Please excuse any mess around here while blog is undergoing damage repair.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Do these boots really need the laces and all those buckles?

Wouldn't one or the other suffice? In fact, neither are necessary. I'm pretty sure the boots would stay on your feet without them. It kind of reminds me of adverbs, exclamation points, and non-said dialogue tags. Take this sentence, for example: "I hate you!" he shouted loudly. I mean, really, come on. Are the exclamation point, shouted, and loudly all needed to get the point across? Furthermore, are any of them necessary? I think not. "I hate you," he said through gritted teeth and stormed away. Not great examples, but I think you get the point. Which sentence conveys a more powerful sense of anger? I go with the second. I've heard so many writers complain about the rules of not using adverbs, exclamation points, and non-said dialogue tags. And, not to put anyone down, because I find it as frustrating as the next guy, but there is a reason these things are frowned upon. They are TELLING. It's lazy writing. Don't get me wrong--there are times when these things may be necessary, but in my opinion, they are few and far between. Use them sparingly. I can't tell you how many times I had to restructure sentences during my rewrites to avoid these things. It's a lot of work, but it's worth it. For every adverb, exclamation point, or non-said dialogue tag in your writing, I challenge you to rewrite them without it. I think you'll find that you've created much stronger sentences. So, what do you say? Are you up for the challenge. I know I am.

41 comments:

Jaydee Morgan said...

I totally agree with you. Great post! And yes, I'm up for the challenge (as long as I don't have to change my ways when writing blog comments - here I like to break every single rule)

Julie Jarnagin said...

This is a huge part of my rewriting process. I let myself include them in the 1st draft and then I spend a lot of time thinking of stronger verbs and cutting the fluff.

Robyn Campbell said...

I've been working on this during my break. And I have actually been pleased at my result. I should be ready to query when I come back after unplug week. YAY! *throws confetti on self* =)

Great post Susan. I MISS YOU! =)

Jill said...

This is why I love having a thesaurus. If I have to use adverbs to give the words more ooomph, then I obviously chose the wrong verb in the first place.

Jill
www.jilledmondson.com

storyqueen said...

I think the thing about the boots is that some people might be able to pull them off, while the rest of us might look kind of foolish.

Kind of the same about all the extra stuff in writing....some folks can pull it off, but most of us sound ridiculous when we over-adverb.

GReat post!

Shelley

Tamika: said...

Making each sentence pop is critical. The overuse of adverbs, and telling rather than showing is dangerous to every writer. I'm combing through the first few chapters of my WIP and I see a lot of this.

Bane of Anubis said...

Pick up David Eddings and you'll get a plethora of adverbs and different dialogue tags -- great fun.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I wonder if anyone has ever written 'shouts quietly.' :D J. K. Rowling should seriously read your post. I can't read her books now without cringing. Problem is writers think it's okay to make those mistakes because she did.

As for the boots. How long do you suppose it takes to do them up?

Patti said...

Totally agree, which I learned from you. Thanks

Tere Kirkland said...

LOL, I have a pair of boots that take waaay too long to get on. Hence, I never wear them. Not sure where I was going with that, except they don't come out of the closet much because they're too complicated.

Now I just need to learn to associate every adverb, etc, that I see with those boots! ;)

Stephanie Thornton said...

All those things definitely water down sentences. My rule for adverbs is that if they detract from the noun or verb they have to be cut. And I think there might be 2 exclamation points in 90,000 words.

Of course, my first drafts are definitely littered with adverbs.

Diane said...

Absolutely!!!!!! wink wink

The beauty with Alfred Hitchcock is what he didn't say or didn't show you. It enabled the viewer to make their own conclusions at times making his movies even better. :O)

www.dianeestrella.com

Dara said...

Up for the challenge even though I'm generally in a losing battle with grammar :P

Wendy Paine Miller said...

Great reminder and worth it to chop for stronger writing.
~ Wendy

T. Anne said...

This is a great lesson. WHen I go through edits I'm going to try and delete all of those nasty things that scream novice.

Angie Muresan said...

I'm up for the challenge. Up for anything that makes my writing better.

L. T. Host said...

I'm up for the challenge, she said agreeably.

Sorry, couldn't resist!

Great post full of thought-food, Susan!

Karen said...

I use adverbs all the time in conversation, but I HATE them on the written page. They don't paint a picture. They just tell me what would be on the picture if it was painted.

Paul Greci said...

I'm ready to pull out that scalpel and get to work.

Nisa said...

Very good point! No pun intended. Okay, maybe slightly intended. But I didn't want to shout too loudly with that exclamation point in play. (Admittedly, I think I should be taking a nap right now.)

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

HUGE challenge--but so worth it!

lakeviewer said...

Control is what's needed to write seamlessly.

Jill Kemerer said...

Very true! I get most of my exclamation points out of my system by commenting blogs. :)

Tahereh said...

you are SO absolutely right.

AMEN TO THAT.

(preach on!!)
(in stilettos!)
(hehe)

Susan Fields said...

I love the boot analogy - perfect!

Janna Qualman said...

Will do! I'm in rewrites right now, and I will be watching for such things.

Lynn said...

I really like those boots. I'm reading Stephen King's book On Writing and he agrees with you-especially using no words with 'ly.' Great post. Thanks. No exclamations, but really, it's great.

Heckety said...

Those boots are just something else!

The way I see the point about adhering to or bending grammatical rules (except for spelling which is my one disaster area!!) is this: if it makes the reader jump or disrupts the flow of pictures in their head then ditch it. That's how I teach children to write when I'm doing creative writing excercises with them too. It doesn't always work, and sometimes you want the reader to jump- but NOT from your writing errors!

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

Great advice. I definitely had an adverb in nonsaid tag addiction in my first manuscript. In the second book, I was merciless about avoiding them and it has created much stronger writing.

I never did like the exclamation point. They drive me crazy. :)

Julie Dao said...

Yep I do this a lot! I catch these things in my rough draft all the time and have to prune them out during revisions. Those are crazy boots...

Mary Campbell said...

I use exclamation points on blogs, but not in my writing. I heard that exclamation points are frowned on - is that the case? We should be able to convey the emotion without using them.

Nancy said...

The second example is so much better. Good point.

strugglingwriter said...

I say when in doubt, don't use the exclamation point! (sorry :) )

Suzanne Casamento said...

Excellent point. At Saturday's SCBWI So Cal Writer's Day, Rachel Abrams, Assistant Editor at HarperCollins Children's Books made a big point about hating adverbial tags.

If the writing is solid enough, we'll never need them. When we use the strongest verbs we can, we'll cut down on adjectives and cut out almost all adverbs.

And those adverbial tags will seem like a ridiculous habit from the past. ; )

Elana Johnson said...

This is brilliant advice. I love how you called me out, telling me this is lazy writing. Dangit!! I know. *whines* Writing is hard.

And that's why it's so rewarding. Because of the hardness of it. Great post!

Erica Chapman said...

Oh yeah, I've never been one for dialoge tags. My problems are not enough telling... LOL I know. Crazy. Sometimes though, I've wrote dialoge where the reader has no idea who's speaking. Woops. Yeah, that part you need some action to follow!

Great post ;o)

Laura Pauling said...

Thanks for following and commenting. And I agree with you! use them sparsely!

~Nicole Ducleroir~ said...

I totally agree! Great post, and the Lolita in me loves those boots. :))

Name: Holly Bowne said...

I truly, surely, absolutely know I'm being an adverb freak in my first draft! Even though I KNOW I need to get them outta there, I keep catching myself writing them, which leads me to wonder how many I haven't caught. Guess I'll find out during my revision process!

(Okay, pathetic, I also just realized I stuck two exclamation points in this little comment box.) Thanks again for the reminders of what to watch for. ;o)

David F. Weisman said...

I agree on trimming adverbs and adjectives, but the boots would not look nearly as cool without the buckles!

jdcoughlin said...

You are so right! I blog in CAPS and d-a-s-h-e-s and exc!amation marks and other stu## to express myself. And I love the ease and simplicity of it, but in my writing, my real writing, it is a short cut. It is a way to get around the real emotion of a text, the very thing a reader will relate to most.
Great post!