Today I’m guest blogging at Savvy Authors, where “writers help writers.” That’s my theme, in a way – my piece is about how reading a lot of academic papers over the years taught me several important lessons for fiction writing, too.
With a nod to the fine work of Terry Pratchett, I titled the piece “Helpful Academicals for Novelists.” Here’s an excerpt:
3. Never use a longer word when a shorter word will do.
Students, especially, seem drawn to long words and specialized jargon. I think they feel they must “prove themselves” as academic writers by liberally sprinkling long words and jargon throughout their texts. But good academic writing is writing that can be understood easily. Words function in the service of communicating the ideas they represent, and I often have to remind students that communication isn’t complete until the reader understands the message. Keeping language simple and clear is essential for that to occur.
Creative writing also suffers when an author chooses language intended to impress rather than explain, describe, show, or engage the reader. Writers love words, and we want all of them to find a home in our work. A beautiful word like susurration, which was used liberally in a novel I read recently, deserves to be welcomed into our vocabulary. Will your readers know it, or will they have to look it up?