Manuscript Writing

I’m two classes into my manuscript writing class that I’m taking at the community college.  Leave it to me to take such a class AFTER I’ve completed one manuscript and am 60 pages into another one 🙂

In the last class, the instructor ragged on adverbs quite a bit.  The advice was to use sparingly – especially after dialog tags because use of adverbs indicate weak verb choices.  According to this instruction, I wouldn’t want to do the following:

“That would be nice,” Marissa accepted quickly, grateful for the company.

Too bad that was an actual sentence from my manuscript…and it has lots of company.  A brief scan revealed that I love adverbs…and ‘quickly’ is my favorite one.  I don’t know what adverbs did to annoy the literary world, but I will do my part by weeding out as many as I can.  Ugh. 

So, I get to read my manuscript again.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed reading it the first eight or nine times, but it’s getting to the point it ranks right up there with cleaning house.  In fact, I think I’d rather clean.  Eww…can’t believe I just wrote that.

This supports my opinion that a novel is never complete.  (See my Oxymoron – Completed Novel post).

To keep my positive outlook going, I am optimistic that I’m getting better with adverb usage.  The first scene of a new short story got through a group critique without getting torn apart.  I absolutely loved this because it’s new for me; every other critique has been so brutal that I wanted to crawl into a hole and cry for a couple days.

Unfortunately, I’ve stalled on novel #2 at the moment.  I’m repeating my “It’ll get done when it gets done” mantra and focusing on all the stuff I am accomplishing (novel #1 adverb annihilation, Kharma’s Way short story posts for Saturday Mornings (and Serial Central), short story for class and even a poem once in a while.)

I would love to hear about any manuscript mistakes you’ve made  🙂  Does anyone write multiple projects simultaneously?  If so, do you have any tips or pointers for keeping stories straight? 

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12 thoughts on “Manuscript Writing

  1. 2blu2btru September 3, 2010 / 7:52 AM

    Creative writing classes can be tough on these you’ve already written.My sin wasn’t adverbs, rather their close cousins adjectives. I learned a lot about choosing stronger verbs to convey the same sentiments, only without the subjective uncertainties adjectives bring (are they thinking or the same shade of pink, or does the reader picture them walking the way I do?). You go through and see so many mistakes and you think that’s why this wasn’t chosen! I also made the mistake (and still do) of revising as I’m writing my first draft. I reread to get back into the story ( I work on a few at once sometimes), and I see things I don’t like and just have to change. I cannot complete a first draft; by the time I finish, it’s a fifth or eighth draft, lol.

    At least you are learning something that you can apply to your own writing and make it better.

    • jannatwrites September 3, 2010 / 7:13 PM

      I can certainly relate to the never-ending first draft. I’ve done that too, but I’m learning to restrain myself. Thanks for sharing your insights; it’s nice to know that others struggle with similar issues and it isn’t just me!

  2. Lua September 3, 2010 / 10:51 PM

    I’m so glad to hear you’re enjoying the classes! I can’t wait to start with mine!
    Ah the evil adverbs… A few people told me to watch them for I have many sentences like yours in my manuscript. And almost all the books I’ve read on writing is telling the same thing- stay.away.from.adverbs! Boy- am I in trouble 🙂
    I also tend to use the passive voice quiet a bit. I’m working on that as well…
    That’s what the revision’s for, right? 😉

    • jannatwrites September 4, 2010 / 12:01 AM

      I can’t wait to hear about your classes…I’m guessing they start soon???

      I have to watch passive voice, too. Ever since someone critiqued a draft of my query letter online and pointed out that I used ‘is’ seven or eight times, I pay much more attention to it. The adverbs are hard…I do love adverbs. I may start an Adverbs Anonymous support group for those of us that have trouble resisting the temptation 🙂

  3. Cities of the Mind September 4, 2010 / 11:50 AM

    It’s pretty rough trying to be done with a novel. I have an issue with it. Because there are always other paths, major or minor, which could have been followed. And what if they’re better?

    I tend to work on three projects at once, almost always. One in the conceptual stage, one in that rough stage where I’m searching for a voice, a common thread to pull all of the elements together, and the third stage which is an actual “finished” story. To date, by the time I’ve gotten to the end of a draft, I’ve always found that I was insufficiently skilled at the beginning, and it goes back to stage two or even all the way back to one.

    Vicious cycle. But I’ve reached a point where I’m satisfied with what I produce and I’m hoping to actually finish finishing something quite soon.

    I think adverbs are targeted a bit unfairly, as I’ve noticed that several fairly successful authors seem to have no fear of them, and indeed “watch out for adverbs” doesn’t make the list of author advice very often when famous authors take the time. . . I suspect, maybe, some instructors tend to focus on things like adverbs because, well, it’s easy to say, “It’s not my lack of skill as a storyteller that’s holding me back, it must be the adverbs.

    Speaking of completed novels, I suspect this comment is well past looooong enoooough!

    • jannatwrites September 4, 2010 / 8:38 PM

      Thanks for your comment; it was lengthy, but you shared some good, non-rambling info 🙂 I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who has trouble finishing the novel, even though it’s not for lack of trying! I’m impressed with your ability to work on 3 things at once. I can do 2 and everything else, I make notes of in a notebook to come back to later.

      I’m glad you’re getting to a point where you’re satisfied with your work; it’s easier to pitch something to an agent if you believe in it (and yourself). I’ve done some revising, but there are some instances where I think the adverb works – I’ll have to take my chances and leave those. It’s not wasted time, though because I’m going through the conscious process of evaluating them.

  4. Miss Rosemary September 5, 2010 / 1:40 PM

    I don’t know what adverbs did to annoy the literary world either. I seem to love them as well, and my manuscript is chock full of them.

    • jannatwrites September 5, 2010 / 7:53 PM

      Glad to know I’m not alone. I’m weeding out some, but I can’t bear to eliminate too many of them!

  5. alijayd September 6, 2010 / 2:51 PM

    My ‘How to’ book on novel writing says exactly the same thing. He uses this sentence:- ‘It was a dark and stormy night. He walked slowly to the window and watched the devestation caused by the wind’.
    Most of this passage is bad but in relation to the adverb he says that there is little justification for writing walked slowly because the English language is full verbs you could use – So instead of walked slowly? edged, inched, crept, sidled, dawdled, slid, shuffled. They all mean slowly – just choose the one that best suits.

    So next time you want to put in an adverb think of a good descriptive verb instead.

    Still catching up on all your posts by the way. Thanks for your encouragement on my blog.

    Jayne xx

    • jannatwrites September 6, 2010 / 7:36 PM

      I don’t see how I can get rid of all adverbs, but I’m doing a fair amount of clean up 🙂 At least it’s more of a conscious effort. I’ve also had a problem with passive tense, but I’ve come a long way there, so I’m sure I’ll get my adverb problem under control, too!

      I hope you find stuff you like on my blog…I’m enjoying following your writing journey on your blog!

  6. cuhome November 17, 2011 / 10:41 PM

    Kind of makes you wonder why adverbs were invented in the first place, huh? I hear you, Janna! Keep us posted, because I know I need all the advice I can get !!!!!!

    • jannatwrites November 17, 2011 / 10:50 PM

      I’m still fond of adverbs, Janet. I’ve noticed that the middle grade stuff my son reads has lots of adverbs. Maybe that’s what I should write!

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