I recently decided to get my books edited. It was mainly a factor of affordability. When I got my samples back, I noticed something. There were several “don’t use passive voice” (aka “was”), “don’t use helping verbs”, and “don’t use adverbs”. But only from the freelance editors that cost less. The editors that have been around for a good while and charged way more than I could afford. The ones with a looong resume or outstanding work, they didn’t mention these things at all. Not once.
They did mention important factors such as repetitious wording, arcs, etc. Active voice and adverbs are not rules are trends, they are a style. And no, they do not apply to all modern best-sellers. Using them is a style I personally like. Let’s look at some modern examples.
One of my favorite new series is the Ivy Pocket series. It is filled with adverbs and not empty of linking verbs. The Curiosity House contains both in great quantities. I could go on, but I shan’t bore you. If you’re ambitious enough to click on those links and read their samples, then you’re ambitious enough to find more on your own 😉 .
There are examples of middle-grade books without adverbs (but not without the passive voice that I could find). The Serafina series is one, but I don’t like it. I tried to like it. I have the first two books, both signed by the author who wished me well on my writing! And I really like the man! But I can’t finish his book. Heck, I can’t even get through the second chapter. Why? Voice. Style. It’s not my preferred style. Period.
And please, do not say, “Oh, well children’s books can get away with lower quality writing” because not only is it not so, it’s insulting, and not just to children. I’ve read plenty of recently published adult romance novels with adverbs (aka fun speech) galore, and they were best sellers! So please, if you like that style, use it, but don’t try to enforce it on others. Some of us find it lacking personality (aka boring). I’ve seen it done well, but that’s very rare from my experience. Hey, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m actually of a lower intelligence who simply cannot process sentences without embellishment. Maybe I have so little of an attention span that I can’t force my eyes to maintain a constant pace without it being broken by “bad writing”. But personally I think this whole trend started by one article that other indie authors were too afraid to speak up against. Yeah, not me.