As I read excerpts of fellow writers, I see beautiful stories masked with too much telling and back-story. At the Ragged Edge writer's symposium Ted Dekker said to get rid of the boring stuff. This is to a large degree what he was talking about. Here are some things to keep in mind either in your writing or in your editing:
1) Do everything you can to cut out the passive, state-of-being verbs: was, is, has, had, have, do, would, could, feel, seem, thought, think, come... Sometimes, you'll have to use a passive verb. It's inevitable. They are an important part of our language. But remember: Passive verbs are like lullabies. Don't put your reader to sleep when you have a good story waiting for them.
2) Use action verbs as much as possible. This will not only help the reader get in the character's head,they'll be the character. Action verbs kick! They hook the reader and make them say, "Give me more!"
Example from my own writing:
"Awareness slowly came over Beth as she struggled to pull herself from the darkness. Somewhere in the distance an owl hooted….crickets chirped…bullfrogs croaked. A cool breeze blew across her causing chills to run through her. Unable to open her eyes, her hand went to the ache in her chest. Realizing she was drenched, she started shaking with fear. Trying to open her eyes, they finally obeyed and she realized the room was dark. When she reached next to her, all she could feel was empty air - no floor, no Adam…nothing."
"Awareness crept over Beth. She struggled to pull herself from the darkness. In the distance, an owl hooted... crickets chirped... bullfrogs croaked. A cool breeze blew in and chills raced through herr. Unable to open her eyes, she reached for the ache in her chest. Drenched. Fear seized her anew. Forcing her eyes open, darkness stared back at her. She reached out and discovered empty air - no floor, no Adam... nothing."
Do you see the difference? It's kind of subtle, but it's there.
So keep in mind that you want to show the reader your story, not tell them your story. Don't sing them to sleep. Your story is beautiful. It took a while for me to grasp what Ted was saying by that at the symposium. Then suddenly it hit me. I've read many a story that I wanted to read. I cared about the characters and I wanted to know what happened to them. The stories themselves were beautiful. But, frustrated with the telling, I skipped about 2/3's of the written words.
So, my challenge to you, dear fellow writers? Unmask your stories. Shed the telling! Show the reader your story and you'll be unstoppable!