Jul. 29

The Best Writing Advice

12

On Writing

     I have never been a big Stephen King fan.  Not that he's a bad writer -- I'm just not into the horror genre.  However, he wrote one of the best books on the art of writing that I have ever read, On Writing.  He tells the story of the development of his own career, which is quirky and interesting, but he also gives great advice to writers.  This is the one trick I learned that has stuck with me over the years:  After you finish your rough draft and are beginning to revise, work from top to bottom and take out the majority of your adverbs. That's right - the adverbs.  If you have to use that particular part of speech to show your reader how your character is reacting, then you haven't done a good job explaining your character.  So if you write that a character says something "airily" or "smugly," go back and rewrite the dialogue because it has a weakness somewhere. 

     I carry this advice over into my classroom.  My students are not allowed to use the word "very" when they write unless it is placed before a noun.  Why write that something is "very big" when it is better to be described as "immense" or "voluminous?"  Why write that a woman is "very beautiful" when she can be "stunning?" 

     If you are a writer and you've haven't read it yet, pick up a copy of On Writing.  You'll be glad you did.

12 Comments

Misty Salazar

8 years, 5 months ago

Stephen King is someone way more than just an author to horror books, or movies based from his books. His writing is so well evolved its amazing just to read. This is true to what you say Mrs.Pauley why say little words when you can take them and turn them into something more inviting for the reader. It does help to look back on you have written to improve some good work into great writing.

Misty Salazar

8 years, 5 months ago

Stephen King is someone way more than just an author to horror books, or movies based from his books. His writing is so well evolved its amazing just to read. This is true to what you say Mrs.Pauley why say little words when you can take them and turn them into something more inviting for the reader. It does help to look back on you have written to improve some good work into great writing.

Amber Taylor

8 years, 5 months ago

I found this article appealing because I am definitely not a fan of words such as "very" or "really," neither am I a fan of weak adjectives. I wanted to respond to this because I know that many people hate not being able to find the right word that will get their point across, which is why this entry has reminded me of my obsession with the amazing thesaurus. I find it incredibly beneficial to search for synonyms to use when writing because that technique has helped me turn something that would have been a low-scoring paper into nearly a brilliant one. I love that someone like Stephen King can take a break from writing his popular gory horror novels to inform people on the power and importance of good description and vocabulary. I am not someone with a thesaurus or dictionary for a brain but taking King's advice is probably one of the best choices a progressing writer can make.

Michael Renfroe

8 years, 5 months ago

I see the argument towards the removal of the adverbs, but to me there is something noteworthy in the sound of many of the adverbs. The "ily" sound at the end of many adverbs is much different in nature to many other other sounds of English. I love the way it rolls off of the tongue and into the verb it is modifying. But this is only for some adverbs, only adverbs blessed enough to receive the "ily" sound.

Colleen Gigstad

8 years, 5 months ago

I commend you for reading a "how to" book. Though many people consider instructional books of that kind informative, I cannot agree. In church it is most difficult for me to focus during Sunday School because it is straight fact. Much like a car-manual, "how to" books incite no excitment, not even in rhyme scheme.

Ayana Emery

7 years, 7 months ago

I understand your point in the removal of adverbs and how sometimes they have a tendency to hindering the flow and appeal to writing, but honestly I do not entirely agree. Yes, when using “very” it does seem to down play the visual to a point to where it feels almost juvenile but we also have to think of all the times adverbs are used in its greatest form. An adverb used sparingly does create a splendid visual but it also does not have the same affect as writing with them. J.K. Rowling uses them immensely and her writing and yet her writing, flows and appeals to all kinds of people around the world. Basically writing is writing and this language was made to communicate with others, adverbs were designed to help make communicating easier, it just depends on how you use them. So use them wisely and your writing will portray that.

Farah Asrar

7 years, 7 months ago

Very. I strongly dislike that four letter word and I agree with you to an extent. It seems as if instead of enhancing a word's attractiveness, the usage of the word "very" down casts it. However, I cannot help but notice how deliciously words that end in "-ly" roll off my tongue while I am in the midst of enjoying a novel. The dialogue, the imagery, the characters all appear to be more attractive and lifelike, whether they are bantering amongst themselves or undergoing life threatening expeditions to defeat the enemy. It seems appropriate to say that literature bursting with adverbs might be a horror to read; allowing them to appear in a piece frugally just might do the trick.
Melly

2 years, 3 months ago

Tip top stffu. I'll expect more now.
Digger

2 years, 3 months ago

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Alyn

2 years, 3 months ago

offense taken. Michael and I agree that it would be very bor­ing if all we had were just a bunch of peo­ple who sat around say­ing, â€rYou’œe so right,” to each other all the time. (Cue Mule to accuse us all of doing just that!) http://cezahp.com [url=http://ojbuxjklqq.com]ojbuxjklqq[/url] [link=http://nbrgvh.com]nbrgvh[/link]
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2 years, 3 months ago

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shinassis.weebly.com

1 year ago

When I initially commented I appear to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on whenever a comment is added I recieve four emails with the exact same comment. There has to be a means you can remove me from that service? Thank you!

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Listening to the whispering pines

Hello. My name is Donna Cozart Pauley. Welcome to The Whispering Pines, a literary blog dedicated to my love of the written word. It is an eclectic collage of my life -- from my poems to my stories to my family to my pets to my causes to my photographs to my recipes to my love of teaching to my favorite literature. Please feel free to comment. Words are only important if they are heard or read. Just like those soundless trees falling in the forest.

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