Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.
QUESTION: We recently asked you what questions you’d like answered in our Friday Fun post. Today, we’re answering the following reader question:
Jamie Wallace: I don’t think you have to read the Oxford English Dictionary cover to cover in order to be a great writer, but I do think that an ever-growing vocabulary is a writing asset that should not be overlooked. That said, some of the best writing uses the simplest language. E.B. White and Hemingway were masters of a minimalist style that was highly evocative despite using mostly run-of-the-mill words.
In the context of your wanting to take part in NaNoWriMo this year, I’d say that you shouldn’t worry about vocabulary at all. NaNoWriMo is about getting words on the page. Full stop. It’s not about artistry or craft; it’s about putting your butt in the chair and racking up word count. AFTER NaNoWriMo, however, you’re going to want to revise and edit what you’ve written. That’s the point to start looking at word choice and refining your writing, sentence by sentence.
Lee Laughlin: I do think having a broad vocabulary is important to being a successful writer. That said, different genres have different expectations for vocabulary. The best thing you can do is read heavily in the genre you wish to publish. Read best sellers and read books with low rankings. This gives you an idea of what the audience expects.
I second Jamie, don’t worry about vocabulary for NaNo. Just write. Write early write often and oh yeah, write a lot. NaNo is about capturing the muse.
Lisa J. Jackson: I think it’s important to have a love for writing and reading, and by natural extension a love for words. You may not always have the right word at the tip of your tongue, but you can figure it out when you need to.
Anything goes in NaNo, including how to spell! NaNo is all about getting the story out of your head and onto the page. The words can be fixed later.
Deborah Lee Luskin: Vocabulary only matters if you want to be understood! And then it matters who you’re writing for. The poet T.S. Eliot says it best in Little Giddings:
And every phrase
And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,
Taking its place to support the others,
The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,
An easy commerce of the old and the new,
The common word exact without vulgarity,
The formal word precise but not pedantic,
The complete consort dancing together)
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph.