You literally cannot show something with your prose. All of prose is telling. We must make an interpretation of her emotional state, which is nice in that it forces the reader to do a little work. But also, sometimes, fuck that.
One assumes this agent meant well. They are ill beasts to be put down. My response, was of course, to go even bigger: You, the author, are the one original component that can be brought to a story.
Your preferred arrangement of elements. And, obviously, your voice. Bad writing is bad.
Use them with intentionality. Use them because without them, the work cannot be properly conveyed. Removing adjectives will force us not to describe things, and while over-describing things is bad, describing essential parts of the story is just fine.
But even that is an oft-misunderstood chestnut, innit? You must use words to — oh no — tell it. Which is fine and admirable to attempt. All this, really, is beside the point. The point today is that you should beware writing advice from people with power inside the publishing industry — which, I know, sounds terribly counterintuitive.
But please, follow the bouncing ball of my logic: Writing advice, as I am wont to note, is bullshit. And yet, I give it. So, yes, writing advice is bullshit. Bullshit can fertilize; it has value. I also increasingly like to make clear that writing advice is nothing more than giving an opinion, and it is similar to the opinion as to how one should wear their hair or parent their child: Nearly every piece of writing advice can be taken, tested, and found wrong.
Novels break the rules all the time because ultimately, no rules exist. A book can never exist until you finish it, and so all books pass that indestructible law.
So, I just want to note that you should be wary of writing advice from people inside publishing — not that you should dismiss it or disregard it. To the contrary, you should try using the bullshit to fertilize your own narrative fields, and see if anything grows there.
But take nothing as chiseled into stone. Make no assumptions about the indefatigability and righteousness of their advice. Simply put, we care about them.
|25 Editing Tips for Tightening Your Copy||Clearly, a large segment the book-buying public is not as put off by some of these things as our creative writing teachers were.|
Great storytelling is making readers care about your characters, the choices they make, and what happens to them. And to tell a damn fine story, you need to understand why and how that caring happens.Only use an adverb if it’s necessary and you can’t convey the same meaning without it.
Avoid vague or non-descriptive adverbs. Ask whether the adverb tells the reader something that you can show through imagery and description. Don’t use an adverb as a crutch for a verb (or any other word). Look for a better verb.
Writing is a craft and, like any craft, it can be taught. Storytelling skills can be sharpened and prose streamlined and improved. While there's no substitute for practice (writing a lot and reading widely), a good writing teacher or excellent book on the craft of writing can be hugely beneficial.
King uses the admonition against adverbs as a springboard for a wider lens on good and bad writing, exploring the interplay of fear, timidity, and affectation: I’m . And so the advice really should be, don’t use adverbs or adjectives when they sound awkward, or when they fail to tell us something that we need to know.
All this goes toward the old chestnut of SHOW, DON’T TELL in fiction. Like all other guidelines in writing, the advice to avoid adverbs must be tempered with common sense (she said sagely).
They are a part of the English language, and sometimes they are the best tool for the job. Today's Chuck Wendig blog (Terribleminds) is pretty entertaining as far as tips for writers, but be warned.
He uses .
Not using adverbs is the bastard mutant off-spring of some excellent writing advice: be precise in your wording. Don’t say “very big”. Say “enormous” or “huge”.