The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” ~ Stephen King
I recently had this discussion. I critiqued an interesting piece of work but found it littered with adverbs. The vast majority of them ending in -ly, as they so often do.
Ly adverbs, of course, are among the most worthless ones. There was some resistance in the group to the idea that the use of ly words constituted lazy writing, but after some thought, I think it may have dawned on them that I was right. At least, I'd like to think so.
So what's my problem with adverbs that end in -ly? Why are they so wrong? I used to use them myself-often, until my editor tore them from my manuscript, kicking and screaming. Consider this example.
"Meet me behind the house in five minutes," John whispered quietly."
OK, well how the hell else does someone whisper, if not quietly? See what I mean? Here's another.
"Why don't you come up and see me sometime?" she said seductively.
Now, this misquote from Mae West tells you how she said the words when it should be showing you how she said it. like-
"Why don't you come up and see me sometime?" she said, batting her eyelashes.
Now with the description of the action, the reader visualizes the seductive intent of her words and remains engaged with the story.
The point is, visual cues show readers what’s happening; adverbs tell them. And we want to show what’s happening whenever possible to make the writing more vivid. Don't we?
Most adverbs either tell us what we already know or use too many words to communicate an image or idea. Let’s look at an adverb that modifies an adjective
It’s a very cool evening.
Once we write that an evening is cool, does it being very cool change the perception of the evening in the reader’s mind? No. All it does is intensify the word that follows it and it does a bad job of it. Often, the word very and the word it modifies can both be replaced with one word that is more precise:
It’s a cold evening.
In this sentence, we don’t need the word very or the word cool. The word cold does the job. It’s clearer and more concise, which is the mark of strong writing.
Don't just take my word for it.
“Adverbs are the tool of the lazy writer," said Mark Twain seriously.
I'm quite excited to announce my upcoming novel, LAPLACE'S DEMON. The launch date is yet to be announced but the editing is now complete, so I will post that when I have it.
I've been meaning to blog about it for some time, but I've been working on the next in the series and it takes up most of my waking hours. Besides, I tend to think in terms of word count, and I would much rather be putting that toward my writing.
That said, since word has come out that I am being published, I've had many writers ask me questions. At the suggestion of my publisher, I've decided it's time to blog about writing, to help those who are aspiring to get some recognition for their hard work. So, for this first blog entry, I am going to share the best advice I've ever gotten. I got this from someone quite famous and successful. She said, "write." I may be paraphrasing here., but that was the gist of it.
I've been part of many writer's groups, workshops, classes, critique meetings, etc and the most common situation that I have seen is the incomplete manuscript. The people with one or two chapters that they have been working on for three years but never get around to finishing.
If you want to be a writer, keep writing until you are one. Keep writing until you're good at it. Keep writing until someone wants to pay you to do it. Don't work on your cover art. Don't draw maps. Don't sketch your characters. Don't waste your word count on a complete bio of every character. Don't watch YOUTUBE videos on how to sell millions of books.
Just write. It's easier to edit a crappy draft than a blank page. Now, no two people are alike and therefore there is no one way to do things. I like to set daily word count minimums. That works best for me. Mine is 2000. Stephan King said his is 6000. Some people like to set minimum dedicated writing time. Whatever works for you. But if the way you are doing it does not result in words on a page in significant quantities in a reasonable amount of time, It's not working.
SO that's it. Short and sweet and back to writing. Thanks for checking this out. I'll blog more about the whole process soon. Leave me a message on the home page if you like and check back for updates.