Tuesday, April 1, 2014

TUESDAY TIPS: Unsuddenly

I AM NOT THE FIRST writer to say it, and I will not be the last, but I am not a great fan of adverbs in novels. They can be used in moderation, certainly (see? there's one!), but an overabundance of adverbs is a sign of a writer who is trying to run a marathon on a crutch.
   Some adverbs are worse than others. To me, the king of adverbial laziness is the word, "suddenly," a word so useless that it merited half a rule in Elmore Leonard's famous ten rules of good writing.   
   Don't believe me? Try this experiment ...
   Open your work-in-progress, do a global search for "suddenly," find the offending sentence and take the word out. I rarely (yep, another adverb) make absolute statements, but I can tell you this: in my own work, I have never seen a sentence that was not improved by its removal. In fact, I am so convinced of the utter lack of value of "suddenly" that, in the style sheets I provide to my copyeditors, I ask them to remove any instance of "suddenly" in my work, and replace it with ... nothing.
   Try it in your own work. I bet you'll like it. And if you disagree, or agree enthusiastically (okay, I did that one on purpose), the "comments" section below is open for your response.

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