Strong Verbs and Other Good Words, Part Three: The Word Book

In part one of this series, I talked about strong verbs.  Part two featured a rant essay about the thesaurus.  And now we come to part three, which is about the word book.  It could also be titled, write the word down, stupid.  (For those of you youngsters, or people with short memories, I'm riffing off the slogan that won Bill Clinton the election, way back in the days of yore.  The slogan, "Its the economy, stupid," was posted on election headquarters walls to remind workers what the key issue was.  The more things change, the more they stay the same. Except this time I'm pretty sure that Obama doesn't need reminding.)

Anyway, strong verbs and word books.  Carrie's Graduation and Images of Word Book 041
Carrie's Graduation and Images of Word Book 045

Behold, images of my very own word book:  I know, I know, the photos are not the best, but I am proud of them nonetheless, because I so rarely manage to illustrate posts with photos.  They are clear enough, I hope, for you to get the gist.  My word book is a cute little (5 by 8 ish) purple binder with A to Z tabs and in it I write down, wait for it, words. 

The genesis of my word book stems from my MFA years.  One of my mentors, Melissa Pritchard, gave a lecture in which she talked about a word book that she had begun years ago and now could not live without.  I had a writer's crush on Melissa and vowed to emulate every single thing that she did, ever.  And so I started my own word book, not having the first clue what hers actually contained.  I just liked the idea of having a book full of vital words that I carried with me everywhere.

At first I laboriously wrote new words in my word book, looked up the definition, and then wrote that down, too.  A nice idea, and I do love all the words I've defined in my book.  And even though it is fun to leaf through and admire the words, I find this approach is not terribly useful.  After all, how do I know what word I'm looking for?  I have to confess that this wee problem made me set aside the word book for a few, gasp, years.

But since I've been on my Verb Safari, I am reconfiguring the word book.  Mostly now I'm using it to write down verbs.  Strong verbs, weak verbs, verbs based on nouns, verbs I made up, verbs that don't make any sense.  The best way to find good verbs is to start becoming aware of them.  And once you find them, write them down.  Make your own word book.  Write them on index cards (my new favorite way to keep track of ideas).  Write them on scraps of paper, throw them in a basket, and look over them every once in awhile.  Doesn't matter where you write them, but do it.   And while you're add it write down other words that catch your fancy, also.  You'll find your verb use and your vocabulary improving drastically.

So that's it, my three-part series on verb use.  If you find any good verbs, share them with me, would you?  I'd appreciate it.

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11 Comments on "Strong Verbs and Other Good Words, Part Three: The Word Book"

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10/02/2008 07:24

Nice entry. I’ve been fiddling with a variation on this theme for a couple years. I found a great dictionary published during the Johnson Administration, and it’s full of all the usual words, plus words that have gone…out of fashion, as it were. I’ve been reading this dictionary on and off over the years and when I discover a word that inspires me, or makes me laugh, or makes me twitch, I will write it down along with its definition. And when I feel the need, I’ll flip through the journal and just see which words jump out at me.… Read more »

Charlotte Rains Dixon
10/02/2008 07:41

Oh, I’m sure its effective in increasing your facility with words. And I know what you mean–it is so easy to get distracted doing things like looking through dictionaries, rather than actually writing.

10/02/2008 12:07

thanks for sharing this idea for a word book.

10/04/2008 21:51

I totally have a word book and love love love it – besides my Edit Cards system *which I’m making for friends for christmas lol* it’s one of my favorite tools.

Thanks for the great series!

10/05/2008 10:01

Oh Bria, what are your Edit Cards? Do tell, please!

10/07/2008 13:27

Hi there Charlotte. Fourteen months ago my niece, Rachael, gave me a game called “Apples to Apples” It is a descriptive game and the cards used have words on them. Having found them to be ridiculously helpful whenever I choose to use them, I will be keeping them close by in the near future, as I foresee my writing will intensify in the upcoming months ahead.

10/07/2008 13:41

Therese, what a great idea to use the Apple to Apple cards. I love that game so much–my huge extended family plays it on beach vacations. We played it so much one year we all got colds from handling the cards. I’ll have to go back and snitch the cards and put them next to my desk. Thanks for the tip. I’m also glad to hear that you’ll be doing more writing in the future.

10/16/2008 08:08

I totally missed the edit card question :) They’re a way of doing everything from turning of your Internal Editor or the “little stuff” to making sure you’re catching the big stuff. So they range from things like Search & Destroy words (almost, very, etc), Weak Words (small, big, etc) to Structural (Chapter Opens –> Read the first paragraph of every chapter, starting with the last one. If the reader put the book down for a few days and came back, would they be able to jump back into the story, or have to track backwards?) I’m still working on… Read more »

10/16/2008 08:14

Bria, I’ll be first in line to buy your Edit Cards! Sounds like a great idea.

10/21/2008 12:41

Great series Charlotte. I’ll be thinking of it while I am writing my novel for NaNo next month.

I had actually started a word list of sorts a few years back and reading this post makes me want to start up again.

10/21/2008 18:21

C.J, Keeping a word list is at the very least a fun, writerly thing to do. Good luck with Nanowrimo! —– PING: TITLE: pain in big toe URL: IP: BLOG NAME: pain in big toe DATE: 02/11/2013 07:12:26 PM Strong Verbs and Other Good Words, Part Three: The Word Book – Charlotte Rains Dixon —– PING: TITLE: Celia URL: IP: BLOG NAME: Celia DATE: 02/11/2013 03:14:05 PM Strong Verbs and Other Good Words, Part Three: The Word Book – Charlotte Rains Dixon —– PING: TITLE: psychic readings URL: IP: BLOG NAME: psychic readings DATE:… Read more »