Early in my writing “career” (what a funny word for what I do), I learned to place each adverb with perfect precision (note that I didn’t say “very carefully) in my manuscripts. I am no expert–not even close. However, I am careful about their overuse, and as a result, I rarely have sentences that are fully stocked with adverbs gaily dancing merrily along the literary path I so eagerly trod–daily. Snort.
Later, I learned to show rather than tell. I still find myself fighting the tendency to tell you how the boy ran across the lawn and arrived exhausted rather than show you how he pants, stumbles, and collapses on the steps, sweat dripping from his brow. Gee. I wonder which one is more interesting to read. Which one holds the attention? Hmmm.
Of course weak verbs and passive writing contribute to the tell vs. show problem as well as stand alone as their own little thing. So, tonight I started in on my weak/passive verb eradication of my current manuscript. I opened the document and hit control+F. The handy search box popped up, taunting me to type in the word. I did. Was. I won’t say how many there were (snort) but I will tell you that the number started with 16 and ended in two more digits. in a 125k manuscript. That’s over 1%. Just of one word. ONE WORD.
In my quest to eradicate every extraneous am, are, was, were, and -ing verb phrase, I found that I could cut more from the book too. Sentences that seemed essential in the last cut now stood out as more “telling” and most didn’t even need showing. Woot.
Editing. It does a manuscript good.