Sunday, June 13, 2021

Writers' Pantry #74: Words, words, glorious words

Creating one's own lexicon

I’ve just discovered a great new book for writers. New to me that is; it was first published 2010 and the second edition, which I am reading, is dated 2018. It’s The Writer’s Portable Mentor by Priscilla Long.

 
I’ve read a lot of books for writers and have my few firm favourites, some of whom Long quotes, e.g. Natalie Goldberg and Dorothea Brande. I don’t usually get excited by yet another coming on the market, but this one really excites and inspires me. I read much of the first two chapters to my women writers’ group this week and they got fired up too.

I first got the sample from Kindle, just to make sure, and then forgot about it a while. When I finally came to read it, I knew I had to get the whole book. Unpleasant surprise: it’s expensive for an ebook. $18.59 US dollars. Some second-hand paperback copies are cheaper! I got the ebook anyway, because I like ebooks, this one contains so much and such excellent content that it somewhat excuses the price, and at least one doesn’t have to pay shipping – and because I could not bear to be without this book.

Some things in the early chapters, which are as far as I’ve read yet, are not new to me; they are even things I’ve tried before. But Long explains them in more depth, and adds new layers. For instance, I have kept lists before of words that take my fancy, and used them. But she suggests buying a special small notebook to be one’s Lexicon, dividing each page in half to give two words to a page, and adding useful information under each. She also likes to play with large dictionaries! It’s not about finding fancy or unfamiliar words so much as those which delight you for whatever reason. She tells us: The rule is, put in only the good words, the juicy words, the hot words.

Not that one always wishes to embellish or heighten one’s writing. There are times when something very plain and spare is warranted. She says:

How much language to use is the writer’s choice, always. But to use a limited vocabulary because in reality you only command a limited vocabulary produces a result entirely different from what you might produce in a spare style spun out of an ample and ever-growing word list.


Dear wordsmiths, I await your words, be they juicy or spare, in poetry or prose, old or new. Please keep prose to 369 words maximum (excluding title). Please add the url to Mister Linky below, and leave us a comment if you feel so inclined. A link back to us on your blog post would be appreciated.

Next Wednesday Magaly will invite us to write poetry or prose from the point of view of a character in a painting. Your post should include the painting or a link where other poets and storytellers can look at it. Significantly rewritten pieces are welcomed, as well as new ones.

16 comments:

  1. Rosemary, this sounds like it might be a good book for me. About 2006 I started writing a few poems for on-line and in a few years became more serious, trying to remember some of what I learned in high school where I also dabbled with the writing, mostly verse until I became serious with my regular blog also. Along the way I read and studied writing books, but settled mostly on Ted Kooser and his writing book, "The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice For Beginning Poets (2005)." You might like to peek at it if your library has it.
    ..

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    1. Hi, Jim. This book is primarily written for writers of 'creative non-fiction' aka 'literary non-fiction' – but the author does point out that it could also be useful for poets and fiction writers, as well as noting that many of us (herself included) write all three.
      Yes, I have had a bit of a look at the Kooser book, and it seems good, but there are others which appeal to me even more.

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  2. A safe and happy Sunday to you, dear poet friends

    Much💛love

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  3. Happy Sunday!

    That sounds like a very interesting book. Maybe because English is my second language I have for years been writing down new words I find interesting, fun or intriguing in some way. Once in a while I read through it to see if there is a word I can use. I have also long been in the habit of looking up every word I'm not totally sure what it means, that have become so much easier nowadays with either looking it up directly through the e-book, or via the mobile that usually is at hand.

    Have had to much on my plate to post to the Pantry, but I have been missing you all!

    Love 💜

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    1. Sounds like you're ahead of the game! (The apparent disadvantage of English being your second language turning into a bonus because you investigate it and don't take it for granted.)

      Ah, we've missed you too, and a few others who have been absent lately. But that's the beauty of a community like this; you can take time out as necessary, and slot back in later whenever you like.

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  4. Good day, poets!
    i used to note and write down words that i do not know the meaning of or that i found 'fancy'. i have a book that lists all those words, and i made ample use of a thick dictionary. nowadays, we have the internet. I remembered one of the first words i learned was 'stygian' because i liked the sound of the word. i have used the word in my essays and poems. :)

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    1. Oh yes, 'stygian' is a wonderful word! A powerful word. Seldom seen these days, that makes it all the more arresting.

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  5. Greetings all! Don’t you love the way “lexicon” rolls off the tongue, I do! Thanks Rosemary for a delightful and informative Writer’s Pantry today.

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    1. Oh yes – and thank you for reminding us of the delight in savouring the actual sounds of words, saying them aloud. (Notes in the music of our poetry ... and prose too.)

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  6. Hello Rosemary, hi all — I posted a link here to a post on my I&V which expresses poetically my love, admiration, and deep respect for artists who have invested the time in their talent to have earned the right to truly be called — “artist”.

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  7. Happy Sunday, everyone. :)

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