Damn! Those Invasive Little Adverbs!

“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very.’  Your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” – Mark Twain

Mark Twain

Mark Twain

I spent much of today polishing… polishing… and then (yeah, you guessed it) polishing yet again a new chapter in a horror story I’m currently working on. The first draft sounded pretty good. The second sounded better.

I left the chapter sitting on my desk for a few hours… you know, to gather a little dust so I could approach it with fresh eyes.

I was appalled at all the unnecessary ‘fluff’ I found when I went back to re-read it.

Good grief! Who was the culprit who snuck in all those unnecessary adverbs when I wasn’t looking? It couldn’t have been me who wrote that mess… uh, could it?

Well, unless someone has secretly highjacked my WORD documents, I fear the ugly truth is this: IT WAS ME. I was the one responsible for all the unnecessary verbiage.

Unlike Mark Twain, I have no editor to delete my transgressions. Fortunately, my sharp eyes picked them up when I went back for another read. After I deleted all the marshmallow language, I had a much tighter, more effective chapter.

Much shorter, too. If you consider 5,000 words short…

About Kate Loveton

Aspiring novelist. Avid reader of fiction. Reviewer of books. By day, my undercover identity is that of meek, mild-mannered legal assistant, Kate Loveton, working in the confines of a stuffy corporate law office; by night, however, I'm a super hero: Kate Loveton, Aspiring Novelist and Spinner of Tales. My favorite words are 'Once upon a time... ' Won't you join me on my journey as I attempt to turn a hobby into something more?
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16 Responses to Damn! Those Invasive Little Adverbs!

  1. Kate Loveton says:

    That is so true, Janell – I’m always surprised at what I find when I take another look. I often find I can make a chapter tighter, sharper. A fresh look really does help. Thanks for commenting!

  2. I bet your chapter is great! Funny how you see things after you take a break and come back to it. I do the same with my paintings. I am always amazed at what I see when I take a fresh look.

  3. Kate Loveton says:

    Your post made me smile! I just wrote a book review,and read it several times prior to posting, constantly plucking out those ‘unnecessaries.’ No doubt I’ll find a few I missed when I look at the review again in the future. My, what an ongoing process! (grin) Rather like weeding one’s garden…

  4. stacilys says:

    I’ve recently started plucking out the unnecessaries as well. I guess that’s a large part of the reason why we re-read and re-read and snip a word here, an adverb there, unnecessary fluff here and then read again…

  5. Kate Loveton says:

    Me, too! I think they lie in wait for us, hiding out until the re-read comes… then they jump up and scream “Got’cha!”


  6. Harliqueen says:

    Great post, and so true. I always kind of fear editing for this reason 😀

  7. sarahlearichards says:

    Reblogged this on Nobody Doesn't Like Sarah Lea.

  8. Adverbs are the bane of the writer’s existence and it is amazing how many of the little buggers can creep in there when you’re not looking! This is what second and third drafts were made for – getting rid of those pesky adverbs!

  9. hedonix says:

    Then, too, those passive ‘is’ words offer another challenge: is, was, were, are, be, been– placeholders that beg for elimination through sentence restructuring. Writing becomes (oops!) a game a game that can drive you to insanity when you start seeing them in everything, everywhere. My own blog makes me want to vomit.

  10. Winding road says:

    haha! Yes, I find this often in my own writing. Love the quote! I often write as I speak then go and edit the hell out of it. It is a bit shameful how I fill up my speech with adverbs.

  11. gpeynon says:

    Oh yes! I’m feelin’ this. Love the Mark Twain quote too.

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