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Strong vs Weak

Thought you saw the last of the damn Strong vs. Weak Word posts, right?

Me too.

I didn’t think I had another one in me. But lucky, lucky you . . . be prepared to be edified or anesthetized. Your choice.

I was 20-stinking-pages from the end of my FINAL read-through of my manuscript before sending it to a blogging friend for copy/line-editing. Then WHAM-O, I noticed something was WRONG-O. Seriously WRONG-O.

When the main character did such-and-such, then the next thing happened.

A lot.

146 of the sentences in my manuscript started with the word “when.” Good grief. The better part of yesterday was spent reworking those blasted sentences and now, I am the proud owner of a mere 21 “when” sentences.

Let me give you some examples of what I mean, and how “when” can be exorcised and replaced with something more interesting.

When Robin finished her blog post, her followers took to the streets and cheered.

Yeah, right. Sure they did.

Robin finished her blog post and her followers promptly sent her hate mail.


When Robin had a power-lunch, she always downed three martinis.

Gin or vodka?

A martini was Robin’s beverage of choice in order to get hammered over a business deal.


When Robin returned home, she poured herself another drink.

What a souse!

Returning home to a cold and empty house, Robin warmed her spirits with another martini.


Enough of that.

The other thing I discovered was I used “when” to avoid starting yet another sentence with “I.” “When” became this writer’s crutch instead of working to find a more interesting way to say what I wanted to say.

When I stared into the abyss of my computer screen, I wanted to cry.

Oh God. I know the feeling.

Staring into the abyss of my computer screen, tears of frustration threatened to short-circuit my keyboard.


When I stormed out the door, the agent chased after me to offer a book deal.

What is the name of your agent?

The agent shredded my offer for a book deal because I stormed out of his office.


Maybe this ain’t no kinda problem for you, but “when” was sure a whopper of a problem for me.

As I have said before in these posts, the difference is subtle, but there is a difference. Try searching your manuscript for sentences beginning with “when” and please report back what you find. I’m curious.

As a bonus for you, trying looking for sentences starting with “after” and “before.” As in:

After/before the main character did this, that happened.

96 of those babies in my manuscript.

Happy writing!