Only days after I’d submitted my novel to him, an editor at a small press wrote back to say that he’d like to read more after I deleted all the SOB (state of being) verbs. To prove his point, he highlighted every one in my manuscript (52 in the first 5 pages)!

Now i know we all should strive to be lifelong learners and that editing is always humbling, but I have to admit I was embarrassed. Not only was I unaware of this bad habit, it’s something I’ve been warned against more times than I can remember. Even years later, I can still hear one of my MFA professors telling us to “juice up our verbs.”

Which left me with three questions:

1. How many SOBs is too many? Can I use them to show present progressive tense? Is one per page allowed?
2.How often do I need to hear something before it sinks in? As an educator, I know the standard reply is “at least five.” But I must be going on 500 repetitions with this lesson. Not only do I now have to revise my novel, I have to search all my other stories for was, were etc., In one work in progress I found 44 uses in 11 pages. Aargh!
3.WIll I ever graduate from being an apprentice to a master?
(Looking back, there are 10 in this short passage)