I am a stickler for strong nouns and verbs. I got this bug from a college creative writing teacher. Perhaps the weakest sentence structure is one that begins with “it was” or “there were.” So often when I critique a manuscript, I ask the question in the comment balloon: “What is it? Who are they?” This creative writing teacher I had decades ago had this as his mantra: “Strong nouns and verbs, strong nouns and verbs . . .” It’s stuck with me ever since.
So, go through your manuscript and search for “it was” and “there were” and replace with a strong noun and verb. Instead of “It was raining hard,” try something more descriptive like “rain pelted the roof.” I even have a (gigantic) list of unnecessary words that I love (a little too much). I add to the list regularly, and I often use Word’s Find feature to locate those weak words, then think of others to replace them with. I also have another chart of cool verbs I’ve come to love, and will often refer to it when I feel I need a better, more evocative verb than the one stuck in my head or hastily plunked down in my manuscript. Only few writers will get brownie points for starting their sentences with “It was a dark and stormy night.” Even Snoopy got stuck on that first sentence (can you picture that Peanuts cartoon?)–no doubt because the noun and verb were so boring, he just could not get inspired to continue.