On Writing Less

Agreeing With Steven King

Last week I finished Steven King’s book On Writing. I won’t rave about it, since his advice is like we writers hear continuously. Should you decide to launch into it anyway, note that that he firmly espouses the vocabulary of the common man. Personally I could do without the graphics, though he does use four-letter words sparingly. But I cheerfully admit that he does have many good tips on writing clearly — and the sales to prove that he isn’t just whistling Dixie tunelessly.

While he and I are playing in an altogether different ballpark — I’ve never even cracked open a novel he’s written and don’t intend to — we do meet companionably in the stands when it comes to good writing skills. One point being Adverbs. In most cases they should be struck out.

Yes, when it comes to adverbs, King is pointedly blunt. He states emphatically* that writers should snip the adverbs, especially flowery ones, and I heartily second this advice. Adverbs, he maintains uncompromisingly, slow the reader down. (One might add that if they are six syllable ones, they categorically do slow the reader down.)

Reading late one evening, I related sleepily to my husband that Steven King and his friends very wittily played a party game using dialogue tags + adverbs, like “We’re having a great time,” the plumber said flushingly. (I may not be quoting SK exactly, but you get the point. They got rather off-colour at times.)

Mind you, a person could have some fun with that:
“We’ll get him yet,” the dogcatcher growled doggedly.
“Here. I’ll finish that off,” Blimpy said expansively.
“Hold still, will you! This will only take a moment,” the surgeon said sharply.
“Caught any fish yet?” the newcomer asked fishingly. “No. They just aren’t biting,” the old angler snapped bitterly.
“I’ve killed five people this morning,” Steven King said horrifyingly.

If you’re reading a book on a lazy Saturday afternoon at the beach and you’re up for some chuckles, you may not mind wading through a slew of adverbs. But how much humor does one want to mix into horror? Very little. Mysteries, thrillers and their ilk are meant to move breathtakingly along, not amble meanderingly.

I’m writing this for a reason — besides satisfying the demands of the *daily prompt word over at Word of the Day. I’ve just finished a mystery novel and, while the story was interesting and well plotted, it definitely could have benefited from an editor skillfully wielding a red pen. I plan to do a book report shortly. 🙂