Diaries, Traveling, and Vocabulary

It’s been almost a year since I first posted about this writers’ question and answer site. Since then, they’ve asked–and answered–many more interesting questions. If you’re new to Stack Exchange’s take on Q&A, think of a melding of a forum and Reddit (where users vote on content) with some crowdsourced editing thrown in, wiki-style.

There’s some good information on the web, but it can be hard to find. Discussion forums are an ungodly mess; and you can find good information on Reddit, but you have to dig to find it. I think Stack Exchange has made a great start on what is essentially curated content, and they tend to contain better-quality information than most collaboratively edited sites. This one is about writing–fiction, tech writing, screenplays, even correspondence.

I’ve picked a few samples of more recent questions from the site. (I’ve edited these summaries, but the titles are links to the complete text.)

What are some disadvantages of writing fiction in a diary format?, by Village

I find writing in a diary-style is the easiest way to write fiction. The format is the same as a diary, with each entry beginning with the date, then describing the feelings or events of the character up to that date.

  • Are there any disadvantages to writing fiction in this format?
  • Do any of these disadvantages explain why this format is not very common?

How to make travel scenes interesting without adding needless plot diversions?, by strixvaria

I have always had a problem with travel in my stories. Since I’m writing an epic fantasy novel, travel is a big theme as characters often have to move from where they are to where the plot dictates.

How can I gloss over the uninteresting parts while still keeping enough to show this character development?

How do authors gain strong familiarity with archaic and extremely rare words?, by aerovistae

I keep thinking about this because I’ve lately been reading Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy, and it’s just ridiculous. I have to look up 1-2 words per sentence sometimes, something I’m only used to doing for Joyce. Apparently McCarthy is well known for doing this sort of thing.

The book was written in the mid-1980s — it’s modern. But the terms used therein belong to another time, and are mostly unknown to modern English.

How do authors pick up such a broad vocabulary of words that they can effectively disguise themselves as a hundred years older than they are? These words can’t be used in day-to-day speech; nobody would understand you. If you can’t use them, how do you remember them?

Stack Exchange sites can be great fun to read, but pretty unfriendly to people who want to participate. Fortunately, they’ve recently made their introductory page much friendlier; it’s an easy read, and will get new users up to speed quickly.


This post is based on content from writers.stackexchange.com.

Neil Fein is a freelance editor who specializes in novels. If you’ve written a manuscript or are getting close to finishing, you can get in touch with him here, and even ask for a free sample edit. He’s fascinated by places where language and music intersect, and he writes music and lyrics as often as possible. He’s also in the studio with his band Baroque & Hungry.

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