Authors Helping Authors

“Quick Writing Exercise – Revisiting Adjectives” by Debra L Hartmann

Adjectives Bulletin BoardWhat are writing exercises? Targeted activities to help writers learn and grow. These exercises are not as painful as training for a marathon but can definitely be as rewarding!


This exercise talks about adjectives, please take a moment and share any exercises or revision techniques you use to improve your manuscripts or your writing skills in general.

Adjectives are necessary but using too many can be very distracting for the reader, causing your point to be carried away by beautiful, friendly fairies with wavy, wild red hair that skillfully drive bright yellow pansies across pale blue skies. Using too much description can happen very easily as we craft our writing to be as descriptive as possible. After all, the challenge really is to take an idea, develop it into a well rounded story line, and write it down so that you are conveying your imagination to a reader through the written word. Obviously, writing a first draft will have to be more than is needed, as our minds work to capture every little detail and every thing that could possibly contribute to telling the story.

Once written, it’s time to brutally revise and eliminate a lot of those carefully selected adjectives. You want to give enough detail to inspire the reader’s imagination, but not over describe and control every minute detail of scenes. Readers need to have some freedom for their imagination to form easy imagery in their minds as they read. Here’s a tip to help narrow down adjective use:

  1. After selecting a scene to revise, cut and paste all the adjectives into a list on a separate page.
  2. Read the selection now, without any adjectives at all, out loud.
  3. Now swap out a difference adjective that means the same thing for each of the ones on the list.
  4. Now add back only what is needed to give just enough detail and no more than one adjective per noun or two per sentence. Yes, in some situations, two adjectives together work really well and can be used correctly. The point is sparingly, so your prose is oversaturated with distracting details.

Try this exercise just once and see the difference it makes. You’ve pulled away from the writing, dissected it a bit, and allowed yourself a fresh perspective on the material. It’s easy to get “too close” and sometimes, your exercise can simply be learning how to look at your words with fresh eyes.

What writing exercises have you used or do you recommend?

~~~~~~~~~~>Debra L Hartmann, Author, Publishing Consultant with Indie Author Publishing Services, and Professional Editor at

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2 thoughts on ““Quick Writing Exercise – Revisiting Adjectives” by Debra L Hartmann

  1. Flash fiction. When you are constrained by a 1000 (or less!) word limit, suddenly all those extra adjectives have to disappear. I highly recommend writing stories in that format. As one author friend told me, “It helps you go on an adjective diet!”


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