Sunday, May 22, 2005


I'm close to finishing my novel, which means I'm having panic attacks every time I look at the pages and doubting my ability to craft a decent sentence. Obviously I can't spell, I forget the rules for comma's, and my characters speak a stilted, forced, uptight language with lots of exclamation points. What's a girl to do? I pick up my thesaurus and hunt for similies.

quietly: silently, soundlessly, noiselessly, inaudibly, softly, peacefully, serenely, calmly, tranquilly.
quickly: rapidly, swiftly, speedily.
sadly: unhappily, lamentably,regrettably, deplorably.

Before long my novel is filled with adverbs and my characters are saying their speeches "wearily," "happily," "angrily," and with a lot of flaring nostrils and raised eyebrows. I'm picking up speed as I revise, and the edited pages are flying by. I'm feeling like a pro, like maybe I know what I'm doing, like maybe I just might get this novel done and it will be great and I'll win a prize and get a fat advance. Advance... That sounds a lot like... Adverb.

Horror stricken (there's a great cliche), I look at all the pages covered in blue ink and realize I've just broken one of the gospel rules of writing. No adverbs. Great! There's the proof. I'm an amateur. I am a terrible writer and will never sell my book, never even finish it, and that's probably a good thing, because no one should read this piece of pooh anyway. I walk away from my desk, crying and longing for a cigarette (I stopped smoking 9 years ago).

What's the big deal with adverbs anyway? Don't people walk "quickly" or "rapidly" sometimes? Wouldn't a character say her lines "wearily"? Why aren't' we allowed a few short cuts. I mean really, what can it hurt? It sure picks up the pace, and no one wants to write a book that lags. I should just keep writing and not worry about it. I'm sure lots of writers use adverbs. I'll bet Anne Lamott and Alice Hoffman use them all the time.

No they don't, and they write excellently (there's another one!). So what do I want to do, write, or write my best?

I go back to my desk and pick up the pen, ignoring the pages I've already worked on. I'll get to those later. I'll keep moving forward, tweaking the language and avoiding adverbs like the plague (cliche). When I'm done, I'll start over at page one and keep working the language until it sings. (is that a cliche?) While I'm at it, I'll cut cliches and the thousand exclamation points I love to use because they make the dialogue flow by forcefully. Ugh! Another one... No adverbs, no cliches, no boring adjectives. If I stick with it, maybe the whole thing will turn out alright. Maybe I'll finish this novel.

If not, there's always lion taming.