Updates and Adverbs

Inspiration from William Blake:

“The best way — and the only effective way — to complain about the way things are is to make new and better things, untested and unexampled things, things that spring from the gravity of creative conviction and drag the status quo like a tide toward some new horizon.”

Welcome readers! — Long time, no write! This is the spring newsletter for 2023. You receive word from me every quarter, so that’s only 4 times a year you get a Magic Beans newsletter.

Here at michaelandrewgreco.com, we (meaning me) celebrate untested and unexampled things. We (as in me) drag the status quo through the fun slush of QUIRK and ABSURDITY.

As most know, I write in the genre of what is called Comic Fantasy.

“What is comic fantasy?” you ask?

I think of it as humor with thoughtful undertones. Visionary. Metaphysical. Childish. But I’m not for children. I will write about teens, but not for them. My sub-genre might be: weird fiction. Amazon has yet to make a category for that, but that’s okay with me.


A lot has happened since my last newsletter. I’m going through the final editing for a novel called The Fanny Upping—though this title could change if more sense prevails. I like the title, though, because the story is about flipping life upside-down—or fanny up—to deal with all the unfairness in the world: the ultra-rich are upended into paupers; bigots are upended into victims; bullying countries are upended into vulnerable weaklings; up is down, down is up, and all this madness falls right into the lap of Japanese teenager, Pinky Bell.

The Fanny Upping should be available on Amazon by June.

I’ve also finished an early draft of a story I’m calling Thirty-Three Frivolous Pricks (out in 2024). Catchy title, I know, I love it—for now, anyway. It’s a return to the NEEDS time machine, which is now stuck on exactly thirty-three rather uneventful situations in the past. This allows for innocuous field trips for our eight time-traveling passengers—until things go haywire.

And haywire they soon become when one of the eight passengers slips away during what was supposed to be an ordinary excursion back into 1964 and assassinates budding politician Ronald Reagan!

Oh, boy—The space-time continuum has a real fit with this derailment of history, and the thirty-three frivolous pricks degenerate into chaos and menace the remaining passengers with chilling conditions of life or death.

So that’s what I’m up to. Stay tuned for more updates on this.


THE ADVERBIAL BATTLE marches on sloggily. Should we go with shitily or shittily?

I’m reading Stephen King’s book, Firestarter—as I’m considering using a child with remarkable power, similar to the character in this story—and I noticed an out-of-place adverb in the very first sentence of the novel:

“Daddy, I’m tired,” the little girl in the red pants and green blouse said fretfully.

Does that -ly adverb stick out to you? It does for me.  

Far be it from me to criticize King (he’s one of my prose stars), but as a writing instructor and sometimes editor, I take the approach of asking my student-writers to think about why they should use an adverb that sticks out and how they can convey the same meaning without it.

I read this recently, too, and it’s an easier one of diagnose:

Wordlessly, she marched to the door.

I mean, c’mon—that’s an entirely unnecessary word you’ve got there. If your character does something and they don’t talk, the absence of a quotation is indicative of them not talking, right? Right! We’ve all heard it before: Adverbs are not your friends. Adverbs are the devil. No good writer uses adverbs. You should never have more than one adverb per page, etc.

Some might respond to this with, “You’re being anal, Greco, there are no stinkin’ rules! And my writing’s going swimmingly, by the way, thanks for asking. And I use adverbs continuously, so please sit on it!”

And I agree—to the extent that one shies away from the “-ly” form.

We know that anything that modifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb is an adverb, and that’s just the high school grammar definition.  But you get a few fantastically weird adverbs out there modifying things like adjectival or adverbial phrases, entire clauses, or verbs in ways that don’t make them look like adverbs. For example, in the sentence, “Do it now,” the word “now” is an adverb.  It modifies “do” with time information.

Anyone who’s ever had kids or been in an action movie knows how difficult life would be without the word “now.”  Here are some words that would be quite difficult to live without. Some of these may function as prepositions, conjunctions, filler subjects, or more depending on where they are in the sentence, but all of them could be adverbs. And each of them would make for a substantially less understandable sentence if they were absent. This is not a definitive list. Just a few words that generally get the reaction “THOSE are adverbs?” from the cancel-the-adverb crowd:

Abroad / After / Almost / Always / Anywhere / Because / During / Everywhere / Far / Here / Just / Later / Less / More / Mostly / Never / Not / Now / Only / Sometimes / Somewhere / Soon / Then / There / To / Tomorrow / Upbeat / Upright / Usually / Well

And lest we forget Too and Very.

Still think you don’t need adverbs?  Still think you can write meaningfully with only one per page?  My advice: Stop the hating on adverbs, and just go easy on the “-ly”.

End of this quarter’s mechanics lesson.

If anyone wants to comment, please do! I will try to reply to all comments.

If you want to unsubscribe, I’ll be sorry to see you go—especially since I’m so darned close to one million subscribers (this is a funny joke)—but I understand.

“If writers were good businessmen, they’d have too much sense to be writers.” Irvin Cobb


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