So, yesterday I'm reading the DorothyL list ( an internet list for fans of mysteries) and I hit this post:
Is there some sub-genre of writing in which adverbs are considered
acceptable? Are there readers who do not find them objectionable;
think they add to the flavor of the writing?
I ask this question because EVERYTHING I have read and been told
about the craft of creative writing over the last two years is that
adverbs are considered a terminal disease by EVERYONE.
Yet today, I started reading a book by a new author, for me, and
found it to be a walk across a ground filled with rocks on a night
with no light. . . . In the first ten pages, I stumbled over: continually, quietly,
fervently, gratefully, lovingly, extremely, suddenly, awfully,
heavily, purely, slowly, carefully, sweetly, restlessly, softly,
softly (again), quietly (again), certainly, absolutely, and joyfully.
I looked through the first ten pages of the second book, and only
found nineteen adverbs. These books are written in the third person
POV. I know that third person POVs allows the author to "get inside
a character's head." Does using third person POV make adverbs more
As a reader, I now have to agree with those who say adverbs
interrupt the flow of the prose. These are books I want to read
because of the settings and subject matter. But, man, it's hard to
stay with a story line when the rocks keep grabbing your attention.
What could I do? My firstborn had been (callously) attacked in a public forum -- I wrote the poster the following ( a personal email, not a post to the list):
Dear (let's call him Mr. X)
While (quietly ) perusing my DorothyL digest, I (eagerly ) read your post about adverbs, only to realize (suddenly) just which books you were ( unsuccessfully) trying to read. Arrrgh! Those are (certainly) my words! ! I (ruefully and shamefacedly) admit to use of adverbs.
I can only say (defensively) that my editor at Bantam seems (enthusiastically) to like these poor little parts of speech, even (blithely) adding one or two of her own now and then. Elizabeth George (who was with this same editor for years) and (surely) shares your distaste for adverbs) (callously) called this editor the queen of adverbs.
But what to do? I can only (longingly) hope that not all readers are (terribly) thrown out of of the story by the proliferating adverbs and that you will (kindly) accept my apology for (unwittingly) offending.
Vicki Lane (who (usually) enjoys your posts :-[
Soon I had an email in reply in which Mr. X told me that he had tried reading those ten pages leaving the adverbs out. It changed them, he said, and not for the better. Then he posited that using the adverbs was a conscious choice on my part, to slow the pace to fit the flavor of the setting. He also said that he was enjoying the book and fully intended to read all four -- and some more nice things about my writing.
My favorite, however was a later post on this same list from a woman who said that she had way better things to do than count the adverbs in a book.