I used to be Suzie Rule Follower, so if you’re in the above situation, I feel your pain. Here’s the thing, though. When someone says “adverbs are lazy” or “show, don’t tell” they mean “For the most part, adverbs are lazy” and “For the most part, show don’t tell.” You can add this “for the most part” to pretty much every writing “rule” you have ever heard. Even the “laws” of grammar are flexible in certain instances.
But then how do you know when it’s okay to break the “rules?” Essentially, it’s okay to do anything you want, as long as you do it well. Not helpful? What about this: If you are using adverbs, telling, passive voice etc. you need to know why you are doing it. And that reason cannot be “because it’s easier.”
When I turned in my first draft of the Venom proposal, the immediate feedback from my editors was something like: “This is pretty writing, but Cassandra is reading like a lens painting across Venice without any internal thoughts or feelings. We need to know what’s going on inside her head.” Can you guys guess why I hadn’t included Cass’s thoughts or feelings? Because to me, this was “telling” and it had been drilled into me from a hundred publishing blogs and books that telling was bad.
Open up your favorite bestseller. Mark the telling. Mark the adverbs. Mark the passive voice. Mark anything else you’ve been instructed not to do. Chances are, you didn’t even notice these “violations” while you were reading because the author utilized them to strengthen the story, not as writing crutches.
No one wants you to write a book without telling. No one wants you to write a book without adverbs. Don’t let fear of breaking the rules keep you from writing the very best book that you can. Happy weekend :)