Showing posts with label adverbs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label adverbs. Show all posts

Avoiding the Dreaded Adverb in Dialogue and Everywhere Else

 

Let Tom Swift Inform Your Writing 

 

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson 

 

The last in a series of articles celebrating the release of the 3rd edition 
of the multi award-winning The Frugal Editor



Ever heard of Tom Swifties?

 

Maybe you're too young to be familiar with the classic Tom Swift adventures for boys. Or maybe you're a girl who never read a Tom Swift book nor cares to.

 

Tom Swifties are one-line jokes lampooning the style of Victor Appleton, the author of the original Tom Swift books. People started making jokes about his overuse of adverbs and the unnecessary taglines he wrote into his dialogue. Like the Polish jokes, they were so much fun that that a whole series of them became available for pun aficionados (though they deservedly disappeared—mostly—as people started avoiding anything that smacked of cultural bias.)  The author of Appleton’s classics, of course, laughed all the way to the bank and I was never able to determine if he overused them intentionally or if his popularity survived at least in part because they seemed unintentional and that only lent another dimension to their laughability. But that's a lesson for one of my marketing seminars, not this article on writing.

 

Tom Swifties were popular and funny back then. This is now. I haven't dared to go to the new books in the series, but I assume that this outdated writing has been eliminated from them.

 

An example from one of the Swift books will suffice to let you know what to watch for. (Thank you to Roy Peter Clark for this example.)

 

"'Look!' suddenly exclaimed Ned. 'There's the agent now!…I'm going to speak to him!'” impulsively declared Ned.'"

 

Regardless of what you think of Appleton’s style choices, you will want to minimize tags when you write dialogue and adverbs in most everything you write!

 

Even authors who swear that adverbs are always very, very good things to use and are reluctant to give up their clever taglines can see how, well, …awful this is. In fact, I have to reassure clients and students the quotation is real! Some of the writing that comes to the desks of agents and editors looks almost as bad. Here's how you can make sure yours doesn't:

 

1. Use taglines only when one is necessary for the reader to know who is speaking. Learn new dialogue techniques to make that job easier from books like Writing Dialogue by Tom Chiarella and the third edition (only recently released) of my The Frugal Editor.

2. Almost always choose "he said" or "she said" over anything too cute, exuberant, or wordy like "declared" and "exclaimed."

3. Cut the "ly" words ruthlessly, not only in dialogue tags but everywhere.

4. Learn how to make this adverb-cutting exercise improve the images in your prose or poetry using simile or metaphor, also covered in The Frugal Editor. 

 

Until you do a little more research on the adverbs, take Nike's advice and  "Just do it!"

 

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson, multi award-winning author of The Frugal Book Promoter: How to Do What Your Publisher Won't and The Frugal Editor: Do It Yourself Editing Secrets, both now in their third editions from Modern History Press. The former is the winner of USA Book News "Best Professional Book" award and the Book Publicists of Southern California's coveted Irwin Award. The Frugal Editor is both a USA Book News winner and a Reader Views Literary Award winner and won the Next Generation Marketing and the coveted Irwin awards. Learn more at www.HowToDoItFrugally.com. Thank you, #WritersontheMove, for the opportunity to wind down my marketing plan for the release of new edition of Frugal Editor with this article! Gotta make room for a couple of new books in that series coming in 2024!

 

Here's What You May Not Know About Adverbs

Pesky Adverbs or the Means to Making Pure Gold?


 

Here’s What You Seldom Hear About Adverbs

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, 
writer of fiction, poetry, and the multi-award winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers

 

We are often warned that adverbs can be overdone. Then writers take the warning too literally; they think they shouldn’t use any at all! 

 

Of course, we wouldn't have adverbs if they didn't serve a purpose. But when we examine them—carefully (very carefully!) we often find that they duplicate a quality that the verb itself (or another adverb) has already achieved for us. That makes them redundant. 

 

Adverbs are often awkward. Or they slow down the forward movement of a sentence. Or both.

 

Authors often worry when an editor removes their adverbs. They think those edits will change their voices. Though an author can (and should) reject edits that he/she thinks aren't appropriate, these edits of adverbs rarely change a voice. Certainly voice isn't achieved by using adverbs or most other edits. It is achieved by much subtler elements of writing. Point of view. Use of colloquialism or slang. Choice of detail. 

 

For the most part, I think most writers worry way too much on having their voice changed and not enough about improving their writing skills.

 

Having said that, I worry more about editors who don’t really have the training to be editors. Would an editor really remove all of a writer’s adverbs? And how would a new author know if an editor is overstepping if he/she doesn’t have lots of information on editing under his or her own little writer’s belt?

 

I hope those of you who have been relying on an outside editor—someone you hired or a friend—will read The Frugal Editor in its 3rd edition and now published by Modern History Press. It includes lots of do-it-yourself stuff. I know most authors—you?—don’t hire an editor for all the daily stuff they do like writing query letters, media releases, etc.) but this book also includes how to partner with an editor, how to save money hiring an editor, and how to hire one that is compatible with your personality and the kind of writing you do. Many good editors like Barbara McNichol (www.barbaramcnichol.com) specialize in specific genres, nonfiction vs. fiction, etc. Larry Brooks (www.storyfix.com) helps writers of fiction with structure. Good editors know that it is hard to be an expert at everything.

 

Editing is a two-way street. There's gotta be some trust and also some confidence. The more an author knows about editing, the better equipped she or he is to discard or keep edits. That’s comforting. But it’s essential to know things like agents’ pet peeves. They rarely have anything to do with the grammar we learned in the fourth grade.

 

Essential? Yes, because those are the documents you send to the people who have something to say about the future of your book including newspaper and magazine feature editors, movie producers, and the millions of folks who read what you put out there on the web. So, yep. Examine every adverby "ly" word. And then use each one to your advantage. Know the adverbs we usually don’t think of when we hear the term adverbs (like “even” and “just”). There is a list in The Frugal Editor (see Amazon’s new series page for it at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BTXQL27T .) Make a list of the ones you tend to overuse. Either discard each one or use one of the methods in The Frugal Editor to turn them into more visual writing. Their best quality? Adverbs can turn you into a magician—that is help you turn them into image-producing gold—similes, or better, metaphors.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carolyn Howard-Johnson edits, consults, and speaks on issues of publishing. Learn more about her other authors' aids at https://www.howtodoitfrugally.com. She blogs on editing at https://www.thefrugaleditor.blogspot.com and all things publishing (not just editing!) at https://www.sharingwithwriters.blogspot.com. She tweets writers' resources at www.twitter.com/frugalbookpromo .

 


 

                                                                         LINKEDIN

The Write Verb

To tighten your writing and take it to the next level, evaluate and upgrade your use of verbs. 

Choosing the right verbs signals strength in your writing and creates a sense of urgency for your readers. 

When writing the first draft our focus, as writers, is getting words on the page, when the time comes for revision, step up your game and create a clear and concise visual picture. That means looking at your verb usage. 
Some things to keep in mind:

1. When you rely on "to be" and its other forms, your writing will be static. When you can upgrade to more dynamic verbs your writing will soar. Search your writing for the following words: to be, was, were, are, and is. Then work to remove them. Sometimes an easy substitution works, sometimes it means reorganizing your sentence structure, but whatever it takes, remove weak verbs.

2. When you rely on "to be" and its other forms, you may tend to also rely on the use of adverbs. You've probably heard before how the use of adverbs should be used only when you absolutely must. Let's try that sentence again: You've heard, don't use adverbs they are a crutch. Peruse your work and search for all words ending in "ly."

3. Work to remove gerunds. Gerunds are verbs that end in "ing" and act as nouns. An example: In writing, only choosing strong verbs is best. Which can be reworked to read: In writing, choose strong verbs. 

Now get out their and pump up your writing.

______________________________

D. Jean Quarles is a writer of Women's Fiction and a co-author of a Young Adult Science Fiction Series. Her latest book, Flight from the Water Planet, Book 1 of The Exodus Series was written with coauthor, Austine Etcheverry.

D. Jean loves to tell stories of personal growth – where success has nothing to do with money or fame, but of living life to the fullest. She is also the author of the novels: Rocky's Mountains, Fire in the Hole and, Perception. The Mermaid, an award winning short story was published in the anthology, Tales from a Sweltering City.  

She is a wife, mother, grandmother and business coach. In her free time . . . ha! ha! ha! Anyway, you can find more about D. Jean Quarles, her writing and her books at her website at www.djeanquarles.com

You can also follower her at www.djeanquarles.blogspot.com or on Facebook

You're an Amateur Writer If


All writers want to look like experienced, sophisticated writers. We all rush to get that first draft down on paper, but then comes the time to self-edit and rewrite our manuscripts. There lies your opportunity to slow down, have another cup of coffee, and spruce up that first draft.
            The following points are things you might want to avoid because they make you appear like an amateur or a weak writer:
            1. Avoid the use of -ing and as constructions. They can sometimes make two
                actions seem simultaneous when they are physically impossible.

                Example:  Rushing into the house, I put on a fresh blouse and skirt.
                Should be written:  I rushed into the house and put on a fresh blouse
                                                and skirt.

                Example:  As I put the kettle on the stove, I turned to face him.
                Should be written:  I put the kettle on the stove and turned to face him.

   If you just have to use that -ing phrase, try putting it in the middle of the sentence.
   Then it is less conspicuous.
   .

            2.  Avoid the use of clich├ęs. I do not even have to explain this one. There is nothing,
                 in my opinion, that will make you look more like a weak or amateur writer
                 than this.

            3.  And then there is the adverb, the -ly word. This, I have to admit, is one of my
                 biggest downfalls. I love them, so I struggle with myself to get rid of them.
                 Now do not get me wrong. An occasional one can be forgiven. When you use
                 a weak verb and an adverb, you are using two weak words in place of one strong
                 one.
           
                 Example:  Angrily she shut the door behind her.
                 Should be written:  She slammed the door behind her.

                 Now there can be an exception to the rule for the sake of affect.

                 Example:  She kissed him--slowly, longingly.

            4.  Avoid a lot of short sentences. Try stringing some of them together with a
                 comma. Just do not overdo it.
           
                 Example:  “Don’t worry. I’ll take care of it.”
                 Should be written:  “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.”

            5.  Using a lot of italics and exclamation marks should be used only to convey
                 your character is shouting. Otherwise, the writer appears very insecure. Just
                 let the dialogue and description convey all the emotion needed.

            6.  Another stylistic device that can make a writer come across as an amateur is
                 flowery, poetic figures of speech or metaphors.

            7.  Are your sex scenes too explicit? You may want to leave a certain amount
                 of details left to your readers’ imagination. They do quite well with this, you
                 know. No heavy breathing, please.

            8.  Profanity has been so over used that it no longer has any shock value and
                 can turn your reader off. Now if it is a characteristic of your character, then
                 by all means use it. Otherwise, it is simply a sign of a small vocabulary.

Faye M. Tollison
Author of:  To Tell the Truth
Upcoming books:  The Bible Murders
                              Sarah’s Secret
Member of:  Sisters in Crime
                     Writers on the Move

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