Divas On Writing: But I Loooove Adverbs
Every author has done it. It’s all right to come out and say it: I loooove adverbs. Heck, even as an editor I love them too. Adverbs are an easy way of explaining something without getting too wordy and usually it’s a quick fix to writing emotion in scenes. They make those pesky verbs look a little prettier. Loving adverbs isn’t the problem, it’s using them where you get into trouble. Or overuse of them if you want to get technical. Adverbs aren’t ideal because too many adverbs pull the reader away from the story and effectively tells the reader rather than shows them the scene they are reading.
Rather than trimming down your adverbs from your manuscripts by cutting the words out, try rethinking them to incorporate description to better paint what you’re writing. Show vs. tell is directly related to adverb usage.
Remember adverbs are words that modify the verb or adjective. For example:
Billy walked quickly to his bike.
Quickly is modifying the verb walked. But is there a better way to show the scene without telling the reader exactly how Billy walked? Yep, there sure is.
Billy darted to his bike.
It’s so simple it hurts. In this example not only is the adverb eliminated, the verb is replaced with a stronger verb. Also the sentence became more exciting than the first example, creating a more hearty usage.
Let’s try another sentence and see if we can replace the adverb, make the verb stronger, and describe the sentence better.
The young girls hiked briskly up the side of the mountain.
This sentence explains exactly what the girls are doing. But what if we replaced the adverb and the verb.
The young girls scaled the side of the mountain, running on fumes. They were so out of breath from trying to keep pace with Samantha, the youngest of the three, that they forgot their way back.
The sentence expanded and another was added, which is perfectly fine, and what was being described is now richer and shows the reader instead of tells them how the girls climbed the mountain. Taking out briskly and replacing it with a phrase like running on fumes and keeping pace lends the imagery the girls were hiking briskly like originally described.
Authors are allowed to love adverbs. There is no shame in that. It’s realizing that adverbs can quickly take over your book before you know it. Training yourself to rethink how you use them is the trick. My suggestion to any author is to write the adverbs, get them out, as many as you want. When revision times comes around, replace your adverbs with stronger verbs and more description to show the reader. You’ll find that your writing will become more fluid, dimensional, and descriptive.