Every once in awhile I read advice from a published author on how to write, just as a refresher course on what I should be doing. Neil Gaiman has good advice. Margaret Atwood does too. Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird is a fabulous book, and I’m not sure why I don’t own it yet. I love to remind myself of common rookie mistakes so I can feel good about avoiding them. But today’s advice made a specific repeated error so glaring on the page that it hurts to read my own manuscript.
My adverbs are killing me.
My professors would be appalled. I searched for “ly” just to get an idea of the extent of the infection, and it made me want to cry. I stopped the search after chapter two. I won’t tell you how many there were because I was too ashamed of myself to count them. But it was more than two (which would also be too many).
I suppose I shouldn’t be too hard on myself. This is an unfinished rough draft, and I have at least two or three drafts to go before it resembles the finished product. But right now, it’s plain awful.
Michael Crichton once said, “About two hundred pages in, I decide the book’s no good, and it was a mistake ever to begin it. And I think there is no way to fix it, and I am generally miserable…”
I’m right there with him. The book is no good, and I am miserable.