Descriptions for heat levels in book list

------holding hands, perhaps a gentle kiss
♥♥ ---- more kisses but no tongue-- no foreplay
♥♥♥ ---kissing, tongue, caressing, foreplay & pillow talk
♥♥♥♥ --all of above, full sexual experience including climax
♥♥♥♥♥ -all of above including coarser language and sex more frequent

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

hunting down adverbs

the lush season along the creek

Since finishing the last rough draft, I've been engaged in editing, editing and editing again my historic manuscripts. One of my main goals has been the hunt for the evil adverb. 

Now I do not personally see adverbs as that bad but oh my they are such a bad word in any recent discussion of writing style-- while, of course, ignoring all the great authors who did use them. They are a modifying word that help to explain an action and add meaning to a verb. They exist in English grammar. 

So you write 'she walked' and want to indicate the pace, an adverb does it 'she walked slowly' or rapidly... but could have just said strode or ambled. It can also be done without any of that and instead setting the scene. In a rage at what he had said, she walked across the patio determined to explain herself. The reader has no doubt that she's in a hurry and how she walked without any adverb.

Although I cannot say I have had a love affair with adverbs, I have gone through some of the stages of loss and grief regarding being told I should not use them in my own writing. First came denial-- come on, this cannot seriously be an issue. Then anger-- this is nuts. there is nothing bad about adverbs.  Bargaining -- if mine are used well, they are okay even if someone else's are not. I skipped over depression probably because I hadn't had a serious love affair with them-- but I finally did come to acceptance-- if this is what today's experts think and what I will find a manuscript downgraded because, I can deal with it.

I faced a truth that if critics are looking for a bean counting way to assess a literary effort, adverbs are an easy call. I've read several books on style that address this issue. Here are a few of the arguments against adverbs. They get in the way. They aren't pretty. You should show not tell. Or said another way:
The adjective is the enemy of the noun and the adverb the enemy of damn near everything else. Nouns and verbs are the guts of the language.                                            A.B. Gutherie
So, even disagreeing with the premise, I went looking through my own historical manuscripts (the ones I have yet to put out) to see how often I used these bad boys.

The way I did the search was using find for 'ly' words as they are the most commonly used-- rapidly, slowly, etceterly.  Looking for 'ly' words also found overuse of words like probably, clearly, really, or only. Some can be eliminated; but when you are writing one person's point of view, they don't know for sure what someone else is thinking; hence probably pops up. I looked for ways to say that without its use. 

One of the big names out there condemning the use of adverbs is Stephen King, who uses --ly words to illustrate why they are bad. 
I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops. To put it another way, they're like dandelions. If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day . . . fifty the day after that . . . and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions. By then you see them for the weeds they really are, but by then it's--GASP!!--too late.  Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
As I began my search, I did note that often the modifier I thought added something, actually didn't as the dialogue made clear how it would have been said. Whenever possible, I also got rid of he said/she said as dialogue is stronger when it flows right along-- if it's clear who is speaking.

This is not the fun work of writing. Where it comes to adverbs, I have argued a lot over the fact that they're not that useless. I've even found writers who back me up.



But in the end, it didn't hurt me to look for overuse of these modifiers. I suppose somewhere in my subconscious I either didn't like them either (to me too many adjectives become funny also), was taught this by the consulting writer I worked with fifteen or more years ago, or had read about their evils and put them out of my head. There were not a lot.

There are times I think removing an adverb just makes for a more wordy way to say what one simple word would accomplish. There are times an adverb truly isn't needed but just felt pleasurable to the writer (these are the ones that need to go). 

Overuse though of any word can become annoying to the reader, and it's a good reason to use the find tool. Search these bad boys out and do away with them especially really truly honestly leaving behind what is more essential to the sentence likely mostly.

I think this quote says best what I feel about adverbs.
 "At their best, adverbs spice up a verb or adjective. At their worst, they express a meaning already contained in it."        Roy Peter Clark in Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer

1 comment:

Tabor said...

Thus good writers separate the wheat from the chaff and I really should work on this...as I am completely bad at such!