To Pickle, Or Not To Pickle?

 CC 3.0
CC 3.0

Since I’m in the thick of buying a new house, and packing to move my family, my time is limited. Kathy did me a huge favor by mentioning my pickle trick last Friday in her post.

Pickle Trick = Use your software program’s FIND function to locate weak verbs and replace them with the word “pickle.” *

Today I’d like to share the story behind how pickles got started.

If you’ve read any of my other posts you already know I’m the historian of the Write On Sisters crew and I’ve spent every day of my adult life reading and writing in the past tense. My academic training shut off the part of my brain that said the word “was” is the literary equivalent of a super villain.

Historians are all about “was” – it’s our raison d’être!

Pickles arrived as my fiction writing savior when my husband succumbed to one of those big box impulse buys. No judgments here, we all make this mistake at some point in our shopping lives. His moment of glory/shame is a 128 oz. jar of pickles. Mind you, he’s the only person in our house who eats pickles, so I knew this jar would languish in our fridge for months – if not longer, taking up prime real estate on the tall shelf.

The pickle event coincided with my first round edits on a manuscript, and since pretty much everything in our house centered around pickle jokes at the time, I engaged in a lark by replacing every instance of the words “was”, “had”, “has” and “been” with the word “PICKLE”.

And – wait for it – in a moment of mom distraction, yes, I saved it! In an instant I transformed my only copy of a 90,000 word novel into relish vomit. “Pickles” mocked me from every paragraph.

Many days later as my keystrokes gobbled up the last PICKLE, I’d learned several valuable lessons and embraced the PICKLE as my new favorite writing tool. Now I think of that pickle jar’s long tenancy in my fridge as a metaphor for weak verbs, they both hog space that I could fill with something else, something delicious and satisfying.

The empty pickle jar still resides in my kitchen, however it’s relegated to the deep recesses of my cupboards while my husband contemplates giving it a new reason for existing. Some people might think I should purge the jar during my move, but I’ve made peace with it and now I like having it around as a reminder. To-be verbs and my huge pickle jar have a lot in common, they both won’t just go away, I must learn to actively avoid them.

  • The pickle trick is an evaluation tool. I do not recommend saving your document this way unless you are committed to a line by line edit. It also helps if you start by tackling only one weak verb at a time.

Look here more posts by Robin.


Author: Robin Rivera

Robin trained as a professional historian and worked as a museum curator, educator, and historical consultant. She writes mystery fiction, with diverse characters and a touch of snark. She's currently working on two new manuscripts that started off as NaNoWriMo projects. You can follow her on Facebook( However, Pinterest ( is where her inner magpie is happiest of all.

2 thoughts on “To Pickle, Or Not To Pickle?”

  1. I used to labor against those four pillars of weak writing, too. I’ve since relented a bit, because it felt like loading frosting onto every graham cracker I ever ate. Sometimes, those words are the simplicity I need in the moment.

We love comments and questions.

%d bloggers like this: