Tag Archives: challenges

In Defense of Adverbs

Cover of "Twilight (Twilight, Book 1)"

Cover of Twilight (Twilight, Book 1)

Several months ago, I read among many, a scathing review of the Twilight series in which someone had actually counted the number of adverbs in a given chapter.  There were an appalling 26.

Reading famous authors’ books on writing, including Stephen King’s brilliant On Writing, mentions again and again how writers should eliminate any and all adverbs. At least, that’s the impression that’s stuck since reading said books.

I’ve become paranoid about adverbs.  I feel guilty when I see one, give an internal groan, and berate myself for using them as a writer.  When I churn another one out, I assume I will only need to find some more inventive way to write the same phrase without the offending word.  It’s as though the use of adverbs is seen as a form of laziness in writers.  I’m starting to have nightmares that soon they’ll be coming after my adjectives and commas next. DMS is especially unhappy with my standard usage of commas, double spaces after periods, and character in my writing voice. I do not conform to their AP style!

At what point do I cross the line into an obscene and unforgivable number of adverbs?  Is Meyer’s 26 a number to avoid?  Or is the cut off a bit earlier, say, around 15 or 20?  Is there a ratio of adverbs per page that’s acceptable?  And how will I be viewed by readers who count adverbs in any given chapter and find I’ve come up with a surfeit of such descriptive words?

So, here I am reading through Eila, Book 1, during what I hope will be our final editing pass before we send off query letters (and stalk) editors to get in good with some big-named publishing house, and I’ve been circling and keeping count of adverbs. The introduction is ok, there are only three.  The first chapter has a more worrisome number: 17.  But chapter two has an unacceptable 37 adverbs, and the third contains an obscene number: 43.

Near to hyperventilating over these numbers, I began thinking about what I had read through.  The content is standing much stronger than it did in draft zero several months and two previous editing passes ago.  I am able to see the characters and their actions better due to the clarity of the writing.  What’s more, as I circled adverbs and considered them in context, I began to realize that not every adverb needed to be removed.  Oh sure, there were the superfluous words ending in -ly that did not add to the flow of the text, but there were, as I found, good reasons to keep a number of adverbs in their current places.  They supported and enhanced the text rather than detracting from it.

I questioned why adverbs were considered so heinous by a great number of people, and started to see the good adverbs from those that tugged at readers eyes and hindered the enjoyment of the story.  Why do we have adverbs if they are considered malignant to effective storytelling?

It dawned on me, as I am certain others have discovered, that like profanity, every word has its place.  Some may have spawned from the laziness inherent in verbal communication, but when used in a way that gives a story greater vitality and nuance, how could we not use them?

Cover of "Zero History"

Cover of Zero History

And in this mindset, I picked up Zero History by William Gibson on the paperback shelf at the library and read two pages, engaged in the complexity of his language.  I stopped at the end of page two and counted: ten adverbs in two pages. There were two adverbs on the first page–a sin to have any in those first, crucial paragraphs–and here he has two!  Eight on the second, with two so close they might as well be in the same sentence together. Ten adverbs in two pages.

If the father of the cyber-punk novel can use adverbs, deftly and in moderation, then so can I.

Adverbs in this post: 4.



Returning to Focus and the Wheat Free Waffle

a proper montreal bagel.. tiny, dense and slig...

Image via Wikipedia

Norwescon being over, and my muscles less agonized than yesterday, I am returning to focus on my self-improvement project.  Too long I’ve let go of almost every good new habit I was building, in part because of the depression caused by losing Taigil to one, small mistake.  I have done my part to search for him, and will continue to wish and pray for his return, but I must honor my health and what it means to those I love.

Today is the first day of removing wheat from my diet.  It’s cold turkey (literally! there’s turkey here!) from now on, as I acknowledge my test results.  I have a mild allergy to wheat, which is going to limit even more of my diet than before.  When I’ve incorporated this new change into my life, then I shall return for further testing to see what else contributes to the inflammation that makes my body go out of kilter.  The less inflammation, the easier it will be to maintain some semblance of energy and productivity in my life.

So, I wish to say good bye to my beloved, fluffy cakes, artisan breads, challah, Trophy cupcakes, banana-coconut and poppyseed muffins, english muffins, bagels (oh dear gods, bagels!!!) of all persuasions, Top Pot and Mighty O doughnuts, Dave’s Killer Good Seed sliced bread, sesame seed hamburger buns, dinner rolls, Kosher hot dog buns, pita, naan, uthampam, flour tortillas (and all the enchiladas and burritos they might hold), toast, pancakes, waffles, crumpets, scones (especially the orange-cranberry ones with the special frosting), every pastry Pomegranate makes, cookies, brownies, fruit and custard tarts, eclairs, biscuits, hoagie rolls, pasta, wheat noodles, egg noodles, soba, udon, lasagna, macaroni, roux (and all the sauces it makes), and many more.

I am beginning to realize how, after twenty-three years of cooking, I have to relearn everything.  I have to figure out the best way to make banana bread moist and fluffy, how to mix a roux for a sauce, how to prepare spaghetti so it’s al dente (because the rice and quinoa pastas are so temperamental), what brands work best, what tortillas and other flatbreads will substitute well. At the moment I cling to my Nairn’s oatmeal and pumpkin seed crackers and my Newman’s wheat-free fig bars in vain hope I can just alter one or two ingredients in all of my family recipes and still taste as amazing and comforting as always.

But it’s one of those compromises in life.  Do I want to be able to dance with my friends again?  Do I want to be able to climb hills without pain?  Do I want to be able to have a picture taken or wear pretty clothes without worrying whether a cyst has caused scarring or stains?  Or do I want to have a quick, gratifying snack?  There are many meals I love and adore that don’t have wheat, just as I’ve learned to live without chicken eggs, onions, cattle, pig, and a lot of other things, I shall find my way through this.  Although I have to admit, wheat and dairy are two things that are going to be hardest to let go of, and I know without question that I at least need to relinquish wheat’s hold over my life and my body.

So, I begin the search for the lightest wheat-free flours to make my baked goods, the best thickening agents to make a roux turn a cream sauce decadent, and a pasta that doesn’t turn to gelatinous goo if cooked an extra minute too long.  I also search for the strength to see it through, for the good of improving my health and being a better me for friends and family.

…it’s all about priorities, right?

Another New Moon


Raven reflected in Kitty's screen

Last night was the new moon, and I have begun adding again.  This time: writing 6-10 articles per week.  This would mean at least one article a day, six days a week, or up to 2 articles a day for five days each week.  At $15 an article, it isn’t much money in the grand scheme of things, but it’s more money than I’ve been operating with, and considering all the things I need to save up for (Norwescon, Craig/Ana birthdays, potential acupuncture/surgery, and the rotating 5-week check for hydrotherapy, et al.), I need to get serious about my only source of income.

Cotton's First Day Home

I’ve been going to my hydrotherapy classes, but with the new kitten–say hi to Cotton!–we’ve taken a break from yoga classes (to be resumed soon).

My weight hasn’t gone down, and lately I’ve been feeling just as run down as I did before starting the supplements.  It might have a rather mundane cause though, considering how much time I’ve been throwing myself into an MMORPG like the addict I am and not getting to bed when I know I should.  Water intake is good and sustained, but I still haven’t gotten on top of the daily stretching/exercise.  Daily photos just don’t seem all that important to me anymore, but I have been taking them on occasion to still mark progress (about once a week).

Spring, Dammit!

I might feel more inclined to do a daily photo when I have the family room cleaned up and my main computer easily accessible for photo editing–then I can dock my Nikon which allows me to take more creative pictures.

We did started gardening recently, just in small part, utilizing permaculture techniques (guilds) to support existing flora in our front yard using seeds I’d bought in previous ambitious years.  If you want to know more, check out Gaia’s Garden for more information.  I checked it out from the library and fell in love enough to add it to my wishlist.

Mama & Cotton watch "Big" with the Daughter

Weirdness has ensued, though, as I try to progress.  The last two hydrotherapy sessions left me so drained that both times, I ended up nodding off after lunch.  The first time, I was home and slept for three and a half hours when I’d only intended to sleep one.  The second time, I was sitting on the bleachers while the kids attended their swim class, and my best friend drove me to her house and ordered me to her bed until I was fit to drive.  After a half hour rest period and water, she considered me clear for take off, but I was still sleepy the rest of the evening.  No, not sleepy, exhausted.

Cotton's Favorite Napping Spot

I’m considering an acupuncture procedure on a particular cyst that’s been open since before I met my partner, but it’s going to take saving up money and gulping down my fear about so many injections (not just needles, but syringes!) at once.  The alternative to this–an allopathic extreme–is to completely excise the tissue around the area and remove the sinus created by the cyst.  I was informed by my doctor that if I went through with the surgery, it could take several weeks, possibly months to heal, and I wouldn’t be able to sit for quite some time.  The surgery would remove enough tissue to disfigure me.  Neither prospect makes me want to go forward with this last choice option, but if the acupuncture doesn’t work, what am I left with?  Even the manuka honey hasn’t healed it completely.

Bah.  I’m trying to be motivated, but I so often feel weighed down by the huge list of things to do, consider, and save for, I keep falling into a procrastination pattern and avoiding anything but the very basic necessities.  :\

New Moon, New Resolution


It’s been a challenging few days.  I’ve felt stretched to my limit as a mother, and yet I’ve managed to face things in creative ways that I can only attribute to some combination of time, experience, support, and wry humor.  I’m thinking more about the consequences for the choices Daughter makes before reacting; I may be angry, and she may know it, but I’m keeping my distance and thinking before laying down the law.

Her father and I talked about some of what she’s been doing over the phone, and her behaviors are often unfamiliar territory to me.  She (Daughter’s father) admitted that there are patterns all too familiar to her; so at least I know who to blame, right?  😉

It’s really amazing how alike they are in some ways, despite Daughter not having lived with her father for the majority of her life.  They only reconnected a little more than a year ago, yet . . . *sighs*  There are positives and negatives, and I’m exhausted.

But I can feel good about my own actions and choices, and I can praise my daughter for getting her schoolwork done in record time.  It took her less than ninety minutes to do her day’s schoolwork, with the exception of our shared project (learning from Doodle Math videos by Vi Hart on YouTube.com).

Getting Ready to Write

Getting Ready to Write

Today is the new moon, and with it comes another healthy addition to my daily routine.   Along with my water, vitamins, and daily photo (I forgot yesterday’s!  Yipe!), I will now also be stretching every day and doing one of the following each day: morning grounding, afternoon/evening meditation, or shamanic journey.  In May, I might add “dancing to connect with Spirit” as part of the spiritual rotation.  I get to choose what feels right to me each day, but it’s usually best to not journey more than once a week, unless one is providing service to others.

Today I followed through on all of it.  I awoke remembering what day it was.  I also awoke incredibly sore and exhausted, but I did morning grounding in bed (with a 22 lb. cat trying to sit on my chest, no less), I took three deep breaths afterwards, and no longer felt quite as sore.  I got up, dealt with morning hygiene, ate a banana with a spoonful of peanut butter, had a cup of pumpkin spice tea, and took my vitamins.  Later in the day, I was already halfway through my water quota when I took my daily photo and just before my writing session with my co-author/Daughter’s father, I stretched my legs, arms, and back for 10 minutes.  I used a combination of moves I learned from yoga, quigong, and dance classes, and felt a little better than when I’d started.

So, this new year and new moon are off to a shaky start, but at least I feel confident that I’m doing my best most days, even when I’ve been handed few too many spoons.