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-   -   Don't Dismiss Adverbs (http://forums.writersbeat.com/showthread.php?t=57772)

longknife 08-19-2015 02:47 PM

Don't Dismiss Adverbs
 
How many times do editors and readers tell us we must go through our mss' and cut out all the words ending in "ily"?

This appears to be another one of those inviolable "rules" pounded into us by those who teach because they cannot create.

Thusly, this article caught my eyes and I think is worth sharing here:

Don’t Dismiss Adverbs!
By: Cris Freese | August 18, 2015
on Writer's Digest http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-...ismiss-adverbs

Not too long ago, on Facebook, aspiring MFAs were proudly announcing that they had spent entire revision sessions excising from their manuscripts every word ending in “-ly.” Quoting Stephen King (who was perhaps quoting Nathaniel Hawthorne), they assured each other that The Road to Hell is Paved with Adverbs. Well, with all due respect to Mr. King and Mr. Hawthorne, it just ain’t so.

To begin with, an adverb is not merely a word that happens to end in -ly. An adverb is one of the four content parts of speech (the others are nouns, verbs, and adjectives) which enable us to construct sentences. Every part of speech
does something in a sentence: nouns name things, verbs provide action, adjectives and adverbs add to or limit or clarify the nouns and verbs. A writer determined to eliminate adverbs will be a seriously handicapped writer, for adverbs can make more specific, add information to, not only verbs, but also adjectives and other adverbs. Adverbs, like the other content parts of speech, are an essential for every writer’s toolkit; they can do things that the other parts of speech cannot.

The “death to all adverbs” crew also clearly don’t understand that adverbs are not only single words. Every content part of speech—noun or verb, adjective or adverb—can take different forms. That’s because a part of speech is a
role that a word, or a group of words, plays in a sentence. So the role of the adverb can be played by a single word: Joe went home. It can be played by a phrase: I’ll call youin the morning. It can even be played by a dependent cause: We’ll eat whenever he gets here. And, as in this sentence from Dickens, an adverb structure can encompass other adverbials and adjectives: He livedin a gloomy suite of rooms in a lowering pile of building up a yard, where it had so little business to be that one could scarcely help fancying it must have run there when it was a young house, playing at hide and seek with other houses, and have forgotten the way out again. To advise young writers to get rid of all their adverbs is like advising a pitcher with four great pitches to throw only three of them—it’s professional suicide.

Many aspiring writers struggle, not because they don’t have great ideas or wonderful stories to tell, but because they don’t have the words they need to communicate those ideas or to tell those stories. They try desperately to find the “unique voice” agents and editors want by paying close attention to their innermost selves. But these writers are looking in the wrong place: Voice is not a function of a writer’s self, but of her skill with words. Writers who want to create a distinctive voice on the page need to learn everything they can about how words work, about how they can be combined into sentences. Just like singers, writers who want to develop a great voice need to practice their techniques, over and over and over, so that those techniques become part of them, able to be used at will when they’re drafting and revising.

And just like trained singers, writers who’ve mastered technique can make magic with their voices, captivating their readers and making them turn pages. Such a writer’s voice can pulse with vitality, swing like music, create all kind of effects inside readers, compel them by sheer syntactical energy to keep turning the pages. It can only do these things, though, when the writer—like all those great writers from earlier eras—has studied, practiced, and mastered the repertoire of syntactical techniques available to those of us writing in English.


I am certainly going to review my own WIP to insure I'm not doing this!

Non Serviam 08-19-2015 05:16 PM

That rule of thumb should read "Cut needless modifiers".

SteveHarrison 08-20-2015 12:45 AM

I'm against writing advice that states you should or shouldn't do something, as it does a disservice to other writers, particularly those who are learning. I believe the best writers are those who have made the most mistakes and discovered for themselves what works and what doesn't.

Fortunately, everything in writing is negotiable and the key, for me, is to remember that all writing advice is actually opinion which should not be taken as gospel unless you come to the same conclusion by your own trial and error.

charleswhaley 08-22-2015 11:37 AM

Rules are meant to be broken by those who know how to break them.

longknife 08-23-2015 09:33 AM

What the article did was make me aware of how and what verbs I use and if there are better, more descriptive ones.

calligraphy 08-23-2015 11:29 PM

Sometimes the sentence is weaker with it. I've found YA writers overuse them to "youthanize" the narrative, but essentially it makes the writer sound younger.

I usually strip them out as much as I can, meaning I leave some in. But second round is always the moment to strengthen a sentence. Every one of them counts, and so usually an adverb can leave if it sounds as good without.

I think new writers overuse them, I did/do, but as we get stronger in the narrative, I notice they are used less and less.

Just my experience.

poirot 08-23-2015 11:50 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by calligraphy (Post 705256)
Sometimes the sentence is weaker with it. I've found YA writers overuse them to "youthanize" the narrative, but essentially it makes the writer sound younger.

I usually strip them out as much as I can, meaning I leave some in. But second round is always the moment to strengthen a sentence. Every one of them counts, and so usually an adverb can leave if it sounds as good without.

I think new writers overuse them, I did/do, but as we get stronger in the narrative, I notice they are used less and less.

Just my experience.


Are you will to share an example? A before and after sort of thing. Something with adverbs and then without adverbs while using stronger narrative. Just a couple lines each should suffice.

Thanks in advance!

calligraphy 08-24-2015 12:05 AM

Example:

The man angrily got in the car. He frantically drove his car to the old house. He ferociously walked up to the door and loudly knocked on it. The door opened violently.

Rewrite:

The man got in his car, still angry, and drove to the old house, pedal down. He walked up to the door with a quick pace, and knocked hard enough to make the wreath shake. The door swung open before he could bang on it again.


(forgive me if this is goofy, but it's just an example) Lol

calligraphy 08-24-2015 12:06 AM

and this.... eventually turns into a show vs tell argument lol

Non Serviam 08-24-2015 12:38 AM

The problem isn't adverbs, but modifiers. As the OP correctly says, not all adverbs are "-ly" words. And in fact adjectives, almost as much as adverbs, often need trimming (particularly when they're intensifiers).

Devon 08-24-2015 01:29 AM

Quote:

The man got in his car, still angry, and drove to the old house, pedal down. He walked up to the door with a quick pace, and knocked hard enough to make the wreath shake. The door swung open before he could bang on it again.
Ooooooo! How about even stronger?:

"The man stormed off to his car, got in, and roared toward the old house, pedal to the floor. Once there, he marched up to the front door and pounded on it with his fist, shaking the wreath. The door was flung open before he could bang on it again."

What an angry man! (Sorry, folks. I haven't written in AGES!!)

calligraphy 08-24-2015 01:39 AM

I like it better! Let's name the man!

Devon 08-24-2015 03:06 AM

Carl! Carl the Angry Guy.

longknife 08-24-2015 09:53 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by calligraphy (Post 705262)
Example:

The man angrily got in the car. He frantically drove his car to the old house. He ferociously walked up to the door and loudly knocked on it. The door opened violently.

Rewrite:

The man got in his car, still angry, and drove to the old house, pedal down. He walked up to the door with a quick pace, and knocked hard enough to make the wreath shake. The door swung open before he could bang on it again.


(forgive me if this is goofy, but it's just an example) Lol

Loved the new version. Very descriptive and brought me into the scene.

poirot 08-24-2015 09:55 AM

Thanks, guys, for the examples. This has been a fun lesson! I laughed out loud with the weak example.

calligraphy 08-24-2015 03:48 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by longknife (Post 705286)
Loved the new version. Very descriptive and brought me into the scene.

:D Good! It's a quickie, so, glad it made sense late at night lol

poirot 08-25-2015 03:32 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by calligraphy (Post 705327)
:D Good! It's a quickie, so, glad it made sense late at night lol

I hope I didn't offend you by saying I laughed at the weak example. It was goofy, but aptly demonstrated overuse of -ly words.

I think you and Devon did a wonderful job of showing how to improve our writing.

Thanks again!

calligraphy 08-25-2015 01:34 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by poirot (Post 705361)
I hope I didn't offend you by saying I laughed at the weak example. It was goofy, but aptly demonstrated overuse of -ly words.

I think you and Devon did a wonderful job of showing how to improve our writing.

Thanks again!

Not at all!

Plus, that makes sense, since Devon taught me everything I know.

Bagit 08-26-2015 05:58 AM

Quote:

Plus, that makes sense, since Devon taught me everything I know.
Devon has instructed and influenced many here over the years. One might say her teachings will forever be remembered (And it tickles me pink that she still walks the halls of the Beat). Yes, Devon should be the first WB Hall of Fame inductee!
:gnorsi:

wizzy 08-26-2015 08:06 AM

This is fantastically helpful. ;)

Devon 08-26-2015 09:58 AM

Quote:

This is fantastically helpful.
Is it, Wizzy? Is it really? (Thanks Bagit and Calli! :D)


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