Thursday, February 5, 2015


Some people may have read my recent review post on Kurt's Frontier about The Queen of the Tearling. It was a good book, but I am not going to rereview it in this post. I noticed that in the blurb, it was compared to Game of Thrones and Hunger Games. To be honest, I've never watched either of those shows, though I've heard enough about them that I know I would get addicted to them, at least for a time. Again, I am not going to talk about either show. (One more thread then I'll get to what I'm building up to. I promise.) As I use Goodreads to keep track of my TBR list, I went in last night to mark The Queen of the Tearling as read. I looked at a few of the reviews and noticed that several people took issue with the comparison to Game of Thrones and Hunger Games, up to and including giving the book a bad rating. Again, I am not going to talk about other peoples review criteria.

However, it got me thinking about people comparing their work to another work. Many reviewers have compared Price of Vengeance to Star Wars or Starship Troopers. I honestly never set out to rewrite either story. There were other tales that provided me with inspiration, true, but I like to think of Price of Vengeance as a distinct, unique work.

I can understand a reviewer, professional or casual, using another author's work as a point of reference but should the blurb really include such a comparison? I personally think that, from a marketing point of view, it would be a mistake. It indicates that either the author or publisher don't have faith in the uniqueness of their story. Maybe if you are including some reviews on the cover, it would be fine; but in your own description, I think it should be avoided.

You can read the full text of my review at Kurt's Frontier, but my feeling is that The Queen of the Tearling stood fine by itself and need no comparison. Checking the other reviews, I seems that people were set up for one thing by the comparison but received another and found themselves disappointed. In that regard, the comparison backfired.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Those Dreadful, Awful, -ly words

I've been wanting to write this for a while. Modern writing gurus have gone to great lengths to help would be writers improve their writing by giving them "rules" to write by. Break these rules at your peril. Follow these rule—at your peril. (Wait for expected double take).

Okay, all joking aside, the gurus (as I shall call them for the sake of brevity) would not have made these rules if they didn't have a point. The one I want to cover in this post is their objection to the adverb. What is an adverb? I will paraphrase my Apple dictionary on my computer.

An adverb is a word or phrase that modifies an adjective, verb, other adverb, or word grouping, usually expressing a relation in place, time, circumstance, manner, degree, etc.

More often than not, adverbs end in -ly. For example, quickly, slowly, angrily, and so forth. There are, or course, exceptions like very, almost, often, and always. Checking on the internet, there are also adjectives that end in -ly. I'll save those for another post…maybe.

When I was working with an agent, he advised me to get rid of all my -ly words. "Awful -ly words" where his exact words. The problem with them is that they are overused. I don't just mean they are used a lot, but used when they don't need to be used. So, does that mean they should never be used? No, and many gurus will say this.

Going back to overuse. If you write fiction, as I do, you deal with a lot of dialogue. When a person speaks, you want your reader to know the nuances of how something is said. Let me provide an example. Suppose you have a man who has just been shot in the shoulder.

You might be tempted to write: "You'll pay for this," he said angrily.

What's the problem with that. When you think about it, getting shot is not a good thing. Soft tissue is definitely torn. The joint may be permanently damage. Even if it's "just a flesh wound," it's going to hurt. I doubt this person is going to be cheerful. So "angrily" is redundant. Therefore, you may remove it.

Now, might you put an adverb in? As a point of fact (I like that expression for some reason), yes. "Angrily" is obvious. Suppose you want to catch your audience off guard? Suppose the man is a raving lunatic? Suppose he knows something the shooter doesn't.

"You'll pay for this," he said cheerfully.

And that's when his pet saber-toothed tiger disembowels the shooter.

"Well and good," you say. "So how do I deal with them."

If your writing the first draft, use the adverbs freely. Many gurus suggest this as trying to edit while writing the draft is going to slow the writer down. There is some truth to that, though if you are aware, you might be tempted to try to fix it as you write. I think the gurus are right in this case. Don't slow down. Keep writing. Deal with them when you edit.

So you are at the editing stage. As you go through your editing (I suggest several edits.) use the -ly as a beacon that you want to take a closer look at something. When you find one, ask yourself the following.

1. Does the context make this redundant. If no, leave it. If yes, delete it. Alternatively, you can change it and explore a new aspect of the character in question.

2. Can it be said without the adverb. If no, leave it. If yes, try various ways to say what you said without using the adverb. This can lead to subquestions like "is this overly wordy?" If it doesn't look too bad, go with it. If it looks wordy, go back to the -ly word.

3. Do you really need this? Again, I am thinking of redundancy. However, you should also ask, "Is it important for my audience to know how this was done or said?"

Another useful trick is to make sure that no more than two adverbs appear on a page. As with anything in writing, each author must develop his or her own voice. This is what makes one author stand out from another, and it's important for an author to stand out from the others. If all author's slavishly followed rules (i.e. no -ly words), it would be much more difficult to develop and author voice. On occasion, you may decide to leave three of for adverbs on a page. You may decide redundancy delivers a certain effect you want. Just keep in mind, over use will make it less potent when you do use it.