I want to discuss what I think is the most challenging aspect of writing a book. The hell-bent task of editing. Every writer's worst nightmare. The article includes the use of adverbs, clichés, adjectives, pronouns, repetitive sentences, active/passive voice and dangling modifiers. Oh, yes indeed!
What can I say? It is a nightmare unless you consciously know what you are looking for in terms of the editing process. So, the more you stare at those words on the page, be aware of common mistakes, find a professional editor or invest in a technological aid such as Grammarly for on-the-spot checks or ProWritingAid for a thorough edit. I am sure my first book still needs another proofread because the learning process never ends.
An adverb modifies a verb (he sings loudly) adjective (very loud) or another adverb (ended too loudly) or even a whole sentence (unfortunately, the music was too/really loud). Most end in ‘ly’. But are adverbs really (whoops I just used one here) that bad? We have a natural propensity to overuse these words in our everyday speech and writing. Therefore, an awareness of the different types of adverbs is essential for editing your book. Unless you can afford a professional editor, I think the average human does not have the skills to identify our misuse of adverbs. After many edits of my first book, I invested in ProWritingAid. What a difference. Sentences are not as ‘sticky’, most of my adverbs are gone, and it forces one to revise and rewrite description. However, I do like the careful use of adverbs to make a point i.e. the deadly silence.
Personally (Damn – another adverb). I will start again. The use of too many clichés (Wait! Another adverb). I will start again. When I first read about the creative writing process, “show not tell” is the most common advice and to avoid clichés like the plague. I stay away from clichés as much as possible, rely on short sentences to create tension and drama, longer sentences to highlight suspense and original description to make a lasting impression on the reader. Avoid popular phrases/clichés and find another way to describe the situation. The French poet Gerard de Nerval states, "The first man who compared a woman to a rose was a poet, the second, an imbecile." I describe the love of my main character for a woman to a poppy. Thank God, I never used a rose!
Show Not Tell (and not a cliché in sight)
“Dismissing the thought, I roll over and spoon into her back, caressing her soft skin with my fingers. The sensation of extreme pleasure is instantaneous as my body responds. The euphoric but abnormal sexual desire for this woman is disturbing. She is like an addictive narcotic drug derived from the milky, sap-like substance hidden inside the seedpods of the enchanting yet addictive opium poppy — such intoxicating beauty. Kristina stirs, responding to my touch. I lose myself in our lovemaking, high from my drug-infused fix. For a while, we enjoy the feeling, not saying a word. She is the first to break the silence.”
The advice to “show not tell” is where writers over-describe using too many adjectives. When I want to make a point, I may use several adjectives together but this is rare (long, slow, lingering kiss). I also remember one of my proofreaders saying I had redundant adjectives. For example, frozen ice. Ice is frozen. As nightfall crept over the village, the dark sky... (The sky is dark at night). As such, I like to keep adjectives to a minimum.
There are apparently (adverb alert!) five different categories of pronouns. First person (plural), second person (plural), third person female, third person male, third person and third person plural (I, he, she, me, you, her, him, it, its,us, them. myself, yourself, ourselves and so on). I wrote Out Of The Dark in the first person present/first person past and used multiple narrators. That caused a lot of grief in terms of tenses and the use of pronouns. For my second book (Into The Light), I stick to the first person present which simplifies the writing process. Hallelujah!
Out with the repetitive use of words (thesaurus sorts this one out), pronouns also contribute to this dilemma. I remember looking over paragraphs and found a huge amount of repetitive words such as “she”, “her”, “me”, “him”, “it”, “his” and adverbs “really”, “deadly”, “very”, “such”, “too” and joining words “but”, “and”, “then”. Aaarrggghhh! It drives you mad. If you cannot afford an editor, please invest in an editing tool. It picks up on these repetitions, especially (adverb alert but this one I will keep for emphasis) at the beginning of sentences. Mix and match at the start of each sentence to vary the text.
This is a simple rule of subject, verb, object (active voice) versus object, verb, subject (passive voice). Sentences in the active voice are stronger than the passive voice.
Arthur (subject) kicked (verb) the ball (object).
The ball (object) was kicked (verb) by Arthur (subject).
Try and write in the active voice as much as possible.
Words ending in ‘ing’ at the start of a sentence are my worst nightmare because I use them a lot (not sure why?). Try to keep these to a minimum. I will use a few examples to highlight whether or not this works.
Dismissing (dangling modifier) the thought, I roll over and spoon into her back.
Taking (dangling modifier) off my gloves, I type in the phone number.
Dismissing the thought works because the person can do that and roll over.
If the person is taking off gloves, then he/she is unable to type in a number at the same time.