Ever heard of Tom Swifties?
Maybe you're too young to be familiar with the classic Tom Swift adventures for boys. Or maybe you're a girl who never read a Tom Swift book nor cares to.
Tom Swifties are something from America's literary past. This is now. I haven't dared to go to the new books in the series but I assume that this outdated writing has been eliminated from them.
You'll want to minimize tags and adverbs in your writing, too!
An example from one of the Swift books will suffice to let you know what to watch for. (Thank you to Roy Peter Clark for the example.)
"'Look!' suddenly exclaimed Ned. 'There's the agent now!...I'm going to speak to him!' impulsively declared Ned.'"
Even authors who swear that adverbs are always very, very good things to use and are reluctant to give up their clever taglines can see how, well . . . .awful this is. In fact, I have to reassure people the quotation is real! Some of the writing that comes to the desks of agents and editors looks almost as bad. Here's how you can make sure yours doesn't:
1. Use taglines only when one is necessary for the reader to know who is speaking.
2. Almost always choose "he said" or "she said" over anything too cute, exuberant or wordy like "declared" and "exclaimed."
3. Cut the "ly" words ruthlessly, not only in dialogue tags but everywhere. You will find specific techniques for strengthening your writing in the process of eliminating adverbs in The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success. This book will also give you some computer tricks for making these edits easy.
You don't have to know the reasons or the techniques for making the "ly" and tagline edits easy, of course. You can follow Nike's advice and "Just do it!" But learning all you can about turning adverbs to your advantage is never a bad thing.
For more help with editing and all things related (like grammar, spelling, formatting) go to www.TheFrugalEditor.blogspot.com or refer to your copy of The Frugal Editor: Do-it-yourself editing secrets for authors: From your query letter to final manuscript to the marketing of your new bestseller, now in its second edition as an e-book. It is available at http://budurl.com/FrugalEditorKindle.
Carolyn Howard-Johnson, award-winning author of The Frugal Book Promoter: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisher (www.budurl.com/FrugalBkPromo) and The Frugal Editor: Do-it-yourself editing secrets for authors: From your query letter to final manuscript to the marketing of your new bestseller (www.budurl.com/TheFrugalEditor). Both books are winners of USA Book News "Best Professional Book" award the first in the HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers holds Book Publicists of Southern California's coveted Irwin Award. The Frugal Editor is also the winner of Reader Views Literary Awards and Next Generation Indie Book Award for Marketing. Carolyn is also the author of "The Great First Impression Book Proposal: Everything You Need To Know To Sell Your Book in 20 Minutes or Less," the first in a series of inexpensive booklets for authors. www.HowToDoItFrugally.com.