She wrote badly when she used adverbs (tips from the masters #1)



Boom. Mind. Blown. (P.S. Kerouac was a beautiful, tortured genius, but I digress…)

I should stop the post right there and let that quote resonate with you, as it conveys, without gilded description, how to write beautifully.

Be Simple. Don’t weaken your verbs by adding unnecessary descriptive that is redundant and boring right?  We’ve all heard it. We all know it—and for those who utilize the Hemingway App, we all dread that little blue rectangle which might as well be neon for all that it screams “Newbie!” when listing the number of adverbs used.

So—imagine my shock when my brain forced my fingers to write the following:

“Goodbye Nana,” she whispered weakly as the casket disappeared beneath the earth.”

What the hell Melina?


The word which I despise above all else because it reeks of laziness.

“Weakly” is what you use when you don’t give a damn enough about your reader to show them the absolute angst and sorrow of your character because you’re too busy trying to get to the next scene.

I mean, the girls freaking Nana just died, and that’s not important enough to spend a little time on?

Every word written shapes our characters in some way and, whether written in a momentary lapse of reason or not, I robbed my readers of the chance to share some of that grief with the character.

Cue the re-write.

Each shovel of damp earth made a sickening thud as it struck the casket, and Kara felt the echo of it in her bones. She clenched her eyes to shut out the vision of her Nana—a beacon of light in life—being covered up in eternal darkness. Her heart hammered a lump straight to her throat and she stumbled backwards away from the hole, gasping for air.

“Goodbye Nana” she whispered as she began to run.

That passage was 4 sentences and contained about 0.001% of the final word count of the book. Words well spent? Given the visual we get the second time around I would say yes.

Is it perfect? Nope—but I am convinced that if I can engage a reader, respect their expectations of a and do so without making them cringe at ill-placed “ly” words, then I have won.

Which brings me to my next post about why first drafts are always sh*t, courtesy of Hemingway (who else?). That’s in two weeks.

Till then, Keep Writing

2 comments on “She wrote badly when she used adverbs (tips from the masters #1)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *