Tag Archives: Adverbs

One Day Writer’s Retreat for August

14 Sep

Yes, I’ll freely admit this retreat post is a bit late. My apologize, I’ve been finishing so many books I’m falling behind! At the end of August, one of my amazing writer friends hosted a few others at her house to practice our craft, share pieces¬†and generally have a good time. And oh did we ever.

We started with some prompts. I’m not going to share what I wrote, but the prompts are below. They were progressive and built on each other nicely.

  1. Describe an altercation (7 minutes)
  2. Re-write the scene from another point of view (ie switch from 1st to 3rd of vice versa) (7 minutes)
  3. Re-write it from another perspective. Maybe another character or an inanimate object (7)

I really liked doing this exercise because it helped me dive into the characters. I started with a little girl on her first day of Kindergarten reluctant to leave home. By the end, her parents are divorced and her paternal grandmother was sneaking her father into the house to see her and take her shopping. It got intense.

We did some critiquing, which I always love. I shared the second half of a story I’m working on. There was a lot of good feedback which is going to be hard to work in, but will make the story a lot better. It’s the next piece I want to start shopping around and I need to bite the bullet and get down to it!

As always, there were little tidbits of advice that are great to share. The first is for my fellow historical writers out there. The Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) is a comprehensive set of slang and English variations across the United States and across time. Yeah. Wow. It’s super expensive¬†but looks awesome. We all started looking for used copies. Another tidbit for any 20s writers, my history-buff friend John shared with me that in that time period, people used last names with each other unless they were very close friends. Coworkers would have addressed each other as Mr. So-and-so and Mr. Whats-his-name instead of Billy and Tommy. Huh.

Some other writerly advice for any genre. When most people draft, they tend to include a lot of backstory. Which is almost (hopefully) immediately edited out. This back story should only exist to inform the characters of what’s happened, not the reader. If your character lives in a world where trees are a main source of food, then he should start chowing down on some bark without explaining it to the reader. If an alien shows up on tree-planet, then it might need to be explained

Most writers have heard the Stephen King quote, “I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops.” Try cutting all adverbs from a piece and reading it that way. If it doesn’t make sense, consider picking a stronger verb before you decide if the adverb should go back in.

That’s it for this month. I hope we can find some more gems to share with you all next time we meet.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!


Lots of adjectives and confusing sentences? There’s an app for that.

21 Feb

It seems there’s an app for everything these days and concise writing is just throwing its weight into the pile. But there are apps that are worth our time. It might be a good translation app, or a favorite game (Flappy Bird), but there are apps we hold dear.

And here’s a new one. You’re welcome.

It’s called the Hemingway app and it’s for your desktop, not your phone. I heard about it over on Gus Sanchez’s blog where he talked about it yesterday. The app takes a sample of your writing and calls out some elements of it that need your attention. The name implies it will make your writing more like Hemingway, but I feel it just makes it stronger in general.

It calls out five things: sentences that are ‘hard to read,’ sentences that are ‘very hard to read,’ adverbs, words that can be simplified, and use of the passive voice. If you’re getting excited already, click over to the Hemingway App and follow along.

Sentences that are’ hard to read’ and ‘very hard to read’ are based on the reading level needed to understand the sentence structure. ‘Hard’ requires a college-level reading ability and ‘very hard’ requires post-college level skills. If you’re like me and writing for young adults, it’s best to stick with simplifying these.

If Hemingway and Stephen King tell us to avoid adverbs at all costs, we should consider that this argument has merit. All your ‘-ly’ words are called out, giving you the chance to strengthen your verbs. My favorite feature is that it gives you a threshold to stay under based on your word count. Genius! Words that can be simplified are highlighted and paired with suggestions for a replacement. Passive voice again gives you a threshold and supplies the active form of the verb.

I’m in love with this. What a great tool! I’ve even put this blog post through it so I hope you think I’m using some powerful language.

My final grade: 7/10, Good. 2 sentences are ‘hard to read,’ 0 are ‘very hard to read,’ 0 adverbs, 3 words could be simplified (it’s the word ‘very’ all three times), and five uses of passive voice with a threshold of five. Can you find my two ‘hard to read’ sentences?

Is this helpful to you? Will you use this tool to clean up your writing? Let me know what you think in a comment, I love to hear from you!

Until next time, write on.