Responding in the comment trail, I got all talkative about saidisms and rules and thought I'd stretch out and natter about that in a post instead of trying to fit everything into the little comment box.
I saw the Guardian article with many Writers' Ten Rules of Writing. It's here, I enjoyed it up down and sideways, of course, and found it interesting and educative.
One problem with rules is that they tend to tell you what not to do.
But people don't read books because of the tremendous number of adverbs the writer didn't employ. They read books because of what the author is doing right.
So another way to approach this is to skip right past the not using adverbs thought and look at what you do instead. Look at why we want to go dropping all those adverbs and other modifiers into the language machine of the manuscript, gumming up the works.
I will now wax philosophic which probably needs a shine on it.
A writer --
(Listen to me say that just as if I had some special hammerlock on how folks should write. I don't really think that.)
-- writes from the heart of the language. Nouns and verbs.
It is natural that the strongest sentences are built on robust and specific nouns and verbs.
If we have strong nouns and verbs, modifiers can be kudzu hanging on, weakening them.
If the nouns and verbs are meh, modifiers aren't going to invigorate them.
One way to look at this in the writing is to go to page 100 of the manuscript and run a search for words that end in -ly. Do it from page 100 to page 105.
Discursiving here madly . . .
One possibility brought up was using just an adverb to tag dialog --
I like the informality and directness of the example given.
I use this form, I think. Stuff like;
Angrily, "Step outside and say that."
Slyly, "Go ahead. Take that next step."
"I've never tried this before," coyly, under her breath.
Or, if I don't do this, it's the kind of thing I would do given the least provocation.
Though I can see how this would drive folks to giggling madness.
But getting back to how to deal with adverbs in a manuscript. [/DISCURSION]
In Forbidden Rose, there are 1800 words on pages 100 to 105 inclusive. I have 19 -ly adverbs.
(So if you got fewer than that on your five pages you have my encouragement to ignore the advice about cutting back on your adverbs.)
This is your case study on whether the writing has a problem with modifiers. You look at each instance of -ly on your five pages and think about shifting strength into the base verb. Is the sentence better if you just strike the modifier out? Is it better if you substituted a single word for the verb+adverb pair?
Here's one of my -lys.
His fingers left her lips and slid downward slowly.
'downward' is a strong and useful modifier and I don't think I'd mess with it.
What about the 'slid slowly' complex?
Would I be better off if his fingers eased, lazed, crept, dawdled, or some other single word that holds the concept of 'slide slowly'?
Is the little phrase 'downward slowly' good enough that it should be kept?
Is the simplicity of those very common words and very common image what I want for this moment? Do I want this sentence gussied up, or not?
Is the emphasis of that last word 'slowly' so useful it should be retained?
I'd leave that sentence in place, modifiers and all.
Anyhow . . .
one of the activities that make the final polishing draft such fun is going through the writing and punching up the verbs at the expense of the adverbs.
We're not doing the negative activity implied by the rule -- don't use adverbs. We're doing the positive -- do fold meaning and beauty into the verbs themselves instead of into the modifiers surrounding them.
This leads to the somewhat related issue of TomSwifties, which came up I-do-not-precisely-remember-how and I have wandered far afield . . .
(A TomSwifty is an unintentionally amusing combination of said and an adverb.
"Put the gun down," Tom said disarmingly.
"It doesn't work," Rick said lazily.
"Fine. Direct it that way," Tom said pointedly.
The term comes from a boys' adventure series where every said trailed along an adverb behind. It is worth noting that the series was tremendously popular despite numerous flaws in the writing. This is because it told story.)
The problem with the whole said + adverb thingum is that you can't move excitement and skill and specificity from the adverb into the verb because then 'said' becomes a saidism and Rule #3 on everyone's list condemns saidisms in a manner so vehement I may never use one again.
So we rest upon the cusp of indecision where we cannot create a saidism and we cannot let go of the adverb and we are subject to just an overwhelming desire to TomSwifty our way through the manuscript and hook an adverb onto every passing 'said'.
Civilization as we know it rests upon a decent control of our overwhelming desires. Every time an author resists the urge to attach an adverb onto some innocent 'said', civilization advances.
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