Lose Those Old Friends

December 15, 2005 | It's All About Writing

Let’s talk about adverbs.

When I first started writing fiction, mystery crime writer Beth Anderson foolishly offered to read my WIP. Beth noted many first-timer mistakes and made it her job to teach me. A better day there has never been. She laboriously went through the mss marking all the corrections in thick red ink. At the end of it all she wrote me a note apologizing if she had hurt my feelings.

Not a snowball’s chance. It was the best education I’d ever received because Beth took the time to explain how adverbs weaken the sentence and feel of the scene unless it’s an emotional time for the H/H.

Here’s an example of what not to do;

“You can be very outspoken,” he softly commented while tenderly reaching for her hand.

Makes you want to stick your finger down your throat doesn’t it? Imagine if there were twenty-five plus ‘ly’ words on the same page. Bad ratio to the 250 words on every typed manuscript page.

This is what it now reads;

“You can be very outspoken,” he said as he reached for her hand.

Simple, cleancut, and ready for the editor. Here’s the solution;

Go through your WIP.

Highlight every adverb in the color of your choice.

Re-read your sentences, one at a time. Can you say it better, smoother, stronger by eliminating the dreaded “ly”?

Keep your adverbs to two a page and only if they are necessary. Chances are you can and your novel with be a thousand percent better.


Add A Comment

11 Responses to “Lose Those Old Friends”

  1. Jenna Howard Says:

    Good tip. I also have to get rid of “as” “just” and “that”. I’m a “that” whore. Ugh.

    How ya doing? Was thinking of you all day.

  2. Sloane Says:

    Doing fine, Diva. Thanks for asking and yesterday’s post. You’re a kind woman.

    HEY! You swiped my next lecture!! THAT was what I was JUST going to bring up. Not really, but now I will down the line. Tomorrow is adjectives.

  3. Sherrill Quinn Says:

    Well, when you’re talking about “that”, don’t bring up any names, okay? I’m not confessin’ to nuttin.

    Glad you made it through yesterday.

  4. Jenna Howard Says:

    Say it loud. Say it proud Sherril: “I’m a ‘that’ whore.” It’s very freeing. I think I’m going to put it on my business card.

    Jenna Howard
    THAT whore


  5. Sloane Says:

    My neighbors are now conviced THAT I’m insane since they hear me laughing loud and hard everytime I read you both.

  6. Sherrill Quinn Says:

    Hi. My name is Sherrill Quinn, and…

    I’m a THAT whore. (blush)

    Phew. That was hard. Maybe it’ll get easier as I go along.

    (deep breath) I’m a THAT whore.

  7. For The Trees Says:

    I confess. I’m a “And Then” gigolo. I’ll put a Bunch of “and then’s” in ANYBODY’S writing, but especially my own.

    “I’m just a gigolo,
    I’m just a gigolo,
    I put “And Then” into it,
    Most everywhere I go…”

  8. Yasmine Says:

    Oh, and I thought I was the only one, smitten by the word ‘that’. We’re not the it vixens, we’re ‘that vixen”. I counted 200+ thats’ in my manuscript. Novice writers don’t catch it, cause I sure didn’t.

  9. Sloane Says:

    Oh. My. God. Stuck between ‘that’ whores and a gigilo. I think I’m getting turned on. For the next lecture, guys!

  10. Jenna Howard Says:

    I have a list of words I have to look for. But THAT. Man. THAT is eeeeevil. I can catch myself with just but THAT that word gets me everytime. That’s just wrong.

    Congratulations, Sherrill. The first step is admitting you have a problem.

  11. Sloane Says:

    Forget the Ridalin, Diva, you need a straight jacket.