Chapter 1

Six months later…

          Kurt stepped from his family’s doorway and crossed Apostel-Paulus-Straße before entering the church courtyard.  It was a shortcut, true, but he really just liked the walk through the little bit of nature. Amidst the old trees, the red-brick church rose high; made even higher by the towering copper steeples.  They had long turned green as the church endured season after season, but his parents could still remember when they shone brightly.

          “History…” his father said, “Watching the steeples turn, is like watching what was once new, become history.”

          Kurt was sure that family is what made them part of history.  The von Schönberg family had a rich legacy in the area.  They were respected and dependable, though the Weimar Constitution changed everything.  The area they lived in retained the name Schönberg, but the fallout from the Great War caused changes to come to the most remote parts of Germany.  The nobility were stripped of their titles, and in some cases, their names.

          Now the von Schneider family, they retained a large piece of property in the heart of Berlin.  The garment factories and warehouses survived the war, somehow. But, Kurt’s family almost didn’t.  His mother, who was once the life of the party and a most gracious, noblewoman, was left frayed and disheartened with the death of her oldest son.  The German leadership said that the war was necessary, but that they just couldn’t hold out. But, in the last days of the war when Kurt’s brother was killed, it was believed that the German government had deceived them.  The Countess von Schönberg was left a bitter, angry woman.

          After all that, Kurt was left with the heavy burden of being the next head of their own small empire.  What were once his brother’s duties now fell to him. Giving up his dream of becoming a great architect, he set his mind to becoming a great son.

          Shaking himself from his daydream, he covered the distance through the courtyard quickly.  His father, a proud and strict man, would never let it down if he were late to work. The bus ride to their Tiergarten warehouse was quick, but things had started to change.  Germany was in financial trouble, and times were hard for many. The Chancellor had given people hope, a purpose, but when the Reichstag burned, the demeanor of a whole nation shifted.

          Using the powers granted him, Hitler rounded up anyone associated with the communist party.  One day, a coworker and good friend of Kurt’s was taken in for questioning. While Kurt was certain that the friend had no political aims, he couldn’t be certain.  So, when he returned to work a week later covered in bruises and obviously shaken, no one said anything. That’s how it went on. People would dis- and reappear.

          Kurt was uncomfortable at the thought.  It even made him angry. But, more than that, it made him nervous.  If it started with the communists, it would move on to others as well, and he had his own secrets to keep.  Looking to the window and into the reflection there, Kurt inspected his features. There were no outward signs, no writing on his forehead, or rouge on his cheeks.  But, the thought that one day there would be questions, “Why aren’t you married?  Why do you have no children?”  made his palms start to sweat and head ache.

          Then he smiled.  The night before had been fun.  Aside from all the fear, was the excitement.  He’d made his way to Werner’s after work. He spent the next hours sharing drinks and laughs with his closest friend.  The walk to The Eldorado was exhilarating.  The feeling as people stared was as intoxicating as the feeling of silk on his legs was luxurious.  The emerald green gown fit him well and was exactly what he’d hoped he’d wear his first time to this club.  One couldn’t just waltz up and expect to see Marlene Dietrich. For his birthday a few months ago, Werner had surprised Kurt with his own wig.  It was more expensive than Werner could afford, but it was real, and it was his.

          They drank and danced with the elite of the Berlin underworld.  As it always was, men would float in and out of conversation. There was everything from women as men to men as women, to men who were obviously men.  Though many had offered to take him home, Kurt shied away and left alone like he always did. After transforming back into a von Schneider, he made his way to the family home.  

          The two parts of himself were always at war, and no matter how much he tried, he couldn’t think of how he could ever reconcile them.  With a deep sigh, he looked through the window instead of the reflection in it as the large warehouse came into view. For the moment, he locked away that side of himself and pulled the string to signal his stop.

widerstad diary 1

Overusing Adverbs

Most writers know that adverbs, which generally come in ‘ly’ form (swiftly, snidely, nervously), are considered the hallmark of overwritten and lazy prose, right? We’ve all heard this a lot in our writing courses and critique groups.

Adverb Clutter Writing

In theory, if you choose a strong and appropriate verb, you do not need to add an adverb, especially one that carries the same meaning as the verb. Adverbs are often tacked on to dialogue tags to describe how something was said. But good dialogue does not need props. The words should convey the emotions of the speaker by themselves. Adverbs are often an indication that the writer has a habit of telling rather than showing.

There is a strong consensus that one should use adverbs sparingly.

One rule of thumb is to use no more than one adverb per 300 words of prose. While it is a good rule of thumb, do not get bogged down in things like this while you’re writing – let your Copy Editor do that. Once, in my own writing, I did a count of ly words in a 20-page chapter and was horrified to learn that I had 18 adverbs. Cue a panic attack about my writing —at least until I realized was that each page in that chapter was 300 words and therefore I did have one adverb per 300 words—fewer in fact. But even pointing that out did not satisfy some readers. They had been hammered with the concept that all adverbs are bad adverbs.

Should writers use no adverbs?

So were the readers and editors right? It’s easy to do a search on ‘ly’ in Word and expunge every last one of them from your piece. Or, it’s even easier to use a tool like ProWritingAid. The program scours your writing and points things like this out. Sometimes when dialogue words are necessarily banal because the person is being sarcastic or lacks affect, adverbs are the only way of conveying whether the speaker is being flippant or serious.

Adverb Counts in Popular Books

Literary Fiction Results

This time the lucky literary fiction contenders included: Republic Of Dirt: A Return to Woefield Farm by Susan Juby, The Bishop’s Man by Linden MacIntyre, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, The Constant Princesss by Philippa Gregory, and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski.  Random number generator says start on page 128. I read five pages of each.
Adverb use ranged from one adverb in five pages for The Road to six for The Bishop’s Man. The average was four adverbs in five pages.
Given that the average novel page contains 250 words, this is about 1 adverb per 300 words. The adverbs were most often used to modify ‘said’.

Genre Fiction Results

Genre fiction contenders included The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, Doctored Evidence by Donna Leon, Hot Six by Janet Evanovich, Chesapeake Blue by Nora Roberts and How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny. I did the same thing as with the literary fiction books—started on page 128 and read five pages.
Adverb use ranged from one adverb in five pages in Chesapeake Blue to nine in How the Light Gets In. The average was six adverbs in five pages. So a bit higher than in the literary fiction novels. These adverbs were utilized most commonly in dialogue.

Conclusion

Writers use adverbs to add color to their writing and reflect how people actually speak—and people occasionally use adverbs.

Although it is helpful to reduce the use of adverbs, it’s not necessary to strip them entirely from your writing.

I am still conscious of ‘ly’ words in my own writing as part of my editing process, and consider stronger verbs as alternatives. However don’t listen to critiquers who tell you that they are forbidden and don’t be haunted by the occasional use of an adverb.

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Writing Improvement Software

Copy Editing Standards

Individual copy editors consult a range of manuals for copy editing. These include The Chicago Manual of Style, The Associated Press Stylebook, and Words into Type. Editors also set a specific dictionary as the authority, such as Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.

Using these references as guides, copy editors will correct errors and fix inconsistencies in details like number treatment (should it be a numeral or spelled out?), compound words (should it be open, closed, or hyphenated?), and punctuation (should it be a comma or semicolon?). For example, on this page we’ve decided to write “copy editing” and “copy editor” without hyphenation. And then we’ve had a copy editor take a look at it to make sure we had done so consistently.

To keep track of the styles in use in a single manuscript, copy editors create a style sheet as they edit. A novel’s style sheet should include notes on typography, punctuation, numbers, and spellings; a list of characters, real people, and places; and a timeline of events. A detailed style sheet is an organized way for an editor to maintain consistency and communicate a manuscript’s style to the author and future proofreaders.

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What is Copy Editing?

Copy editors are the surgeons of the English language: we edit your book or blog’s text, otherwise known as “copy.” Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, populist or academic, erotic or sci-fi, copy editors help turn your book into the best, most readable version it can be.

We can make sure that your copy isn’t full of bad grammar, spelling mistakes, or blatant inconsistencies. We won’t get into the “big-ticket” things like characterization, plot or pacing; instead we will go through your text line by line and focus on the little things.

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