Keeping active is not only good practice for health-obsessed silver surfers but also for aspiring writers. And just as students of all keep-fit disciplines exercise daily, so writers should also do their daily dozen.
- Keep on top of those verbs. Active verbs are the strongest muscle you have when it comes to powerful writing. Replace verbs like come and go with a stronger verb to give a more precise definition of the movement: march, stride, race, sidle scuttle, pace.
- Use stronger verbs. It will do away with any temptation you have to insert adverbs willy-nilly to clarify your meaning. I'm not advocating a blanket ban on adverbs but I am stamping my high heels cruelly onto the pernicious advice which encourages beginners to use phrases like in a quiet voice instead of simply saying quietly.
- He spoke in a quiet voice? What's the matter with whispered, murmured, muttered...or just looking up a thesaurus?
- Look out for word echoes. All writers have favorite words. An unusual and well-chosen one used once or twice creates a desired effect. Overused words like overused utensils just wear out, lose their effectiveness and in the end clutter up manuscripts so badly that the reader loses interest.
- Prune the adjectives. Adjective banks built up of triples are a huge hurdle for the reader to clear. The slim, intelligent, green-eyed blonde does nothing for my imagination and when she enters the gloomy, ancestral, awe-inspiring banqueting hall, that makes me feel pretty gloomy too. To misquote Animal Farm--two adjectives,good, four adjectives disastrous.
- Avoid weak verbs. Those like seem, feel, think, and the verb to be are reliant on following adjectives and phrases to complete their meaning. He was furious. In grammatical terms, the adjective furious is known as the complement because it completes the meaning for the verb to be.
- Take care when using passive verbs. Active verbs like people are vigorous and energetic. They keep your writing moving along at a good pace. With an active verb, the subject (the person or thing you are talking about) performs the action. The teenager hurled his schoolbooks to the ground. With a passive verb, the subject does nothing. The subject suffers the action. The teenager was hurled to the ground by the earth tremors.
Six more tips to follow next month to complete the daily dozen.
What tip would you share as the most useful in your writing keep-fit routine?
Anne Duguid is a senior content editor with MuseItUp Publishing and her New Year's Resolution is to blog with helpful writing,editing and publishing tips at Slow and Steady Writers far more regularly than she managed in 2011.