Over the next few Saturdays, I'll share what I've learned--and am still learning--from various writing books and blogs that have made a tremendous difference in my manuscripts by strengthening and simplifying my sentences. Not only how to spot weaknesses, but how to fix them as well. What's up this week? We'll start with one of the easiest mistakes to spot:
*The moose raced across the field.
*The moose galloped (do moose gallop?)across the field.
By removing the adverb, the sentence already reads tighter, and by replacing the verb with a stronger one it gives the sense of immediacy we were looking for.
Another option is to use a metaphor or simile.
The moose ran across the field like a . . .(insert clever metaphor).
But again, carefully and selectively. Too many metaphors will drag a scene down.
She stepped out into the dark, cold, rainy night.
As writers, it's our job to set the mood for scenes. But this many adjectives all at once actually makes the sentence have less impact and is telling too much, rather than showing.
First off, eliminate unnecessary adjectives. It's night, so do we really need to tell the reader it's dark? Unless your story is set during the solstice in Alaska, we're going to assume night=dark.
Now we have cold, rainy night. While technically there's nothing wrong with this sentence, we could still find better ways to show the reader the setting. Ask yourself which adjective is the most important. Is the character going for a routine trip to the grocery store? Or is she going to meet the man who's been blackmailing her for weeks? Select the adjective that will best set the atmosphere you're aiming for. You can always convey the cold by showing and not telling.
She stepped out into the rainy night. A frigid breeze tore at her jacket . . .
Spotting and cleaning up an abundance of adverbs and adjectives is an easy and quick fix. It will make for a tighter story and cleaner writing.