Saturday, September 3, 2011
Please welcome our guest Irene Hannon
Here they are, in no particular order.
1. Eliminate most adverbs. It’s ridiculously easy to populate virtually every page with them. Wait…why not: It’s easy to over populate every page with them. The latter is cleaner, simpler and more straightforward. Or instead of “quickly ran,” why not a stronger, more descriptive verb such as sprinted or dashed? Be ruthless. Adverbs clutter up writing, and their use should be deliberate and sparing.
2. Don’t overuse pet words. In my early work, people stared, gazed, took deep breaths and frowned a lot. To fix the problem, I began identifying recurring words and adding them to a master list. (Yes, “ly” is on there, too, for those pesky adverbs!) When I finish writing a chapter, I use the search function to find every word on the list—then change those I’ve overused. Over time, that list has grown to contain…well, let’s leave it at dozens of words, lest I sound obsessive. But it’s amazing how much more polished my writing has become as a result of this exercise, tiresome though it is.
3. Make limited use of dialogue tags. What does “he said” or “she said” add to a story? In many cases, there’s no need to identify the speaker; it’s obvious. And in instances where you do need to identify who’s speaking, consider it an opportunity to give readers an insight into his or her character. Example: “‘I won’t go.’ John shoved the leftover take-out chili in the microwave, slammed the door and jabbed the reheat button.” That tells the reader a lot more about John’s character than, “‘I won’t go,’ John retorted.” And it fits right into the “show, don’t tell” rule that helps make writing shine.
Irene Hannon is the author of more than 35 novels, including the bestselling Heroes of Quantico series. Her books have been honored with two coveted RITA awards from Romance Writers of America (the “Oscar” of romantic fiction), a HOLT Medallion, a Daphne du Maurier Award and two Reviewers’ Choice Awards from RT Book Reviews magazine. Her latest novel, Deadly Pursuit, has just been released.