U is for Useful Writing Tips

U is for useful writing tips!

One of my favourite recent quotes comes from Claire Legrand: "LIKE, DIALOGUE IS NOT THE ULTIMATE IN EMOTIONAL CONVEYANCE. WE ARE NOT WRITING PLAYS WE'RE WRITING NOVELS."

I always think of that when I'm having trouble with showing - through conversation - rather than telling.

Another link I came across on Twitter was to Literary Composition by H. P. Lovecraft, first published in the January 1920 issue of The United Amateur. Some it is out of date - as much as we love the English language, we can't fight all changes. "Viewpoint" sounds fine to me, even though I'm always railing against phrases like "going forward" and "low-hanging fruit":


Lovecraft also has a lot to say on description. I'm quoting his advice on word choice in its entirety:
"An excellent habit to cultivate is the analytical study of the King James Bible. For simple yet rich and forceful English, this masterly production is hard to equal; and even though its Saxon vocabulary and poetic rhythm be unsuited to general composition, it is an invaluable model for writers on quaint or imaginative themes. Lord Dunsany, perhaps the greatest living prose artist, derived nearly all of his stylistic tendencies from the Scriptures; and the contemporary critic Boyd points out very acutely the loss sustained by most Catholic Irish writers through their unfamiliarity with the historic volume and its traditions.

Vocabulary

One superlatively important effect of wide reading is the enlargement of vocabulary which always accompanies it. The average student is gravely impeded by the narrow range of words from which he must choose, and he soon discovers that in long compositions he cannot avoid monotony. In reading, the novice should note the varied mode of expression practiced by good authors, and should keep in his mind for future use the many appropriate synonymes he encounters. Never should an unfamiliar word be passed over without elucidation; for with a little conscientious research we may each day add to our conquests in the realm of philology, and become more and more ready for graceful independent expression.

But in enlarging the vocabulary, we must beware lest we misuse our new possessions. We must remember that there are fine distinctions betwixt apparently similar words, and that language must ever be selected with intelligent care. As the learned Dr. Blair points out in his Lectures, 'Hardly in any language are there two words that convey precisely the same idea; a person thoroughly conversant in the propriety of language will always be able to observe something that distinguishes them.'"
Have you ever, as part of your research, tried to read a JSTOR article and were blocked? Well, now you can read up to three JSTOR articles for free every two weeks!

And for more advice, here's Diana Gabaldon on writing:



Got a book giveaway coming tomorrow! Here's a sneak preview:

Comments

S.P. Bowers said…
Great useful tips!
That's great advice. :)
Michael Di Gesu said…
Thanks Deniz,

I would be lost without my thesaurus... Vocabulary is very important. A writer must mix up words to keep the prose flowing and interesting...
I absolutely detest H.P. Lovecraft's prose. I'd never listen to his advice on writing. However, I do appreciate is extremely dark and vivid imagination.
nutschell said…
an awesome compilation of tips! I'll have to watch that video of Diana Gabaldon later;)
Nutschell
www.thewritingnut.com
Lovecraft's work was unique, and while the prose challenging at times, he is a master storyteller and knew his horror.
And if reading the King James version doesn't stretch you, nothing will!
Marti said…
Good tips! Visiting from A-Z
Melanie Schulz said…
I have many days when I suffer from what I call "Poverty of Speech," but that is what a good thesaurus is for.
Thanks for the writing advice!
Nick Wilford said…
I'm all for broadening my vocabulary! I'm happy to have learnt many lovely words through my theme for the Challenge this year. :)
Lara said…
Nice post! :)
Kristen Dyrr said…
Wonderful excerpt and clip, thanks!

#atozchallenge, Kristen's blog: kristenhead.blogspot.com
Misha Gericke said…
I sort of avoid JSTOR articles because I used them to death when I was at university.

Odd, I know, but I can't help myself.

Anyway, back to the main topic of your post. I find that reading anything builds vocab. And with a bigger vocab, we can spice up our writing a lot easier. :-)
Stephanie Allen said…
I didn't know that about JSTOR, but I've missed it so much since I graduated! Thanks for the tip! :)
Deniz Bevan said…
Glad you all enjoyed this post! It's been a really fun A to Z this year!
Deniz Bevan said…
I'm partial to Lovecraft since he's partial to cats :-)
http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/texts/essays/cd.aspx
J.L. Campbell said…
I've never thought about reading the King James Bible quite like that. Though we are encouraged to write in simple language, I love reading books with beautiful, complex sentences. :D

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