Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Adverb Police

As a writer, I try to learn and grow all the time. As my mother once said -- or will say to anyone standing nearby-- "some people learn and grow; some people just grow old." So I try to be the former. I may write light and fluffy stuff but I take the writing of it very seriously. I am currently doing edits for my upcoming book Murder is a Family Business, due out January 1, by MuseItUp Publishing. And yes, I, too, tend to repeat things to anyone standing nearby. The fruit does not fall far from the tree.
In rereading my work, as I scrutinize it, going word by word, I have discovered that I don't need most the adverbs I have used. Honestly, truly, really...whoops. Old habits die hard.
In some ways, using adverbs is taking the easy way out. The real work comes when I have to create a phrase that encapsulates what I have come to rely upon an adverb doing.
Of course, there are times when using an adverb is perfect. Rare but it does exist. And when it is perfect, I leave it. But more often than not, the reader gets what I'm saying without me adding: slowly, gently, sadly, laughingly, brightly, etc.
An added bonus is, I find I have tightened my work. Sometimes I think I should just do a global and delete every single word that ends with an 'ly.' But I lie down until that particular urge passes.
Still and all, I am a new member of the Adverb Police and proud to display my badge -- to anyone standing nearby.


John B. Rosenman said...

Heather, I sometimes think that using adverbs is part of a bigger problem in writing -- that is, excessive verbiage. Often, ten percent or more of what we write should be pruned.

One story where adverbs really work well is Shirley Jackson's classic tale, "The Lottery."

Nice post, he said assertively. BTW, I understand that the Adverb Police are more likely to stop writers in Arizona and check their credentials. ;)

Lin said...

How true. I grew up under the strict ruler of Mother Mary John. Mother Mary John never met an adverb she didn't love. She was heavily into over pontification. With the threat of the ruler ever present it is hard to break habits one learns under threat of dire pain, but I am inching...(ruler-ism?)...my way towards rewriting Mother Mary John's Grammer script.

Lin said...

Oh John, you are naughty and definitely not a Tea Party Arizonan like one ditzy former moose hunter are you?

Heather Haven said...

John, thanks for the belly laugh. And so true.