Authors Answer 6: Which mistake or bad habit in writing is the most difficult for you to stop doing?

January 6, 2016 AuthorsAnswer 0

Adverbs. I know they’re supposed to be a Very Bad Thing, but there are so many situations where a judiciously placed adverb can save a world of verbiage. I’m all for expressing myself briefly and succinctly and efficiently and all those other —ly words. And I’ll also hold my hand up for that other cardinal sin, the adverb used in a dialogue tag, she said shamefacedly. Yes, folks, my characters sometimes speak softly instead of whispering, and they sometimes speak coldly or bracingly or icily or gently as well. My bad.

But here’s the thing. Part of the skill of an author is in not boring the reader, and that’s not just in the plot. It also means including plenty of variety in the writing, so that a long succession of ‘he said… she said…’ is broken up by an action beat, or, dare I say it, by tossing in an adverb. Just as you wouldn’t write a three-page wall of exposition (well, I wouldn’t, although some writers do), so it seems sensible to introduce variety into dialogue, too.

Well, that’s my excuse, anyway.

Footnote: Authors Answer is the brainchild of blogger Jay Dee Archer, of I Read Encyclopedias For Fun. You can read the answers to this question by his eclectic bunch of authors here. More recently, Erica Dakin, of the Theft And Sorcery blog, has been answering the questions independently. You can read her answer to this question here.

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