To increase the reliability of simulations by particle methods for incompressible viscous flow problems, convergence studies and improvements of accuracy are considered for a fully explicit particle method for incompressible Navier--Stokes equations. The explicit particle method is based on a penalty problem, which converges theoretically to the incompressible Navier--Stokes equations, and is discretized in space by generalized approximate operators defined as a wider class of approximate operators than those of the smoothed particle hydrodynamics (SPH) and moving particle semi-implicit (MPS) methods. By considering an analytical derivation of the explicit particle method and truncation error estimates of the generalized approximate operators, sufficient conditions of convergence are conjectured.Under these conditions, the convergence of the explicit particle method is confirmed by numerically comparing errors between exact and approximate solutions. Moreover, by focusing on the truncation errors of the generalized approximate operators, an optimal weight function is derived by reducing the truncation errors over general particle distributions. The effectiveness of the generalized approximate operators with the optimal weight functions is confirmed using numerical results of truncation errors and driven cavity flow. As an application for flow problems with free surface effects, the explicit particle method is applied to a dam break flow.