I learned a lot of things from my first crit group. One of the first "rules" I learned was the whole "don't use adverbs" thing. I balked at this one. I just didn't get the reasoning. I LIKED adverbs. I still like adverbs. And I use them, frequently. At least in my first drafts. (Okay, a lot of the pesky little buggers DO make their way into subsequent drafts, but I really do try to keep them out of there.) :D
It took me a while to really understand why adverbs are kind of a no-no. In fact, it wasn't until I started paying more attention to them in the published books I was reading that I finally got it.
They are telling. And sometimes just plain irritating. But mostly, too telling, and often unnecessary.
For example, you could say:
"Don't do that!" Jessica shouted angrily.
1. It's unnecessary. There's an exclamation point. She's shouting. And chances are good the content of the scene in addition to her shouting have already let us know she's doing it angrily. You don't need the adverb.
2. It's telling us she's angry, not showing us. Don't just tell us....bring on the anger! Let us see her eyes flashing, her face turning red, the spit flying from her lips as she screams. Isn't that more entertaining to read than "angrily"?
Now, do you need to cut every single adverb in your book? Of course not. There are instances where adverbs are totally warranted. Like I said, I do use them. Sometimes a good adverb is the best fit for whatever you are trying to say. However, most of the time, I try to use them just as place holders in my first drafts...when I know I should be more "showing" and descriptive but feel the need to get some words out and the more descriptive phrase eludes me. But I try to go back through and replace them with something better (though, yeah, a lot slip through the cracks. Just ask my crit partners...they are endlessly slashing them (hehe I used an adverb...shhhhh)).
And a few here and there aren't going to kill your story - they might even help. So don't go axing all the adverbs in your manuscript just yet....but, try to pay attention to what you are doing the next time you put one in. Does it really need to be there? Is adding it making your sentence too telling? Can you show whatever you are trying to describe better?
One thing I have noticed is that adverbs in dialogue tags are almost always unnecessary. She said, angrily. He said, amusingly. I said sadly.
These emotions can almost always be better conveyed through the characters' actions and the dialogue itself. So, while it is something I will probably always struggle with, it is a "rule" I finally agree with and will continue to work on.
How do you feel about the "adverb rule"?