Tuesday, May 31, 2011

ON WRITING - Part 2 Burn Your Thesaurus

I'm going to take the easy way out on this one.  King's next bit of advice is regarding the writer's toolbox.  It should have levels, he claims, and in the top level should go your vocabulary.

Reader, and commenter, and writer, and all around awesome guy, Michael Winchell, wrote a great post over at Project Mayhem about this very topic.  I'm going to point you to read that.  You can find it here.

All that I'm going to add is that nothing screams newbie like reading a draft of a novel that the writer has clearly gone through with a thesaurus and upgraded the words.  Sometimes it's good to hotfoot it somewhere, or to sprint, dart, hurry, or dash.  But usually it's appropriate to simply run.

I greatly admire the vocabulary and general knowledge of Stephen Fry.  He's intelligent, witty, and it all seems to come to him so easily.  He's got so many tools in his toolbox.  I have fewer tools in my toolbox.  Though I love words--their origins, meanings, etc--I simply don't have the skill for retaining them that someone like Fry does.  So when I sit down to write, I use what I have.

I'll admit that occasionally I go to the thesaurus on my computer.  However in those circumstances it's generally because I've echoed a word three or four times on the same page, not because I'm looking to upgrade my vocabulary.

The truth is this:  if I wouldn't say it in real life, I don't write it.


  1. Ha, and see, this was a bit of King's advice that I disregarded when writing Freefall. The thesaurus was a huge help to me in finding Seth's voice. If it was a different way than I say it, all the better. (Although, I was choosing simpler words from the thesaurus- never, ever fancier ones.)

  2. Mindi - Good call. And a good use for the thesaurus that I hadn't thought of.

  3. I can honestly say I have never used a thesaurus when I write. I have used a dictionary from time to time (to make sure I'm using the right word in the right circumstance), but I don't use thesauruses. Of course, I have yet to completely finish writing a book too, so maybe that's part of it LOL.

  4. Thanks for the mention, Shaun. Funny, your last comment about if you wouldn't say it, you don't write it got me thinking. I understand what you mean, and I think we need to apply that comment to our characters. Example: I was reading a MG book recently and a twelve-year-old boy called another boy an "oaf" (twice). I stopped reading immediately. No way in hell a twelve year old would even think of the word oaf, let alone use it. If the author had just kept in mind your comment and applied it to her characters then I'd still be reading. Cheers.


Keep it clean, keep it classy, and jokes are always appreciated.