Read enough writing advice books, and sooner or later, your head's going to ache.
'there are rules - but nobody knows what they are' - is a common meme among writers.
I've been lucky to belong to a very tough critique group since 2004. We know 'the rules', and sometimes, the rules must be ignored. The bottom line is - does your story keep moving, does it keep the reader engaged? Or do they yawn and put it down - perhaps to never pick it up again?
One of the things we've discovered for sure is - when the writing is chock full of 'had's, 'had been's, 'that's, and 'ly' adverbs - it 'slows' everything down. Oh, it doesn't matter so much in a paragraph or two, but if such boring, extraneous words populate your entire book, it can lead to lethargy. It just 'feels' slow. The reader doesn't know exactly why they don't pick up the book again, but they know it makes them not interested enough to continue.
Everything you do as a writer should be aimed at one goal - make the reader keep turning pages. Make them not want to put it down. Getting rid of unnecessary 'that's and 'had's helps with that - it makes the reading feel more active.
So, when are they unnecessary? here's an example of when you can get rid of the 'had's (and a 'that'):
Four years earlier, she had designed the woman's penthouse. She had purchased that ten-thousand dollar sofa that had been such a boondoggle. The woman had been thrilled when it arrived.
So - a more active way to write it:
Four years earlier, she designed the woman's penthouse. (since we've told the reader it was four years ago, the had is not necessary.) She purchased the ten-thousand-dollar sofa that became such a boondoggle. (Don't need the 'had' or the 1st 'that'.) The woman loved it when it arrived. (Got rid of the 'had' & by using 'loved it' instead, we also get rid of the passive 'was thrilled' that would have replaced the 'had been thrilled'.)
Read over your sentences, and if they make sense without the 'had', 'had been', or 'that' - leave them out. It just reads faster.
Earlier this September, I drove from Key Largo to St. Petersburg to attend my first Bouchercon.
Wow. There were 1600 people there - authors, readers, industry pros, and super-fans. A very different experience from my SleuthFest conferences (although, hands down - you want to learn to write or seriously improve your craft? You go to SleuthFest.)
From having run SleuthFest for four years and being an MWA member for fifteen, I already knew a great many people in attendance, so it was great to see familiar faces in that huge crowd. I also met lots of folks I'd only heard of, and that was exciting, too.
I was honored (and thrilled) that they asked me to moderate two panels. One on Thursday morning - Sunshine & Crime - Local Florida Authors. The authors on the panel were terrific - Marty Ambrose, Janet Heijens, Susan Klaus, Christine Kling, and Paula Matter. They were smart, witty, and prepared (a moderator's dream . . .) Each of them had such interesting premises for their books.
At 8AM Sunday (the worst possible panel time - after 3 days of intense talking and drinking) I moderated the morning after panel - The Mystery Machine - Amateur Crime Solving. Again, I was blessed with great panelists. (Thank you, BCon Gods.) Frankie Y. Bailey, Edwin Hill, Naomi Hirahara, Cathi Stoler, and Tina Whittle. I was so impressed by their bios and subject matter.
So, of course, now my to-read list is a mile longer, but I'll get there.
I was also lucky enough to be chosen for the Saturday morning Author Speed Dating event. Sue Cox (The Man on the Washing Machine) and I partnered up to visit 17 out of 26 tables full of readers who wanted to hear about our books. It actually worked, too. I gained a few new readers from that. And it was a blast. Loads of fun.
I came home with boxes of books. They give away so many, and I bought quite a few as well.
All in all, if you love books and reading, go to Bouchercon. It is a blast. 2019's is in Dallas.
Glory Main is the first of five books in The Sim War series by Henry V. O'Neil
I have to confess I'm not a huge Sci-Fi reader. Okay, 'not huge' is deceptive. While I love the Star Wars & Guardians of the Galaxy movies, I'd seldom read a Sci-Fi book - much less a military Sci-Fi.
But O'neil had me interested from the first chapter. His style is easy and the story doesn't get bogged down or didactic with inordinate details.
The world he's created is fascinating. The enemy that Lt. Jander Mortas and his fellow soldiers face is unique. And some of the weapons O'neil thought up are absolutely amazing.
I can't say too much in a review of this book, because each chapter reveals something you don't expect, and I hate when reviewers ruin such things for me. Be warned however - You will NOT see the ending coming.
I believe the only way to get through the slings and arrows life throws at all of us is to find the humor.