Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Avoiding Adverbs and Circumventing Clichés

In November, I featured Jessica's book Show and Tell in a Nutshell.  She's back with a new book!

Too many adverbs and clichés in your writing? I've got just the fix for you.
by Jessica Bell

Writers constantly have rules thrown at them left, right, and center. Show, don’t tell! Stop using so many dialogue tags! More sensory detail! More tension! Speed up the pace! Yada yada yada ... it can become overwhelming, yes? I used to feel overwhelmed by it all too. In fact, I still do sometimes. It’s hard enough to get the words on the page, let alone consider how to put them there.

In Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, she says that in order not to be overwhelmed, a writer needs to focus on short assignments. She refers to the one-inch picture frame on her desk and how that little picture frame reminds her to focus on bite-sized pieces of the whole story. Basically, if you focus on one small thing at a time, the story will eventually come together to create a whole. I believe the same applies to learning the craft of writing. If writers focus on one aspect of the craft at a time, the process will seem less daunting and piece by piece it will come together.

My name’s Jessica Bell, and my own struggles with feeling overwhelmed inspired me to write the Writing in a Nutshell Series of pocket-sized writing guides. So you can learn to hone your craft in bite-sized, manageable pieces. In the first book of the series, I focused on demonstrating how to transition “telling” into “showing.” In Adverbs & Clichés in a Nutshell: Demonstrated Subversions of Adverbs & Clichés into Gourmet Imagery, I deal with another of the most common criticisms aspiring writers face: to absolutely avoid adverbs and clichés like the plague. But see, right now, I just used one of each. I also used a couple in the first two paragraphs of this post because they come naturally, and we utilize them frequently in everyday speech. But in fiction, too many adverbs and clichés weaken your prose. It’s considered “lazy writing,” because it means we don’t have to show what’s happening.

If your manuscript has too many adverbs and clichés, it most likely means that the emotion you felt while writing it is not going to translate to the reader in the same way. So how exactly can we approach the subversion of adverbs and clichés? For starters, play around with simile and metaphor when you’re trying to convey emotion, and for action, use strong verbs to show it happening in real time.

The key? Think smaller details rather than the bigger picture.

Need some help and inspiration?

In Adverbs & Clichés in a Nutshell: Demonstrated Subversions of Adverbs & Clichés into Gourmet Imagery, you will find thirty-four examples of prose which clearly demonstrate how to turn those pesky adverbs and clichés into vivid and unique imagery. Dispersed throughout are blank pages to craft your own unique examples. Extra writing prompts are also provided at the back of the book.
“Jessica Bell's latest pocket guide, Adverbs & Clichés in a Nutshell, will inspire you to leave bland behind and pursue your creative best. With force and clarity, she demonstrates how adverbs and clichés hobble vibrant writing. She then marks a course toward unique expression and provides workouts that will help writers at every level develop a distinctive voice.” ~Laurel Garver, freelance editor, author of Never Gone and Muddy-Fingered Midnights
Purchase links:
Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon Ca | Kobo




Bio: The Australian-native contemporary fiction author and poet, Jessica Bell, also makes a living as an editor and writer for global ELT publishers (English Language Teaching), such as Pearson Education, HarperCollins, Macmillan Education, Education First and Cengage Learning.

She is the co-publishing editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and the director of the Homeric Writers’ Retreat & Workshop on the Greek island of Ithaca.

For more information about Jessica please visit:
Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook


52 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. No problem, Jessica! This will be up for several days, so I'll make sure to keep getting the word out.

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  2. Now this sounds like a very useful useful book. Smaller details makes great sense.

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    1. Shelly, I agree. It makes it easier to concentrate on one skill at a time. I wonder what she'll come up with next.

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    2. Thanks, Shelly. It really does help focusing on one thing at a time.

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  3. Congrats to Jessica. I love this series, especially because she tells us what we need to know in a small book.

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  4. Whoot! Just got to give Jess another one. Congrats, girl!

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    1. SA Larsen, I'm sure Jess will take extra congrats.

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    2. Hehe, yes, I will. Thanks Sheri!

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  5. Less is definitely more!! Hello Jessica! hello Theresa! Thanks for the very sensible tips here - I tend to fall back on cliches because it's so easy to do (yes, it's also very lazy, bad me!!) and I must always slap myself to stop myself! :-)

    p.s. Oh I just noticed you've got The Herbalist on your side bar!! I've got my copy too!! Isn't it soooooooo exciting for lovely Niamh!?!? Yay! Take care
    x

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    1. Old Kitty, cliches are easy. I find them in my manuscripts (And I confess that I haven't taken every single one out).

      I'm more than halfway through The Herbalist. I love the language and the characters are intriguing. The story unfolds like impressionist strokes. I can't wait to see how it all turns out!

      I'm very excited for Niamh. I hope the book sells millions. It should.

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    2. Thanks, Old Kitty. The Herbalist in on my TBR list!

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  6. This is all good advice, and it comes at a good time because when I looked over my manuscript I realized that I spent more time "telling" than "showing". Description has always been more difficult for me than dialogue.

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    1. Neurotic Workaholic, yes, telling happens to all of us. Dialogue is my favorite.

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    2. It's very easy to do. :) Hope the advice helps!

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  7. Wahoo! An awesome book from an awesome author. =)

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  8. Jessica's series is just awesome. She knows how to explain grammar rules and the examples really help.

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  9. Wow this book sounds awesome! I'll have to go and download it soon.
    Nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

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  10. Yes, so true. If you try to take in the big picture, it's so easy to get overwhelmed.

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    1. Couldn't agree more, Liz. Thanks for dropping by!

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    2. Liz, good point. Step by step, right?

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  11. Congrats on the new book, Jessica. Good tips, too. Focusing on the small details of description can help with not being overwhelmed.

    I try to avoid cliches but using the five different senses. I think about what something might taste like, what it would feel like, what the sound would be etc. It really helps with finding ways to describe without succumbing to cliches.

    Jai

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    1. Sounds like you're on the right track, Jai. Thanks for stopping by :)

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    2. Jai, great strategy. I'm going to try it too.

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  12. I read the first Nutshell book and hope to read this one as well. Congrats to Jessica.

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  13. This sounds great! I have the show don't tell one, and I shall add this one to my library straight away! Thank you Jessica and Theresa!

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    1. Susanna, I hope you enjoy it! Thanks for visiting.

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  14. While I hope I avoid cliches as much as possible, for my current novel I'm trying to find as many as possible for being asleep. Sounds weird, I know, but hopefully it slots in nicely :-)

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    1. Annalisa, I agree. There are certain words that we need more variation. My list: walk, sleep, stand, smile, laugh. There are a few variations, but many are either too narrow or too stuffy.

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  15. Another yay for Jecissa. She's doing really well for herself.

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    1. Lynda, I agree. Jessica is really getting out there.

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  16. Sounds like a great book!

    Thanks for dropping by my blog for the Blitz. I had a great day largely because of all of your wonderful comments. :)

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    1. Dana, I like your blog. Glad to find it through the Blog Blitz.

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  17. Congrats to Jessica! I'm not a fan of adverbs. If you use the right verb, an adverb is not necessary.

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    1. Susan, I have been guilty of an adverb or two. There are a few good ones. But I have gotten better about dynamic verbs.

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  18. I haven't read the book on adverbs and cliches yet, but the book on showing instead of telling was so helpful. This is a great idea.

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  19. This sound like a great book. And it is on my wishlist!

    All the best Jessica.

    Thanks Theresa!

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  20. This series is so needed with the plethora of self pubbed books. I love the show don't tell one.

    BTW Theresa, my blogs aren't showing up on the feeds any more. Hope you can pay me a visit sometime. It's been days and we still can't sort it out. My last post that showed up is 2 weeks old. I think google wants us to do as you've done and move our blog to Google +. What if they decide to drop Google +? Can't win with those guys!

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    1. Denise, I think this series is needed too.

      I'm sorry your blogs aren't showing up on your feeds. While you're sorting it out, make sure to post the links through Facebook and I'll keep my eye out for them.

      If they decide to drop Google+, I'm sure they'll make an alternative... like Google Reader.

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    2. Wow, Jessica is amazing! I don't know how she does it!

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