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Slowly killing adverbs quietly and softly

When I write, I just write. For the most part, I just want to flush thoughts out onto a page. I worry about revising and editing later. Well. Sometimes.

One day, I tried this online tool called Edit Minion to catch sneaky things like adverbs and prepositions and weak words. It found several adverbs in my first chapter, so I decided to search through my entire young adult fantasy MS of 73,000 words.

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This was the result:

  • Slowly = 45
  • Quickly = 45
  • Probably = 34
  • Suddenly = 28
  • Especially = 20
  • Gently = 16
  • Carefully = 9
  • Loudly = 8
  • Softly = 8
  • Simply = 7
  • Strangely = 6
  • Swiftly = 6
  • Deeply = 3

Yikes, right? But think about it this way.

Adverbs are pesky opportunities in your writing. They give you a chance to write out thoughts in the moment of your creative writing time. Your writing time is precious and valuable, so don’t let pesky adverbs hinder your flow. Adverbs are simply placeholders to return back to and revise later.

Just based on what I’ve learned in my journey, you want to minimize adverbs in your writing. Here are some ideas:

  1. Adverbs can be replaced with either stronger verbs or stronger description.
  2. Rearrange your sentences.
  3. You can also delete adverbs completely, leaving the line up to your reader’s imagination.
  4. You can keep some adverbs. Adverbs aren’t always the bad guy in writing, especially if used moderation.

I have put together some revised examples for you. Please note that my MC’s voice has changed during this process and these examples are from my WIP (so it’s not polished).

Revised examples:

Original: The heart was trapped within the roots, still struggling, trying to escape. I quickly looked away, hoping it wouldn’t start moving again.

Revised: The sharp ends of the roots pierced into the struggling heart, causing it to bulge from strangulation. The scene was so intriguing; I was unable to look away.

 

Original: Heavy breathing trickled down the back of my neck as I bumped right into something large. I jumped away quickly and let out a gasp.

Revised: A sudden puff of warmth tickled the back of my neck, and the hairs on my arm stood straight up. Someone or something was right behind me. I jumped forward, looked over my shoulder and let out a gasp.

 

Original: I didn’t say anything and remained crumbled on the ground. I applied more pressure on my arm, trying to ignore the pain and my urge to faint, and the blood slowly stopped coming out.

Revised: I didn’t say anything and remained crumbled on the ground. The blood slowed as I applied more pressure on my arm, trying to ignore the pain and my urge to faint. 

 

Original: I stretched my neck a little farther and caught a glimpse of something. Then, suddenly, when my eyes adjusted, the other prisoner was right in front of me. “There you are,” he said when our eyes met.

Revised: I stretched my neck a little farther and caught a glimpse of the silver mark on his arm. “There you are,” he said when our eyes met through the bars.