Adverbs

Welcome to April and the start of the A to Z Blogging Challenge.

This month, I will publish 26 posts, each inspired by a letter of the alphabet. I get each Sunday off for good behaviour. Or is that YOU get each Sunday off?

This is the first time I’ve participated in this challenge and therefore a BIG thank you to A to Z founder, Arlee Bird.

A is for ADVERBS.

Love ’em or … not.

As a fiction writer, I’m bombarded with advice informing me that adverbs are evil. They are weak and lazy writing, I should stop using them and obliterate any I’ve used in my writing.

Who said a thing like that?

Many writers. Stephen King reckons: “The adverb is not your friend. . . .” He goes on to say “the road to hell is paved with adverbs.” and Theodore Roethke said, “In order to write good stuff you have to hate adverbs.

I use adverbs, I’m sure we all do, but I try to limit their use. And, I try to avoid the -ly adverbs wherever I can. You know the ones I mean.

Rather than “Gertrude walked quickly down the path.

Why not “Gertrude hurried down the path.” or “Gertrude scampered down the path.

When I studied creative writing, we were told, in no uncertain terms, that ADVERBS were bad. Yes, they were evil. Nasty little critters that lurk in the undergrowth of our sentences and ruin our writing.

One of the authors I read (and like) – a multi-million best-selling author – uses them a lot in his writing. His prose is littered with: “He said, angrily.” type comments

“Don’t do that,” he said, angrily.

Don’t TELL us with an adverb. SHOW us using action.

“Don’t do that,” he said as he slammed his fist down on the table. The mug of tea splattered across the crossword.

When I write a first draft, I allow myself all sorts of weak words in my prose. It’s only a first draft and it’s there to put the basics down on to the page, adverbs and all. Drafting is all about improving your work and the second draft is where I try to remove the telling and improve on my showing.

So, for me, I use the ADVERB as a place holder. Remind myself what I want the character to do later when I polish the narrative.

*

What do you think about the evil Mr Adverb? Love him? or secretly want him to drown?

*

A2Z-2013-BADGE

This is my A post for the A to Z Blogging Challenge.

I’ve rifled through some old photographs and thought I would also share some random shots from down the years with each post, inspired by A to Z of course.

Today are pictures of my cat Abraham (Abe to you and me). He died back in 2007 and it was nice to see him looking so youthful!

Photo of a black cat

Abraham. In his youth.

Another photo of a black cat - Abe

Abraham in the garden

Abe

Abe as a kitten

Behind bars

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About Pete Denton

I'm a writer working my way through the redrafts of a British crime novel. I also write short stories, flash fiction and some screen writing. Check out my blog for more.
This entry was posted in A to Z Blogging Challenge, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

80 Responses to Adverbs

  1. I have to say that I do like the odd adverb, here and there, but not in every sentence.

  2. elwoodcock says:

    last year I went to do a talk at a secondary school to a creative writing group. In the Q and A at the end I gave my two pieces of best advice:
    1) every time you want to use an exclamation mark, just don’t.
    2) if you have used more than one adverb to describe something, they’re the wrong words. Use the correct word; not three that are *almost* there.
    Afterwards the teacher said to me, “Thanks for that. Though, um, we’re always trying to get them to be more descriptive and to use more adverbs and adjectives…” :-S
    I suppose at that age (12-14-ish) it’s maybe about trying lots of stuff out. You can hone your methods and techniques once you’ve got to grips with the basics?

  3. kford2007 says:

    I think all this talk of over-using adverbs and adjectives is silly. We don’t speak without them, why should we write without them? It certainly didn’t hurt J. K. Rowling in the least to use the heck out of them. I like adverbs and adjectives. Of course, I want to have my works published so I treat them like red-headed stepchildren, but my first draft is always littered with them. They’re colorful and fun.

    Great A-Z challenge start! I’ll be back every day.

    • Pete Denton says:

      Thanks for your support. I use them in the first draft but try and remove them in the next one. I think some writers have been very successful using them. To each their own 🙂

  4. Nagzilla says:

    Great entry. I’m neither a friend nor foe to adverbs. I think they serve a purpose, but understand why good writing eschews them. But it makes me curious; if adverbs are so bad, why do we even have a name for them? LOL

    And love the pictures of Abraham. He reminds me of a cat we used to have. Makes me miss my Buster.

    Can’t wait to see what you bring us tomorrow. You can do it!

    Hi from Nagzilla bloghopping A to Z

  5. Good start to an interesting theme, good luck with the rest http://smurfdok.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/a-is-for-airwolf-aston-martin/

    Happy A-Zing, Dale.

  6. auntyamo says:

    I’m quite new to fiction and I know I use them too much. But I’m getting there. My problem is that I like them! But that’s probably partly a ‘new girl’ thing.
    Looking forward to learning more from you through April and beyond 🙂

  7. ocdreader says:

    I think every now and then they can be ok. And you are right, they are a great placeholder. They certainly shorten getting an idea across. I imagine some of those fast-plot, action all the time, 2-page chapter writers use the heck out of them. Great post! Good luck on your A-Z adventure!

  8. I am, sadly an adverb junkie! I can tell I will learn a lot from you during this challenge.
    Connie
    I’m visiting from the A to Z Blog Challenge
    Peanut Butter and Whine

  9. Beautiful cat – reminds me of my old cat. Thanks for stopping over at my blog. Good luck with the rest of the challenge.

  10. Use adverbs as placeholders — great way to put it. If we try too hard to avoid them, we end up robbing our writing of clarity and pace, I think. But knowing the rule is vital. Breaking it — another story.
    Excellent way to start the Challenge.
    Silvia @ Silvia Writes

  11. Adverbs was the first thing I tried to get rid of when I started writing professionally three years ago…but I’m still learning as I go…;~)

    Good luck with the challenge! I participated last year and had a blast!

    Donna L Martin
    http://www.donasdays.blogspot.com

  12. I don’t feel as strongly about adverbs as a lot of people seem to. Like you, I use them as placeholders when I’m just trying to get my thoughts down, but I tend to take a lot of them out later.

    Really, though, everything in moderation.

    Good luck with the challenge!

  13. Rosie Amber says:

    Thanks for stopping by my blog, good luck in the challenge.

  14. I understand the argument that adverbs “weaken” the sentence, but I have no problem when they are sprinkled throughout. When writing first drafts, I allow myself to put in as many as I want. On revision passes, I’ll take them out as needed according to how the story flows. As with most anything when it comes to writing, I think it’s a balance. Going the other way and completely eliminating them all together tends often makes the writing dry and somewhat lifeless to me. King and a few other masters can pull it off, but I think the rest of us mortals can probably relax a bit and allow a few here and there. 🙂

  15. robincoyle says:

    As you know, I quickly and adeptly avoid adverbs. (It just killed me to write that sentence with two adverbs!) However, you are right. They can be a useful placeholder while writing first drafts to mark where you need to go back and make the sentence stronger in round two.

  16. Oh, I use adverbs regularly (now I’ll have to check my manuscripts and see how often!), but I don’t really think there’s a problem with them. Yes, I understand the issue of overuse, but then we do that with a lot of things in this life… Each to their own I suppose!

  17. I agree! Adverbs are only good for place-keeping. But I don’t even do that any more. But yikes, was the first draft of my debut rife with adverbs! So embarrassing to look back on. Live and learn, I guess!

    • Pete Denton says:

      Thanks, Nancy. I tried to leave them all out in the first draft of my last WIP, but ended up leaving a few in as the place holders so I could achieve the NaNoWriMo word-counts. Next time I might manage the 50k with no adverbs! Or, not. 🙂

  18. saffron12 says:

    I enjoyed your post. I like adverbs in moderation, too. Thanks for stopping by my blog earlier.

  19. Nick Wilford says:

    They can be OK if used sparingly. Like others said – everything in moderation.|

  20. Mart Dawson says:

    Looking forward to the rest of the posts.

  21. bronbloxham says:

    I use a lot of adverbs but I blame it on the fact that I have an Arts degree! I am not sure if I am using grammar correctly at the best of times. When I went through school in OZ, it was deemed “unnecessary” to learn the rules and construction of the English language… I guess if you can call what Australians speak as English. We’re constantly dropping consonants. Great post!

  22. emilylmoir says:

    I think the rule, “All things in moderation” applies to adverbs, but they do have their place and it’s important not to rule them out entirely. Abe the cat is gorgeous! You have some really great photos of him.

  23. I feel the same way about adverbs. I throw them in when I free write, only to pluck them out like stray hairs when I edit. Great topic for writers!

  24. shell flower says:

    I agree that adverbs usually hinder a writer, or keep us from really writing awesome prose. That said, I do think they have their place, now and then.

  25. Good first posting. I am looking forward to more.

  26. Julie says:

    I’m sure I’m guilty of using too many adverbs. I’m also addicted to commas and exclamation points. I’m hopeless. Nice meeting you Pete.

  27. Joyce says:

    I hate adverbs and tell my kiddos (students) to think of stronger verbs. Don’t worry, they’re intellectually gifted with great vocabularies so they can handle it.

    Stopping by from A-Z.

    http://joycelansky.blogspot.com

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  29. neelthemuse says:

    Great idea the A-Z….good luck with it! Writers must add to their nouns and verbs just a bit….everything the balanced way.

  30. I’m the same way with the first draft. Adverbs are allowed as placeholders. i am just getting the bones of the story in place. I’ll attach muscles and tendons later. I try to avoid ly adverbs. But I won’t refuse to use one at the expense of a sentence. I won’t craft obtuse sentences just to avoid adverbs. 🙂

  31. Carrie-Anne says:

    I like adverbs when used properly. I grew up reading mostly old books and so am used to them, though I have to agree that some older books really do use them seemingly randomly or when it’s not really needed. Sometimes a good adverb gets the point across more than 20 extra words of description.

  32. 4amWriter says:

    I like adverbs, but they can be misused. As far as I’m concerned, as long as they’re used properly then they work.

    • Pete Denton says:

      Thanks, Kate. This seems to be a common view. I know I still use them, but my mind does seem to stutter when I use them so I at least think of an alternative. 🙂

  33. EllaDee says:

    I’m not sure about adverbs.., but I LOVE Abe 🙂

  34. cassmob says:

    Great advice that I suspect I never follow 😦 Adverbs must not be my friends…repeat after me…. Love the cat photos..Abraham is sooo gorgeous.

    Pauleen @ http://troppont.wordpress.com
    A to Z 2013

  35. noelleg44 says:

    Adverbs for your A – Written concisely, conceived cleverly. Love my adverbs. Thanks for stopping by my page – where you will find plenty of them, I fear (anxiously). Congrats on your writing degree!

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  38. Teepee12 says:

    You write good. Because you don’t need adverbs. You don’t need adjectives. You don’t needs complex sentence structures. Let’s all be technical writers. Let’s keep description out of our books and other literary efforts. If we do this right, we can eliminate ourselves.

  39. Adverbs are easy. I remember the first time I had that deep of a discussion on the subject, I was in college. -Ly is just an evil ending. Ironically, (ha) I teach kids to use them in English classes. ~ Rebecca

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