THERE’S MORE TO IT THAN I’D ORIGINALLY THOUGHT

For the past week, I’ve had the urge to opine at length in a blog post, but, I’ve let my blogging wane to almost nothing, so I’ve hesitated.

When I began blogging, I was excited to write. The concept of dropping my ideas in a well and seeing what kind of echo came back was terribly appealing. I didn’t do it because I thought what I had to say was fascinating. I didn’t do it because I believed my opinions to be more accurate than others. I was just telling stories about myself, and I realize it was an exercise in developing my writing style and maybe, in getting to know myself.

I had also wanted to build a platform in hopes of gaining potential readers for my books. In that regard, I do believe blogging has been useful, but not to the same degree as the time it took me to study blogging, learn how to create websites, and figuring out what to say and how to say it.

In the dawn of my blog, my vision of writing was far different from it is now. If anything, I’d say it was cringe-worthy. I essentially clung to the theory of let-it-rip-writing. Spelling, punctuation, and grammar be damned.

I willingly admit, I’m not naturally good at spelling, punctuation, or grammar. It completely eludes me. I have to work very, very hard to write well. My husband tells me he can just see how things are supposed to be spelled. I cannot. Others have told me they just know, almost instinctively, how to punctuate. I do not. Writing has become something I desperately want to do, but almost fear. I’m sure I’ll get over this malaise, but for now, I’ve got writing fever and ague. Give me time. I’m bound to recuperate.

And so, I go about my craft in this new way: I write a sentence. Dissect the sentence. Rearrange the sentence. Then delete the sentence. I’ve turned into my own worst enemy and critique.

Although I may cringe at mistakes in memes, emails, or Facebook posts, I don’t judge—yet, they do irritate me. So, I guess I’m becoming a very different writer than I used to be. Different… and yet, I can almost promise the second after I hit publish on this post, I’ll see a mistake in my writing. Maybe you’ll point it out to me. It’s part of being a writer—humbly accepting criticism because we know it helps us grow.

This is why I attend writing conferences. This weekend is the Spring Conference for the Nebraska Writers Guild. If you’re a writer in this region, or want to be one, you should consider attending. I go to learn about the craft of writing, as well as business, marketing and promotion. I also go to visit with others who are wiser and smarter than I, to make friends, and to network with like minds. It’s always great to see the people I’ve come to think of as family, and I usually go home with pages-worth of ideas, some of which I actually implement.

If you’re interested in attending the NWG Spring Conference, go to the website to sign up today. http://www.nebraskawriters.org/. I’ll see you there!

Stinken’ Adverbs and Why We Hates ‘Em

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This morning I’m sorting through all the random flotsam in my brain, like,  how irritating it is when someone asks, “How do I get published?” I’m wondering if I’ll survive my speaking engagement later this week. And, I’m mulling over the conversations had yesterday at a writer’s meeting about why we shouldn’t use adverbs.

Let’s talk about these dog-gone adverbs, shall we?

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When I started writing, several more established writers told me, “Don’t use “ly,” words.”

Here is where I’ll confess my weakness… my kryptonite, if you will. Grammar. Spelling. Punctuation. Blechy. We hates ’em, as Gollum might say. Tedious rules. Creative types like to dance around the inner-circle of rules and stick out our tongues, our thumbs in our ears as we wiggle our fingers… “Na, na, na, boo, boo!!!” We throw rotten tomatoes at the rules.

The inner-editorial-circle laughs at us because they know, in the end, we’ll be forced to succumb.

Oh, I can write a story. I can come up with a plot and characters. I can twist a mean phrase. But how should I punctuate it, is a question I feel very, “let’s just wait and see,” about. I’m willing to let my critique group point out issues. Maybe some beta readers will lend a hand. In the end, I’ll pay an editor to sweep up the messes in my manuscript. This whole rule-thing gets in the way of my creative process. I poo-poo the rules while I’m writing, even though I know I’ll have to use them in the end.

So, back when “they” told me, “Don’t use “ly” words,” I blindly followed the advice because, although I don’t like rules, I do want to write well, and I listen to those who are more knowledgeable.  Yet, the question nagged at me… WHY?

Turns out, “ly,” words are adverbs. In a writer’s world, they are a red flag. An alarm sounding. “BEEP, BEEP, BEEP — CLEAN UP ON PARAGRAPH FOUR, PAGE TWO.” You see, those folks who simply (gasp, I just used an adverb) told me not to use adverbs, didn’t tell me why. They probably didn’t really understand.

zoe_tiptoe_tritone_smAdverbs can indicate we’ve dropped the ball and gotten lazy. I gingerly walked across the wet street… the adverb, gingerly, tells me I might want to re-examine the sentence to see if I can’t find a stronger verb. I tip-toed across the wet street, or I cringed with each soaking and tentative step… that kind of thing.

Can you never ever, no way, no how, use an adverb? Gosh, golly, gee… that’s mindless rigidity in my book. Sometimes an adverb allows brevity we may need. These adverbs, you know, they are actual words. We CAN use them.

I barely noticed the stubble of whiskers on his chiseled jaw. I like the adverb in that sentence. It says exactly what I want it to say. Oh, I noticed… but I’m telling you I wanted to believe his handsome beard shadow didn’t make me all tingly inside. I could have eliminated the adverb and reworded the sentence:

The stubble of whiskers on his chiseled jaw almost made me swoon, but I managed to act as though I didn’t notice. I’ll stick with barely. It’s more succinct. It says what I want it to say. Of course, there are a million ways to word that sentence. I know and you know I could word it in a better way and avoid that adverb, and maybe I would choose to do it. You see, this is why I say the adverb is a red light. We may want to stop and give it a looksie to find out if we can make it better. Maybe we can, maybe it’s fine the way it is. Let’s not get all rigid and rule-crazy about. Let’s understand why we keep it, or get rid of it.

This is what writers do. We look at every sentence… again, and again, and again. We have other people look at our sentences. We strive to communicate our thoughts in the cleanest, clearest way, so our readers can experience optimum enjoyment of the story we’ve written. And yes, rules help us do it. Hates them or not, we must understand and use them when required.

So, in essence, give those adverbs a look. Your sentence might be far more interesting if you get rid of the lazy adverb and replace it with a kick-butt verb. Or maybe your sentence says exactly (see what I did there) the perfect word for that sentence. Rules are there for a reason, but another cliché’ tells us they are meant to be broken. You are the best judge of what you’re saying and how you say it, but you must understand why you are following a rule. Knowledge is power. If you understand why you are following a rule, your writing life will all begin to make much better sense.

By the way, I’ll never write a blog post about spelling or comma usage. Not. My. Wheelhouse!

All grammatical corrections are welcome. I know you editor types cringe when I mess up. Problems are in here… I’m sure of it. If you tell me about them, we all learn! Go ahead and sound off about your opinion on adverbs. We learn through discussion, and I’m always open to ideas presented in an intelligent and constructive way.Background speech bubble