I know, you were expecting me to explain your mission right away, don't worry, I'll get to that.
I just started another round of revisions on Branson Falls. I'm almost to the point where I use the FIND feature in Word to locate all the words in my manuscript that end with "ly." Why in the world would I take the time to do that you ask? Because as Stephen King says, "The road to hell is paved with adverbs," and most words that end in "ly" are adverbs.
*Cue the "Mission Impossible" theme music now*
When I get to the point that I feel a manuscript is close to querying, I always go through it to see if the adverbs I've used add to the sentence and if they don't, I try to get rid of them. There's no way to take all of the adverbs out of a manuscript, and they're not all bad. The adverbs I'm talking about are the ones that stick out like a sore thumb...the ones that make a reader want to scream because the constant use of adverbs in place of descriptions makes it hard for the reader to connect to the story. The ones I notice the most when I read are adverbs used as part of dialogue tags.
I'm not sure why, but adverb overload seems to be common in the YA genre. Before Amazing Ashley got her red pen out to edit Eternal Starling, I had a lot of lines of dialogue ending with things like, 'she said, obviously,' and 'he said, frantically.' For me, the adverb dialogue tags were a result of my inexperience as a novelist and I was able to learn from that mistake and improve my writing skills.
Ashley gave me some good advice for how to fix the problem in later drafts and other WIPs. She told me I need to write how a character's emotions are reflected in their actions and show how the character is feeling instead of telling it. The show, don't tell line is one I've heard a lot, but no one has ever been able to explain to me as well as Ashley did when she suggested I watch the TV show "Lie To Me." I couldn't believe how much it helped to watch the show and see how facial expressions and body language were analyzed to figure out how a person was feeling. Now I'm a lot better at descriptions and as I write, I can see how the character's body is reacting in my mind. Here's an example...
Instead of saying:
"Who do you think you are?" she asked, angrily."
I think of the character and envision how they would really react in the situation, then I try to write that.
She folded her arms across her chest, her fingers digging into her skin like she was trying to hold back a punch. The muscles in her shoulders tensed as she pulled her brows into a dark glare and asked, "Who do you think you are?"
See the difference? Unlike the vague first example, the second example offers a physical description to explain how the character is feeling instead of just telling the reader the character is angry. You can go into a lot more detail than I did but to me, the second example is much more interesting and gives the reader a better idea of the character, her actions, and her feelings. The detail in the second example creates an image in the mind of the reader, and helps them identify with the character. It also makes the character more believable.
So, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to go through your manuscript and get rid of the adverbs that aren't needed.
Speaking of characters...I better get back to my revisions. Drop me a line in the comments and tell me what you think about adverbs. :)