Welcome to Anaiah Press, and the A to Z Blogging Challenge! All month long, the Anaiah Press staff, editors, and authors will be sharing tips about all things writing and publishing. We’ll be covering everything from how to write a compelling story that will snag an editor’s attention, to how to self-edit your novel, to query tips, to marketing & promotion, and behind-the-scenes look at how a publisher operates.
Before we get to today’s editing tip, here’s a bit about us and what we do here…
We’re a small, independent publisher specializing in quality Christian fiction ranging from middle grade up through adult . We officially opened our doors to submissions on December 1, 2013, and we released our very first book June 2014 — A memoir titled A Long and Winding Road by Linda Brendle. Since then, we’ve published 32 books across our three various imprints. We have an almost full line-up for 2017, and we’re actively seeking new submissions.
Okay, so now that you know who we are, let’s get to today’s writing tip…
So, what, exactly, is an adverb?
According to Merriam-Webster, and adverb is: a word belonging to one of the major form classes in any of numerous languages, typically serving as a modifier of a verb, an adjective, another adverb, a preposition, a phrase, a clause, or a sentence, expressing some relation of manner or quality, place, time, degree, number, cause, opposition, affirmation, or denial, and in English also serving to connect and to express comment on clause content.
In simpler terms, an adverb is that -ly word tacked on after a verb. In fiction, they are most common in conjunction with a dialogue tag.
Why should they be avoided?
Oftentimes, adverbs are clunky, can slow the pacing, and are indicative of telling. And we all know the oldest piece of writing advice: Show don’t tell. Therefore, it’s always best to forgo the adverb and use something else.
But, isn’t it okay to use adverbs sparingly?
Of course. But moderation is key, so use them wisely.
(1) “I hate you!” she said angrily.
Here, we have an adverb combined with a dialogue tag. The purpose of the adverb is to convey tone and emotion. It’s concise and straight to the point. It’s also “telling” and a bit boring.
“I hate you!” she said, stomping her feet and curling her hands into fists.
In this rewrite, we’re still conveying the angry tone and emotion, but we’re doing so by showing the character’s body language. Sure, it’s wordier, but it’s much more descriptive. (On a side note: An invaluable resource for writing emotion (and not relying on adverbs) is The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi.)
(2) She walked quietly through the house.
In this example, the adverb is modifying the act of walking and is used in the middle of the sentence. Again, it’s clear what’s happening and how, but like the previous example, it’s very “telling.”
She tiptoed through the house, careful not to make a sound.
In this rewrite, we’re still showing the character being quiet, but we’re doing so in a more engaging manner. Instead of “walked slowly,” use tiptoed, which is a stronger verb and therefore doesn’t need to be modified with an adverb.
Final Take-Away Tip: The best way to ensure you don’t need to rely on adverbs is to use stronger, more descriptive verbs.