Adverbs, Dickens, and the Thesaurus

I spent the last few weeks doing a major editorial overhaul of my latest manuscript.  We took a last-minute mini-vacation and I spent most of my time reading and writing.  My eyes were staring to get crossed and bleary.  I focused on tackling suggested edits (the overuse of compound verbs and -ly adverbs) in my manuscript.  I'll be honest, when I first got the initial critique mentioning a massive re-edit, I had three thoughts: 1.  Boy, I'm grateful someone who doesn't know me from Adam is willing to take a few minutes out of their day to provide specific feedback on how to improve my writing.

2.  Dan Brown uses lots of -ly adverbs.  However,  I'm not Dan Brown (although he is also from the Granite State).

3.  I really, really, really love -ly adverbs.  They're lovely!   They're extremely fun!  Alas, I just shouldn't use them so profusely.

So, I gathered up a red pen, a purple pen, my beloved Thesaurus, chai tea and some determination, and I went to town.  I slashed and hashed my way through verbs and adverbs like I was playing Gauntlet (yikes, did I just date myself?).  I found ways to be much more creative with my verbiage, and I'm pleased with the result.  I want to do a few more reads just to make sure I caught all the issues, fixed all the bugs, etc. but I'm happy.

In other news, I saw this post by the Paris Review about some of Dickens' manuscript pages for Great Expectations.  The article brought back happy memories.  While I was an undergrad at WPI (back when it was still Worcester Polytech), I was lucky enough to be able to transpose and catalog some of the personal letters and notes Dickens wrote (part of the Fellman Dickens Collection in the Gordon Library).  I remember holding a book Dickens signed and thinking to myself: "Charles Dickens held this.  He wrote in this."  To me, it was akin to shaking his hand.

Also, on a follow up from an earlier post, I am not the only person to have experienced Thesaurus confusion: Check this out!

A Thesaurus by Any Other Name...

You know how sometimes a random memory will just pop up in your head, out of nowhere, and say, "Hey, remember me?"  I had one of those moments, out of the blue, last night before bed.  Picture, if you will:  I'm in 3rd grade, and my parents have just picked me up from elementary school to go to a book sale.  A book sale!  I've always loved books, so the promise of a book sale was pretty great to start.  What made it ten times better is Dad promised to get me a Thesaurus.  I almost couldn't contain my excitement.

You see, I was in the midst of a dinosaur phase.  I'd just wrapped up my bug and butterfly phase, and hadn't quite started on my King Tut phase.  Anything prehistoric was completely fascinating to me (still is, truth be told).  And with a name like Thesaurus, naturally my approximately 8-year old self had to assume that I would be getting THE premier book on dinosaurs.  Stega-saurus.  Bronto-saurus.  The-Saurus.  Duh!  By the end of the day, I was going to be in dino-info heaven.

You probably have a good idea where this is going.  And, admittedly, I was majorly disappointed to find out that a thesaurus is nothing more than a list of words with similar meanings.  Any self-affirmed dino-loving 8-year old would be.  Why, on Earth, would people name a book with the same suffix they use to name dinosaurs?  My error was logical.  Book of Synonyms would have been more apropos. 

Eventually, I came to love the little paperback, and I am glad that my parents got me the book.  It's gotten me through years of term papers, two theses, a smattering of poems, some journal articles, and three manuscripts.  That thesaurus is a beloved tool in my arsenal, tattered cover and all.  And it's been way more valuable than a dino-encyclopedia would ever be.  Soon, I'll have to pull out some packing tape and a hot glue gun and do some surgery, but that one book, full of wonderful words, it truly worth its weight in gold.  Even if it has nothing to do with dinosaurs.