She’s Aliiiiiive! I know. It’s been awhile. If you were going to rise from the dead would it be to write about adverbs? I have my excuses for my long hiatus from blogging but none of them are interesting enough to read about so we’ll move on. Let’s talk about good writing. Superb writing! It’s what we all want to do – what we want to be known for. For some of us it’s burning so deep it’s tattooed on our souls and if you’re like me, you devour anything that can improve your work. When I hand my work to a critique partner it always comes with instructions to show no mercy. My feelings mean far less to me than the quality of my writing does. So how can paying attention to adverb usage help you in your quest to publish? Well, pay attention young padawan, and I will enlighten you.
“Lazy writers will be passed over every time.”
I know that in grammar school you were praised for the appropriate and frequent use of the almighty adverb. i.e. Julia walked quietly through the garden. She moved quickly and anxiously.
Fantastic, but as a reader I want to SEE in my minds eye how Julia did this. Paint a picture that the readers can visualize. Julia walked through the garden, being careful to avoid the crunch of dried leaves beneath her feet and steadied her breath so she would remain undetected. Her movements were swift and she sped through the space in marked time. Though she was able to control her movements, she fought with anxiety that built in her muscles.
Wordier? Yes but could you see it? That is our ultimate goal as writers, for our readers to experience the world in our head. Lazy writing doesn’t take the reader to that place. Here is what I did. I went back through some of my old writing and put the letters LY into the search tool. My two favorite LY words? Quickly and quietly. I went through and showed how my characters did these things and it strengthened me as a writer as well as my manuscript. There were many cases however, that the adverbs were altogether unnecessary.
“Keep it simple, I say.”
Something else to pay attention to is keeping it simple with dialogue tags. We like to tag on these little adverbs at the end of a quote to show how the speaker feels. i.e. “You’re always right,” Caleb said regretfully. Or we tag verbs like this: “Whatever you say,” Ileesia seethed.
I know, I just told you not to be lazy when it comes to adverbs but in the case of dialogue it’s usually better to simplify. He said, she said, that’s it. You can throw in the occasional, he asked too. In situations where you really need to establish the characters emotional response, you can add information on the back side of the tag like this. “You will never understand how difficult this is for me,” Monique said. She tried to control the wobble in her voice and the quiver in her lip as the words came out. Or, “You will never understand how difficult this is for me,” Monique said with quivering lips and a wobble in her voice.
I like to look at adverbs as a roadmap. It is my first instinct to use them. Sometimes I just go ahead and write them in then read it back and ask myself what do I really want to say here? How would this look? Then I write it.
What are your favorite LY words?