Tighten-Up Thursday

So, after giving one of my workshops (Don’t TELL Me That), one of my RWA chapters approached me about posting a writing exercise every other Thursday for interested members. A sort of “jump in there and support the growth of all” thing.

I’ve recently done an a short little exercise on “ly” adverbs.

It’s easy to tell a writer to search their entire manuscript and remove the adverbs ending in ly. Or give them a list of commonly used adverbs to cull. In the same vein as over using ly being a mark of lazy writing, telling someone to just remove them is lazy mentoring.

I’m neither a lazy writer nor a lazy mentor. I’m going to give you an example:

She tenderly stroked his arm.

You could simply remove the ly adverb. Or, you could think about the scene and the sort of picture you are trying to create.

Let’s say we are in the POV of a mother, at the bedside of her sick child: attempting to offer comfort.

The alien hiss and buzz of the machines would drive anyone mad. Alan was hanging in there like a champ. She wasn’t, but she couldn’t let him see that. She glanced over at her boy with a weak smile and petted his arm. “You’re doing great, buddy.”

Or an intimate moment between potential lovers:

The heart grew with a palpable rhythm. Her heart raced and beads of sweat formed down the valley between her breasts. With a suggestive tilt of her head, she stroked the tips of her fingers across his arm.


So remember, when searching for ly adverbs to remove from your manuscript don’t just take them out. Consider the scene and the visual you are painting for the reader. This may be a place to expand and show the emotion and the urgency of the story.

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