For Day 2 I have decided to share some of the more common things that I use throughout my day to day writing. I know that each and every individual will find some things helpful and other things utterly obsolete to their own creative process. I hope that from gaining an insight into my methods you might find something new or be reminded of something you haven’t done in a while.
Building your vocabulary
Most writers I know, whether they write fiction, non fiction or even business writing, use http://thesaurus.com/. I myself always have it open whilst writing and if I don’t have internet access I use a Synonym reference guide that I own. There is nothing worse than getting stuck in the middle of a sentence because you can’t think of the right word, or have it stuck on the tip of your tongue. As with anything we are always learning and improving our skills. If you think that you know everything there is to know on a subject then I believe you still have something to learn, namely the fact that you can always learn more and will never know everything. Additionally you need to keep your knowledge refreshed. Your vocabulary is exactly the same. It is essentially a muscle that needs to be worked out on a regular basis. Here are the things that I use to build my own vocabulary and also help myself out of temporary writers block when struggling for the right word.
1) Read as much as you can. And when you do read, write down the words that you have never heard of, or do not use that often. If you don’t have a pen handy place a memo on your phone or send yourself a text message with the word. Then later, when you have time find out exactly what the word means and what words share similar meanings. Never skip over a word you don’t know and forget about it. The more words at your disposal the more unique your writing can be.
2) Utilize lists that show you descriptive words. Most of us tend to favor certain words, it’s natural human behavior, and we quite often forget to change it up a little. A simple list, like the ones found here or here, may seem arbitrary at first, but stick them up behind your computer screen and watch how often you glance up and find inspiration for your next sentence.
3) Learn more emotions. I have to say something I personally struggle with is how to describe someone as being angry or sad or happy, without using those words too often. I have found keeping a picture up either on my screen or on the wall near my computer gets me thinking about other words to use. When I can picture what my character looks like at that moment in the book, but can’t think of the perfect word to describe it, a table with pictures of various expressions is perfect.
Before finishing today’s post, a key thing that I must stress which I often come across or that my editor tells me, is to not use words just because you found them in a thesaurus. A lot of work that I have read, mainly stuff that has not been highly edited, tends to stand out when they utilize words like antediluvian to simply state something is old. A thesaurus is a guide to help make your work sound better. It is not a tool to add funky, unknown words to your writing. Remember that a reader does not want to have to pull out a dictionary to understand your book.