Thursday, May 3, 2012

Word Hunt


"Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule." ~ Stephen King

Love this quote. Probably because I'm not a big fan of using the thesaurus myself. :)

To be fair, I do use the thesaurus now and again. When I was writing that steampunk story, I used it a lot. I created tons of new devices and words in that story, and I used the thesaurus a lot to help me create names for the tinkerings. Lots of fun.

But when I'm revising and editing, I don't use the thesaurus much. When I find myself repeating a word (which sadly happens too often - but that's a subject for another post...), I tend to scrap the sentence or the paragraph and rewrite it to avoid the word. It doesn't always work, but it helps.

I know lots of writers who use the thesaurus a lot. I've often felt somehow less because I don't. So when I first saw that King quote, it made my day!


Knowing more now, I realize we all have our different styles and ways of doing things. Not only is this okay, it's what makes us all unique and interesting. If we all wrote the same way, I'm sure our stories would be similar too - and no one wants that!

So, how about you, are you a word hunter?

50 comments:

  1. Not really I only look for a word if I'm not sure how to spell a word.

    Yvonne.

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  2. I use it on occasion when revising. Usually I can think of a better word on my own, but sometimes I just want to see what else is available.

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  3. I don't usually use it. But I think depending on what you're writing - like your steampunk - it can be useful.

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  4. Yvonne - I even use Google for that! :)

    Alex - I loved the online version for my steampunk story!

    Laura - it really can! I loved it for that story :)

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  5. I use the thesaurus a lot, not to replace words with flashier synonyms, but to hunt the elusive word that's on the tip of my tongue.

    I start with a word that's not quite right, then (using thesaurus.com) I click through to synonyms of that word, hopping through lists until I stumble across the one I wanted to use all along.

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  6. I LOVE the thesaurus - its a different world of words - I love love love it! It's near enough my bible!! Sorry Mr King, I don't agree! But he's writing fab stories and making millions and I'm just rubbish so what do I know! LOL!

    Take care
    x

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  7. Aw, I'm a big fan of the thesaurus. It's not that I'm searching for words I don't already know/understand - usually I use it when I've forgotten a word and think it would be perfect.

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  8. That's one of my favorite Stephen King rules. I drill it into my students. I love how he says that any word you can't use easily in casual conversation is off limits until you CAN. :)

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  9. I've only ever used the thesaurus on the very rare occasion. And it's usually because I feel like I've overused a word and need an alternative.

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse, co-host of the 2012 #atozchallenge! Twitter: @AprilA2Z

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  10. Dianne - that's a great way to use it! I think I might have to try it! :)

    Old Kitty - you most certainly NOT rubbish! I think it's more a matter of style and personal taste! No right or wrong. :)

    Julie - that would work too! There are so many different ways of doing things - that's what makes it so much fun!

    Shannon O - that works for me too! I hate when 'big' words crop up in the book/story that have no business being there!

    Shannon L - I think it's a great tool! Just one I don't use very often either. :)

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  11. I do love the thesaurus but, really, it's for when I want a particular word and can't think of it--I can only think of the plain, boring version of the exact word I'm looking for. And that's because my brain is hole-y like Swiss cheese lately.

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  12. I use my flip dictionary when I find I'm using a word too often, but I try not to pick out some obscure word. Usually I'll find a word and I'll say 'aha.'

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  13. Mary - I like READING the thesaurus for fun sometimes - but I just don't use it very often. I hear you on the swiss cheese brain - mine's the same! :)

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  14. Susan - that's such a great feeling - find the right word is such a relief and a joy!

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  15. Ha, this may be true. I have this HUGE brick of a Thesaurus and I barely use it. Maybe King is right. :)

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  16. Karen - at least for some of us! I love words and love to cruise for fun ones, but I rarely open one when writing!

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  17. I hunt for words when I'm not writing. When I'm writing the thesaurus may distract me or lead me to words that would sound unnatural in my WIP.

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  18. Medeia - exactly! I do love to cruise the thesaurus - just not when I'm writing :)

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  19. ...I do believe that quote was taken from King's "On Writing," a novel I'd suggest any and all fellow storytellers to push to the top of their summer reading list ;)

    El

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  20. Elliot - King is brilliant! I'd take his advice any day!! :)

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  21. I use it once in awhile when I find myself using the same word repeatedly or if I am thinking of a word but can't remember it.

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  22. Jessica - that happens to me way too often! It's a handy book :)

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  23. If I write a word and don't like it, I right click and see what synonyms Word has listed. If I like a synonym better, I'll use it. If not, I either leave it be or find a way to rewrite it. Every once in a while if I want a completely different word that's not in my vocabulary, I might pull up a thesaurus.

    Stephen King is pretty awesome though, so maybe I shouldn't use it at all anymore :p

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  24. I used to use the thesaurus more than I do now. My critique group is quite good at suggesting replacement words during critiques.

    I do however often pull out my dictionary to make sure I'm using a word correctly.

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  25. Kela - while I think King = genius, I also think we all have to find the right way for us - and that will be different for everyone! I didn't know about the right click thing - gotta try that! :)

    Pat - I've done that too! Crit groups are great for catching those kinds of things. My buddies are awesome at catching my echoes!!

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  26. I use the dictionary and the thesaurus a lot.
    My brain doesn't work as well as it used to.
    BSC. Before small child. I swear I had a great vocabulary and my brain was like a razor. Now it's like jello. Holding together but always sliding from side to side.
    Heather

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  27. I don't even own a thesaurus. Okay, I've been known to go to thesaurus.com on occasion (very rare ones LOL) but like you, mostly it just doesn't figure in my process :)

    ~ Rhonda Parrish

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  28. no i don't ever hunt for words--so glad to see this quote ;)

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  29. Heather - My kids are no longer small, but BOY do I know what you're talking about!!! :)

    Rhonda - exactly. I know it's a great resource for lots of people, but I don't use it often!

    Lynn - this quote made me feel a lot better about it too!

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  30. I don't use it much. Sometimes when working on a children's book, I try to find better action verbs, but seldom find anything better than what I can come up with. I like the quote!

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  31. Connie - me too! Verbs are so much fun :)

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  32. There are times when a thesaurus can be really useful. Poetry writing, descriptive writing, dialogue of a person who speaks in a manner above their station. A thesaurus is also an exciting place to lose yourself so I'm afraid I don't, in this instance, agree with King.

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  33. Rosalind - I loved to cruise the thesaurus as a kid - still do sometimes. There are so many great words. I just rarely use it when I'm writing!

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  34. I use it every once in awhile, but like you I'm more likely to just rewrite the paragraph!

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  35. Talli - and that's exactly what I'm doing now - using that Control Find function to get rid of those over used words :)

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  36. I jot down words I like and want to use....I have a ya started and when I hear a teenager use a term I like I write it on the front cover of the composition book I've been using for notes. The same with historical fiction...if I'm reading something and I like a word of phrase I jot it down and put it in a file.

    I bought a 1918 dictionary when i was in England the last time. When I edit my hf novel I'm going to check all my spellings and usages to make sure I have them correct to the period.

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  37. Mostly I use synonyms. But then use google occasionally as well.

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  38. Sharon - those are both great ideas! Teens can spot an adult faking a kid voice a mile off, so using their own words is brilliant. And I love the idea of you hf dictionary! Awesome! :)

    Nas - Google is such a great invention. What in the world did we do before it??? :)

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  39. Love that quote Jemi.

    Have you read this one? It's a bit long but I think you'll enjoy reading it:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/feb/20/ten-rules-for-writing-fiction-part-one

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  40. Agnes - me too! Love that quote! Cut and rewrite might just be my mantra these days!! :)

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  41. This is awesome! You find the coolest stuff. The quote is dead on. The dinosaur joke tickles my funny bone!

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  42. Jean - it is for me too! I really don't like using those 'big words when a little one will do!' :)

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  43. Yeah, I love the thesaurus. I can't disagree with you that sometimes the whole sentence can come out, but I still won't do without my thesaurus!

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  44. Beth - so many people do! It's another one of those 'each to their own' deals! :)

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  45. Yes, I'm definitely a word hunter. The thrill of the hunt when I find a word that is absolutely perfect is indescribable. And when I say perfect, I don't mean an obscure hard-to-pronounce word intended to impress everyone with my vocabulary, I mean a simple word that adds clarity and depth and the perfect nuance to what I want to say.
    Judy, South Africa

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  46. Judy - it really is a thrill when you find that 'just right' word. It adds so much to the sentence and the story! Love it :)

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  47. One of my pet peeves is when I can tell someone has used a thesaurus and chosen a word that doesn't quite fit.

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  48. Leslie - I know exactly what you mean! It's like teaching kids to report on information in their own words - it has that same fake sound when they don't do it well! :)

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