I have a problem with my writing.
(Those of you who’ve read my work are rolling your eyes and saying, “Well, duh! You stink!” But that’s not the problem I’m talking about, thankyouverymuch.)
The problem is, I broke my writing machine. I did it by accident, trying to be a better writer, trying to tighten my prose, but I may have inadvertently destroyed something which could have been useful if used properly, and not abused.
See, when I set out to annihilate adverbs from my fiction writing, I did so with the express intent of forcing myself to choose better nouns and verbs so the descriptive modifiers ending in “-ly” wouldn’t be necessary. I wanted to make them rare and potent in my writing. I wanted them to be another tool in my tool box, something with a specific purpose which performs its function better than any other tool could. A hammer’s good for driving in nails, but it’s a sucky screwdriver. I wanted my adverbs to be like that. Yeah, a screw might be able to be hammered in, but it’s the wrong way of doing that operation and does as much damage as good, if not more. So I wanted to make sure I only used my screwdrivers for driving screws.
Unfortunately, I ended up discarding that particular tool from the tool box, and now, I have no idea how to replace it.
I know I can let adverbs back in my writing; they’re not evil or cancerous. Heck, even Stephen King, whose influence on this subject caused me to abandon them completely in the first place, uses adverbs in his prose. But I’ve done such a thorough job of eliminating them I haven’t a clue how to reintroduce them to my work and make them … well, work. I’m afraid, if I do that even once, I’ll open a floodgate of weak writing and adverb-dependence and revert back to the monstrosity I was before I cut them out. (Yeah, it did work if you want to know – I am a better writer than I was before I stopped using them.)
If it’s not broke, don’t fix it, some say. If my prose works the way it is, why mess it up by going back to what didn’t work?
I don’t know, really. I just know to be a complete writer, I should be able to work with all the words necessary to make the craft into an art. I’m not sure I’m doing that now. So I ponder, and consider, and wonder, and try to think of some way to do this in easy, gradual, cautious steps, like walking a tight-rope. At the same time, do I really want to work that hard to stay in balance? Isn’t it easier to stick to what you know and make sure you do the best work possible?
I don’t know of anyone complaining about missing adverbs in my work, but I definitely am aware of it when I’m writing. No, it doesn’t slow me down or make me do a ton of re-writing. I’m just wired that way now. I re-routed the wiring to get that way, but get that way I did.
So should I try and reintroduce them or just leave a sleeping dog to lie? Lay? Whatever?
Sound off, if you will. I’m interested more than you know.
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