Sesquipedalophobia – or how I learned to appreciate simple words

I have a bit of a bad habit, where I could say something with one word, I often use twenty-five, (that’s probably my guilty little secret to success in NaNoWriMo), and sometimes when two or three simple words will do, I’ll use one antiquated or complicated word.

It’s something I’ve fine all my life, but I guess it became especially prevalent in essays for college. That little word count target that others in my class struggled with, I’d blast past. I even got told off, “This is more than I’d expect for a university essay.” If you were to talk to my boss at work, he would probably bemoan the war and peace emails I send, which ultimately mean everything’s fine.

It’s never all waffle, (though I’ll admit to doing a fair bit of that), I just tend to over think things, and the sum total of my thoughts gets recorded. I’ll even write something once, and then correct myself, rather than editing the original words, (and that’s how continuity errors become great big blooming plot holes in the middle of a story).

As I mentioned, another side of my bad habit is to use recently antiquated words, perfectly good English, but not something you would use in conversation. Which makes all of the above even harder to read, because not only are you making your way through a tour de force on making a loaf of bread, your scratching your head at what on earth the Chorleywood process means.

I’d like to think I’m not trying to purposefully over power the reader, or appear more intelligent than I am – it’s more a deep sated desire to make myself understood, and yet making myself thoroughly misunderstood I imagine.

And it’s also my love of older books as well. I love Victorian and Edwardian pulp fiction, and that carries a style and form of language you don’t really encounter in the modern world, and it’s inevitable that will carry over into my writing.

Challenge one of this post then is to write in plain English, it doesn’t have to be concise, because that’s simply not how I write. I’ll use editing to reduce my gross verbosity.

Now you’d think given that I write lots and lots of words, and use super cool, (okay not really cool), words, that you’d read a page of my novel and after getting past the gross verbosity you’d have a crystal clear picture of everything from how it’s set, to what happened, and what was said. However I have a curious problem with how I write is that, despite the gross word count I’m really bad at descriptive writing. Dialogue and action are explicit usually, the scene around it, the character descriptions, the locations,  these are usually bare and brief.

I remember  back in high school a teacher once telling me to leave things to readers imagination, and somehow that advice has become so ingrained as to go to the extreme.

I greatly admire Frank Herbert’s descriptive verbosity, but it’s not something I have ever been able to do a frequent of. I’m more aligned with Robert E Howard, (though even his descriptive skills are much richer than mine).

So the second challenge of this post is to scale back some of the action and dialogue, and give a bit more time to setting the scene and characters. It won’t matter if it’s not great, if it’s there I can work on fixing it in editing. In fact, I can make it the first focus of my editing. If as I write I flag any significant, or significantly absent descriptive sections, I can as soon as I’m done go through and redo those bits, and then go into the second draft proper, and  a more general and thorough editing. I don’t want to subtract from pace, if I stop to spend time on something I struggle with, there’s the chance I won’t finish. I know that’s happened in the past.

Going to put both of these challenges into this year’s NaNoWriMo. Where else? Well if I were sensible of try a couple of short stories ahead of November, and put all this into practice. However time is not necessarily on my side, but we’ll see. I’ve got a few days off in September.

Sounds like I’ve got an action plan to me.


N.b. the word of the day is clearly going to have to be ‘verbosity’ I seemed to have used it a lot. In fact, I think I’m falling in love with the term ‘gross verbosity’.

Author: jllegend

Aye, there's the rub. Difficult to sum up succinctly. Crazy, most definitely. Funny, hopefully. Lovely, certainly. Interesting, essentially.

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