Thursday, November 4, 2010

"*ly" Like A Rug

A little over a year ago, I attended a writer training at work to improve our formal report writing processes.  Lucky for me the instructor was a former science fiction writer.  Of all the things he said, one stuck out more than anything.  It was a comment about unnecessary/vague modifiers.  In particular, the word "very."  How often do you say something's "very fast?"  How about someone you know is "very smart?"  It seems all right in casual conversation, but in literature it's just taking up page space without adding "very" much.  In fact, the instructor recommended that we should just replace every "very" with "damn."  So now, something's "damn fast" and that person you know is "damn smart."

It seems the same can be said for lots of adverbs.  "

Not long ago, thanks to the RFDR process, I received a finalized critique of my draft novel, Legacy Soldier:  Hybrids Deployed (working title).  One thing stuck with me.  Or should I say one word - "slightly." 

I wanted to include some descriptor/modifying to add something not realizing I wound up grossly overusing the adverb.  Thank goodness for Word's Find/Replace feature.  It only took a few minutes to go through and locate every "slightly" to eiter delete as unecessary or revise the sentence to better convey what I wanted it to say.  In most cases, the delete button came in very handy.

Monday, I started looking at feedback from another volunteer critiquer and I couldn't believe it, but he found another pesky adverb in Chapter 1 - "quickly."  How often do we do things quickly?  In my draft, quite a bit actually.  Needless to say, I pulled up my faithful friend Find/Replace and began to wear down my Delete key even more.

What's the result?  No loss of real content and, hopefully, something that flows a little smoother.  But that's for an agent and publisher to decide.  In the meantime, I'm going to hunt for some more unnecessary adverbs.

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