Jodi, thanks for your comment. As I’ve stated above my comments notification was going to my junk mail. Pace is probably one of the last edits writers pay attention to on their check list. Sometimes the pace needs to slow down, especially after an intense horrible scene in a thriller to let the reader catch his breath. Or to create suspense and make the reader wait a little longer. But how we construct our sentences can cause a pace problem we didn’t intend. That’s why we depend on editors to catch those sneaky pace slowing sentences. :0)

  2. Sally Jo Pitts

    I love Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript. I use the “utterances” pages (137-138) all the time!

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Sally Jo, my comment notification were going to my junk mail. Thank you for your kind words. I’m glad you’re finding Tailor helpful.

  3. marilyn

    Thanks for the good reminder, Zoe. Cheers

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      You’re welcome, Marilyn.

  4. Connie Lounsbury

    Thanks, Zoe. I will buy it as I am starting to do a final edit of my next book, Shattered Dreams, that will be released next year by Scrivenings Press..

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Connie, all my comment notifications went to my junk mail.Thanks so much for you interest. Congratulations on new release.

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