After Adverbs

My student novel writers are enthused after applying the advice to weed out adverbs (ly words). “My work is so much tighter,” one student said. By using active, specific verbs, a writer can eliminate the need for most adverbs. Makes a big difference in how the story reads. Now, why not take another small but significant step?
Writing Tip for Today: Take a look at your last bit of writing. Are there spots where you have over-controlled the reader? By that I mean are there spots where repeating words make the section feel redundant? EX: She held a rose in her hand, extended her hand to him and he took the rose from her hand. The word “hand” is overused in the example, twice in different prepositional phrases (IN her hand, FROM her hand). After the first “hand,” a reader gets it–no need to repeat the same word. A better version might be: She held a rose. She extended it to him, and he took it. We are aware that “hands” are involved without stating the fact.
Another troublesome habit in new writers’ prose is getting too specific with details. EX: He pivoted on his right foot then kicked his left foot and hit a lamppost that was thirteen and a half inches from where I stood. Telling your reader exactly which foot, side or hand used only slows down the scene (Was that my left or the character’s left?) while the reader tries to orient. Recording too many numbers or the exact dimensions of something forces the reader to stop and ask, “How long is thirteen and a half inches, anyway? A better idea might be to suggest the movement (He pivoted, then kicked at a lamp post just inches from where I stood.) or compare unknown (the package was as big as a bread box) with a known item. Try this on your next revision session and you’ll watch your prose improve.

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

1 comment on “After Adverbs

  1. Such simple rules, but so helpful in making the reader enjoy the story more. I was a heavy ly user, and I still have to go though my MS and check for them.
    Great tips. Thanks

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