Friday, March 5, 2010

I Just Can't Quit Adverbs

I'm taking a break from the continuing saga to bring you this writing update. About adverbs. Because they're evil. Evil.

In general, I own my addictions. Junk food? Yes. Video games? I <3 them. Clove cigarettes? Well, I used to love them, now they're illegal. (I also haven't had a smoke since December, by the way.) But I didn't know I was addicted to adverbs until my editor staged an intervention, and then I realized they were everywhere. My novel was hip-deep in them. Cat sighs wearily or softly or tiredly. She reacts instantly to just about everything. And there were other -ly offenders as well. She thinks that something that usually happens will probably happen exactly the way it really should.

Wow. I had no idea. And it's just so easy to give in to the adverb temptation, especially when you're working under the OMG MUST GET WORDCOUNT mentality of NaNoWriMo, which I was with Blood, Smoke and Mirrors and also did with other books in the series (fingers crossed that someday they see the light of publishing day). After all, why say someone growled when you can say growled threateningly? That's 2 words closer to 50k, right? But it's silly. Unnecessary. If the hero's about to throw down with someone, the reader knows that he's growling in a rawr kinda way. If the hero's a weretiger about the tear off the heroine's clothes and have kinky shapeshifter sex, then the reader knows that's a "I'm happy to see you" growl. It doesn't need a modifier because growl is strong enough to stand on its own, and that's my first step toward breaking my adverb addiction: choosing strong verbs. Tough verbs. Verbs with hair on their chests...okay maybe that's a bit extreme.

The second step is asking myself if having that adverb slows down the action. Though I hate writing them, I have lots of fight scenes. I love big, epic battles with explosions and good versus evil--very cinematic. If you're watching an action movie, there's no pause for whether or not the hero lunges angrily or righteously or desperately at the villain. He's going to lunge, the bad guy is going to dodge, and on to the next swing. In writing, it may make sense to the author to add that sort of detail, but that's just the adverbs using their evil Jedi mind tricks on you. Don't give in to the Dark Side!

I am determined to overcome this addiction. One sentence at a time. I mean, it can't be any harder than dieting or quitting smoking, right? Right?

Aw, hell.


Janine said...

You might want to check out the AutoCrit Editing Wizard. It not only finds all the LY-adverbs for you, but it lets you know when you've got too many.

The Editing Wizard finds a bunch of other 'first draft' errors too. I love it.

iamtherobyn said...

Ooh. I am intrigued.