Thursday, January 13, 2011

Guest post by The Writing Nag

"A word is not the same with one writer as with another. One tears it from his guts. The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket." ~Charles Peguy

Whether you write horror, suspense, poetry or non-fiction, the words you choose can turn a dull piece of writing into a piece that is powerful, memorable, and exciting. All creative writers can add to their vocabulary by reading and writing across genres, and actively adding new words to their writing. Many creative writing teachers will suggest keeping a notebook with you at all times to jot down words, phrases, and snippets of conversation. I've kept a word collection notebook for years...many times it's this notebook and a favorite word that sparks a writing session.

On Saturday I went to a poetry workshop where we played with words. Using Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge's book Poemcrazy, everyone in our small group wrote nine words on small pieces of paper (Wooldridge calls them "word tickets"). The small pieces of paper were gathered together and we all started freewriting.

As we wrote, the instructor walked around and tossed words in front of each writer. Sometimes one; sometimes two or three at a time. We were instructed to keep writing our piece but to integrate the new words into our writing. Because these weren't my words the new words in front of me felt fresh and exciting. Adding the words changed the direction of my writing but it didn't change my voice.

Consider trying this prompt even if you're not in a group: If you're stumped for new words, try flipping through a stack of magazines and snipping out words or word phrases that speak to you. Practice integrating these new words in your writing when you feel like you've reached the end of a writing session, you may be surprised where a new word can take you.

The Writing Nag blogs about creative writing, poetry, and the practice of writing daily at


  1. Enjoyed your post. Random words are great for freewriting. It's amazing some of the work that develops from something so simple.

    Cher Green

  2. Thanks, Cher. They really are. Do you ever find yourself getting an idea for a story just from one word or phrase? (Maybe that's just me...)


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