A recent blog post by Agent Kristin on the Pub Rants blog gives ten common new writer mistakes when sending submissions to agents. Click through to see the full list.
I’ve made it to a complete read of my novel (although I still haven’t sold the bastard), so I am at least getting through the initial elimination round. However, these are some important points to consider as all of us new writers begin new projects without the guidance of an agent/editor. I am particularly guilty of overusing language. In my first pass on editing a draft, I do a search on “ly” and make sure that every adverb carries its weight. If it can be replaced by an active-voice verb that contains description, then that happens every time.
- She walked silently through the forest. – Adverb use unnecessary.
- She crept through the forest. – Replaced verb/adverb combination with an active, descriptive verb.
Both sentences get the job done, but the second one has “tighter” language and is more evocative. If someone is creeping, you get the sense that they’re avoiding detection. Note that I don’t say that she’s “silently creeping.” In this instance, the adverb is superfluous. There’s a whole wheelbarrow full of connotation in the verb that is doing your work for you. Rather than making sentences that are a mouthful of syllables, you get something simple and meaningful.