Blogs about writing in general
How to find the time to write
When I was younger, it certainly was about finding the time to write. I had much to do between work and recreation. I considered both these things a necessity (still do, by the way), and writing was a thing I needed to set time aside for.
I did a fair bit of writing when I lived in Key Largo. I worked waiting tables and would mostly spend my leisure time fishing and puttering around the Gulf in a small rowboat I had borrowed. It wasn’t hard finding time to write. I had the time. And I certainly had the inspiration. But most of all (I only came to realize later in full), I had the routine.
Writing in your routine
It isn’t just finding the time to write. “Finding the time” to do something trivializes it; lowers it on the scale of importance. Try saying “I’d love to drive to work, but I just don’t have the time” or “I haven’t eaten in three days. I’ll need to elbow out some room in my schedule to do so.” If you were to say one of those things in all honesty, you’d have to admit you have to re-structure your routine a bit.
And that’s the thing about routines. They are the structure of your life. If you have to squeeze in something around your routine, then it simply isn’t important enough to be in your routine. The moment I realized that, I started writing a lot. That was when I stopped making excuses not to write and started pushing out more trivial things, so that I could write.
Writing as a habit
As anyone who exercises regularly knows, it is part of their routine, not something that they do when they have the time. Many regular exercisers start to feel bad about themselves if they haven’t worked out in a while. When they first started exercising, they had to force themselves to do it. If had to be a conscious effort that broke them out of the norm. But at a certain point, it became a habit–something they didn’t have to think about twice about doing.
Your writing can be the same way. I hit the bed and I haven’t written all day, I feel off. Somewhere in making it routine, writing became an essential part of my day.
So if you’re looking for tips on how to clear out your day so that you can write, you’ve started with the wrong attitude. Yes, you can get up an hour earlier, get your mother to pick the kids up from school, or pry yourself away from Facebook to make the time. But if you go in with the right attitude–making writing essential, you’ll be surprised that you’ll be able to come up with these tips all on your own.
Why Adverbs are Bad
Those evil, snot-ridden adverbs creep into our fiction and tear down our sentences, foul plot lines and make the reader want to send the story straight to the garbage can or recycle bin. Every -ly word an author drops kills a pixie somewhere and feeds festering demons and evil corporations, who use this power to dominate worlds and, worst of all, the internet.
Not really. But using adverbs is a bad habit that’s best avoided. The reason for this, is that the weaken sentences—or more accurately, prevent you from writing stronger sentences. Most of the time, adverbs are a cop out.
I could quote famous authors such as Mark Twain and Stephen King on their ill feelings toward the use of adverbs, but I’ll save you the argument from authority and just tell you why adverbs are bad.
The Weakness of Adverbs
Often, they are used to prop up weak verbs. And weak verbs are boring. Even if you aren’t writing and intense, action-filled suspense novel, you want to keep the reader awake, right? Let’s compare sentences to see the difference.
She ran quickly up the stairs.
Fair enough. This sentence gets its point across. But let’s see what happens when we lose the adverb.
She raced up the stairs.
Better? Shorter, concise and more active. The first sentence by itself isn’t bad, but a whole book full of similar phrasing can be a snooze-fest in the making. Even if its supported with riveting plot, why not make it even better by sharpening up those verbs?
Here’s a paragraph full of adverbs:
Callimus walked limpingly into the room. He was very tired. The battle was won, but there was one more foe left. The baron was in the room, waving his sword crazily in the air. He was no match for Callimus, who pointed his rapier steadily at the baron. The baron yelled loudly for his guard, but none would come. Callimus had bravely killed them all.
If reading this hasn’t irritated you, it should have. Adverbs have watered down a pivotal action scene. Let’s correct it:
Callimus limped into the room. He was tired. The battle was won, but there was one more foe left. The baron was in the room, thrashing his sword about in the air. He was no match for Callimus, who levelled his rapier at the baron. The baron screamed for his guard, but none would come. Callimus had killed them all.
You could probably find more colorful verbs to liven the previous paragraph, but it’s miles better than the first. Not only did I replace the weaker phrasing, but I eliminated adverbs that weren’t really very necessary.
Adverbs in Dialogue
One of the most common occurrences of the adverb is in dialogue.
“You haven’t begun to know me,” he said softly.
“You haven’t begun to know me,” he whispered.
Or better yet:
“I’m all yours,” she whispered softly.
“I’m all yours,” she whispered.
I know. One would think that adding that adverb adds something to the mood of the character. But it’s a lazy way to do it. Get rid of that adverb and do it the right way. Read the next section for clarification.
Adverbs Often Violate A Fundamental Writing Rule
I think everyone would agree that “show don’t tell” is one of writing’s fundamental rules. Often when you use adverbs you are breaking it. Let’s take the example from the above section.
“I’m all yours,” she whispered softly.
As I stated before, it gives the appearance of adding something to the mood. Maybe it’s from a seductive scene. Perhaps the author added ‘softly’ to convey how sultry the woman was. But if the author had to add that word to set the scene, he or she has failed to show it.
A good part of showing is allowing your characters set the scene by their actions and words. Here’s another example:
“Go for your gun,” Bart said.
We can alter the meaning by adding an adverb:
“Go for your gun,” Bart said menacingly.
Now it’s on. The character’s words are a threat. And that adverb let’s us know it. But it’s the lazy way out because it doesn’t show is it’s a threat, it tells us. Here’s how we can correct it:
Bart’s hand hovered over holstered pistol and his mouth curled into a sneer. “Go for your gun,” he said.
Now we can see that Bart means business by his actions.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that all adverbs are bad all the time. But every one of them should be scrutinized. Is it necessary? Is it a cop out? Can it be shown rather than told?
If you’ve written a story or novel, do two searches. First, search “ly” for those pesky -ly words. Just count how many you have, where they are and what their role is. Next, search the word “very.” Read the sentence, then remove the word and read it again. You may be surprised at how little you actually need it.
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