Monday, March 21, 2011
Monday's Writing Tip: Time to Unclutter Your Manuscript?
I've been guilty of throwing useless clutter around my manuscript, but I'm improving!
Craft books tell you to watch the use of adverbs and adjectives. Stephen King, in On Writing, says, "An adverb is a pernicious dandelion to be rooted out the first chance you get."
Adverbs, those words usually ending in "ly", modify verbs. Robert Masello, in Robert's Rule's of Writing, points out that opponents of the adverb claim that if writers used properly chosen verbs, adverbs wouldn't be necessary.
I'm glad to know Masello doesn't completely agree with this. I like adverbs, used in moderation, and I have yet to read a novel that's completely adverb free! Masello says that adverbs, in many cases, are used for emphasis.
Here's an example I've written:
Pam, the murder suspect, walked slowly into the room as though nothing was wrong.
Pam, the murder suspect, strode into the room as though nothing was wrong.
Pam, the murder suspect, strode leisurely into the room, as though nothing was wrong.
The last sentence uses a more effective verb. The adverb is used for emphasis and reflects Pam's mood.
Adjectives modify nouns and pronouns. They can be misused a lot more often than adverbs because they tend to be used in clusters. Save clustering for peanuts and chocolate. Adjective pile up can cause a manuscript to become a casualty in an agent's office and end up no further than the shredder.
Here's an example of adjective overload:
The young red haired boy ran wildly through the warm crashing waves of the frothy, turquoise Atlantic, enjoying the feel of the cool salty seaweed filled water against his skin.
That's just too much to wade through, but the example below is clean and tight:
The young boy charged through the Atlantic, enjoying the feel of the frothy waves against his skin.
When adjectives are used at a minimum, and adverbs carefully chosen to add emphasis, they're much more effective. And so is the flow of your writing. As Marvin D. Wilson said in the above quote, "Less is more."
Is your clutter under control? Thanks for stopping by!