I’ve had a ‘multi-skilled’ work career … the fault of a constant need to be challenged, and possibly a rebellious streak that makes me, in perfect Leo-like logic bend the rules – to do it ‘my way’. My way or the highway, sort of thing. … Continue reading The Death of Childhood?
Tag: Australian children’s authors and illustrators
To ADVERB or NOT? That is the question.
Have you ever succumbed to the temptation of not trusting verbs to do their job? Like if your hero ‘walked slowly down the road‘ when he could’ve trudged, ambled, plodded, tramped, staggered, crawled … you get the picture?
Maybe you’ve become a bit of a writer-ly ‘adverb-Nazi’? Scouring your manuscripts of those haughty, naughty adverbs? Sniffing them out in a Search and Destroy mission with the touch of a key? Noticing when other writers do ‘it‘?
There’s no doubt being choosy about if and when to use adverbs improves your writing – if you find the right, potent verb for the occasion.
In his book, Writing Tools – 50 Essential Strategies For Every Writer, Roy Peter Clark pins it down..
‘At their best, adverbs spice up a verb or adjective, at their worst, they express a meaning already contained in it …
The accident totally severed the boy’s arm.
The blast completely destroyed the church office….’
Now see how much better the sentence is without the offending adverb. As Clark notes, ‘the deletion shortens the sentence, sharpens the point, and creates elbow room for the verb’.
But the war on ADVERBS doesn’t necessarily mean not using them at all. There are GOOD ADVERBS and BAD ADVERBS as Clark suggests…
‘She smiled sadly’ is more potent than ‘She smiled happily’. And the best one of his examples … remember Roberta Flack singing ‘Killing Me Softly‘? It would never have worked with ‘Killing Me Fiercely’.
i.e. if your adverb contains the same meaning as the verb, it appears weak. If it changes the meaning, it’s strong. In other words, there are adverbs that intensify the verb rather than modify it.’
But this blog isn’t about killing off adverbs – I would suggest be sparing in their use though.
Some in the writing world champion the cause of poor old ADVERB. For example, British author, David Hewson (the Nick Costa series) says:
‘Adverb-hate is one of those automatic ‘never do this’ rules you meet in writing schools and at book conventions from time to time.
I hate ‘never do’ rules in creative fiction. We’re trying to produce works of the imagination here, not business plans.
Furthermore adverb-hate is very localised, an American habit, one some people lay at the door of Hemingway (though whether that’s true or not I’ve no idea).
I’d never heard of this ‘rule’ before I started going to talk at writing schools in the States. And I have to be honest… no reader and certainly no editor anywhere has ever voiced the opinion that adverbs are so, like, nineteenth century, dude.’
Hewson once wrote a blog article ‘I like adverbs: there I’ve said it boldly’, but I can’t find the link now. David Hewson makes other interesting and relevant points in his blog. ‘If you like reading and thinking about the English language and the craft of writing, these two authors and commentators are worth searching out,’ she says, enthusiastically and eagerly.
“Adverbs exist because, used properly, they bring something to writing and have done since we learned to communicate beyond grunts.”
What are your thoughts on the use of adverbs in our fiction writing?
Finding your story … easier said than done
Some people are much more comfortable writing first drafts, rushing along like a fully-laden diesel train, without stopping until the end to check the load. Me, I’m like that little old red, steam engine that could … you know the one, I think I can, I think I can…. ad nuaseum … chugging along, steadily, checking for damage to the undercarriage along the way.
Yes, I can’t help but edit as I go. It’s not the final edit – oh no, that’s a long way off. I’ve been so fortunate though – 4 weeks of being able to charge into the first draft for my new novel with no restrictions on my writing time (except I’ve only got one more week left here at the May Gibbs Children’s Literature Trust‘s apartment in Norwood, Adelaide). This freedom is exactly what an author needs!
My story, VIVALDI’S ANGEL is taking shape … ever so slowly. I’m up to chapter 12 now. By the end of my fellowship residency next Friday, I hope to be close to the end of a first draft.If I’m not it won’t matter – I do have an ending in mind, and a bit of a road map on how to get there. It’s just that my character, Caterina is showing signs of definitely leading the way, and too bad about any map I have already! Which, for a writer is a good thing.I have a rough plan of the story. I have lots of scenes I can write before joining them together. I write a rough, hand written copy in my story journal first … then add it to the computer (great for limbering the plotting part of the brain). All sorts of lateral thinking comes during this process.
I have Caterina’s imagined face and Antonio Vivaldi’s known one (did you know he had red hair beneath that wig?) on my drawing board. Plus several images of paintings of Venice and the Venetians back in the 1700s. And of course, I listen to Vivaldi’s music.
I long to finish this first draft! It’s difficult! I’m sure I’ve said this before. I LOVE the editing and rewrite stages. And all those little doubts linger like they do in many writers’ minds … is this story good enough? Will a publisher love it like I do? Will they GET my writing style. Yes, my style is different, but if I wrote like Andy Griffith, Kate Forsyth or Michael Gerard Bauer, it wouldn’t be a Sheryl Gwyther story would it? Viva la difference. Sorry about using your name in vain there, Michael!! I love reading your stories!
The only thing I can control at this stage is my own perseverance. Here’s my mantra …
I WILL finish this story.
I WILL stay confident it’s the bones of a great story!
I WILL try to write without stopping to edit constantly what I’ve written
Ha, fat chance! You’re such a control freak, Gwyther!That’s the muse on my shoulder talking, not me. I don’t think I’m a control freak at all. My desk isn’t tidy, is it? I just have a tidy brain, that’s all.
SCBWI Queensland authors’ and illustrators’ exhibition
Have you ever wondered how authors and illustrators get their ideas? Or about the process involved to bring a new book to life? In this National Year of Reading 2012, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Queensland (SCBWI) have collated a special exhibition…
JOURNEY OF A BOOK: Celebrating books, from idea to publication
The exhibit is in the Brisbane Square Library, George Street, Brisbane. It features the work of 18 children’s authors and illustrators from south-east Queensland and contains original manuscripts, objects of inspiration, images and the published books and illustrations. Exhibitors include authors, David McRobbie, Nette Hilton, Prue Mason, Pam Rushby, Josie Montano and other well-known local authors and illustrators.
WHERE: Display cabinets and both wall spaces, Level 2, Brisbane Square Library, George Street, Brisbane.