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Today’s Writing Tip will be coming from my very first Guest Blogger, Robin Coyle. Robin and I met through wordpress.com. Her kind comments on my posts, mixed in with her witty sense of humor have always stood out to me. When I finally got around to thinking about finding a Guest Blogger, I thought of her first. Thanks Robin for writing today’s guest post.
Writing Tip #11: Moldy Verbs, Adverbs, and Intensifiers
By: Robin Coyle
Corey asked me to do a guest post on her blog Corey M.P. and I accepted with delight. She is a talented writer, wise, and all-around sweet person. Her prompt for my guest post was “writing tips.”
What is the best piece of writing advice you received?
I’ve learned volumes since I took on the job of “novelist.” Distilling it all, two things caused me to go back to my “finished” novel, In Search of Beef Stroganoff, and spend hours editing, editing, editing. The advice transformed my writing from “pretty good and readable” to “writing with punch.”
Use vigorous verbs.
Let there be a pox on adverbs and intensifiers.
When I learned these two tips, they really made me a better writer and were very helpful in making me be a more critical reader.
Yikes Robin, why didn’t you follow those tips when you wrote the above sentence?
Ok, smarty-pants. Allow me to rewrite the sentence.
When I digested these two tips, I evolved as writer and now read others’ work with a critical eye.
“Learned these two tips” became “digested these two tips.”
“Really made me” became “I evolved.”
“Very ” disappeared.
“More critical reader” became “critical eye.”
I now pause at every verb and ask, “Is there a stronger verb out there?” So . . .
“Walked purposefully” became “strode.”
“I turned quickly on my heel” changed to “I spun.”
Rather than “she ran out of the room,” my character “raced for the exit.”
When a vigorous verb replaces a weak one, the sentence springs to life.
I am embarrassed to say in an early draft of my novel I described a closet as “very, very, small.” That closet is now “miniscule.” I nuked every: very, really, much, so, and too.” I went on the hunt for “ly” words – adverbs that made the text lay flat on the page like yesterday’s toast.
“She was extremely hungry” became “she was ravenous.”
“Amazingly, she made it to work on time and wasn’t fired” was better when rewritten to say, “She averted being fired when she clocked in at the strike of one-minute-late.”
I kept one blatant string of adverbs because I liked how they sounded together and it fit the moment in the story.
“I covered my eyes in the hope he would go away, but he pulled me close as we danced to The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me.” I was so incredibly, positively, and magnificently turned on. Those Brits know how to write a lyric.”
It wouldn’t have the same feel if it read, “It was an incredible, positive, and magnificent turn on.” Blah. Boring. Yawn.
Slashing moldy verbs, adverbs, and intensifiers will transform your writing. It did mine.
Thanks for the opportunity to do a guest post Corey. You rock!
Check out Robin’s blog at: robincoyle.wordpress.com