Monday, November 27, 2006

I'm delighted (but not actually, incredibly, or amazingly)

I’m editing today.

In preparation, I began my morning by reading a few pages from the book of Acts, hoping to bolster my faith in miracles. Then (in what may be an atypical transition) I picked up a book by Stephen King.

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs,” he said, and I believe him. I opened my manuscript and typed “LY” into the FIND option, to see what I could see.

Oh. My. God. (And I mean that in the most reverent, deity-acknowledging, flat-out grateful I was blind and now I see kind of way). I eliminated an embarrassing 1,064 adverbs from my manuscript, at least 300 of which were the word “actually.” I never realized this before, but if “actually” lit up in neon orange each time I typed it, my pages would read like a tribute to pumpkin pie.

To all my writing friends wrestling with pudgy manuscripts – Use the FIND tool. Type “LY.” Delete. It will change your life.

16 comments:

Jenny Rough said...

My writing teacher drops the "ly" but keeps the rest of the word (e.g., she walked slow). Depending, it can make for some cool writing (but I'm not sure "actual" would work, hee hee)

Amanda Brice said...

The find command is my friend. Yeah, adverbs are my death, too. I use "seriously" "actually" and "basically" way too often. And "just."

Anonymous said...

Good advice, Trish. I've been trying to consciously keep them at bay in this manuscript, but I have to admit...I kinda like 'em. Is that wrong?

Karitown said...

Gotta love those adverbs. They are a killer.

b/sistersshoes said...

Nooooo, I love adverbs! ;)

Okay, I admit it...I use them way too much! Shucks!

xxx darlene :D

LEstes65 said...

I'm not writing a book. But I laughed when reading this. In IM sessions with my boss, I punctuate my indignant frustration with idiots at work with "Honestly!" all the time. The other favorite is "seriously". Honestly, I have to seriously reassess my IM sessions.

Deb R said...

Actually, I'm totally guilty of Excessive Adverbitis too. Seriously. Amazingly! :-)

Swishy said...

Ugh. I'm scared to do that. I don't do it with dialogue, but I'm sure there are scores elsewhere.

So ... you gonna hit that deadline?

Beck said...

Adverbs. I'm never quite sure which ones they are. Because I am dumb.

Trish Ryan said...

Beck - you are SO not dumb (or at the very least, you're not dumber than me. Not sure that's such a reassurance, but there you have it!)

I know what adverbs are because Stephen King explained them, right after he said that they pave the road to hell. They end in "LY" and modify the verb.

"I'm trying DESPERATELY to avoid adverbs, but I'm failing MISERABLY."

When you're over your word count (like I am), it's best to say "I'm trying to avoid adverbs, but I'm failing." and call it a day :)

Jess Riley said...

Wow! :) A past crit partner of mine told me I used a certain verb far too much in RWLR, and now that I want to reference it I can't remember it, of course. I do know it was a bizarre word not commonly used.

Great reminder, though! And yaay for the editing stage!!!

Kim Stagliano said...

I did a find search on two swears in my MS. YIKES! Replace! Replace! I'm off to try adverbs, but don't tell LOLLY! (For those of you who recall School House Rock.)

Anonymous said...

Are you finished with the rest of it?

Actually?

Way to progress! I am at about 25,000 words. Yikes.

Manic Mom said...

OK, I'm going to do this right now, even though I think I did it a long time ago... I'll let you know the results! Scared!

Manic Mom said...

Okay, just did it. over 1,000, but there were legit words there that weren't adverbs, like probably, really, slowly... maybe I should rethink this though...

ellesappelle said...

:) That's incredibly funny, but could also be construed as incredibly scary at the same time. I will have to take the 'LY' test sometime soon.