One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper pattern at the right moment.
Like most—maybe all— writers, I learned to write by writing and, by example, by reading books.
Permission to dig into that to-be-read pile! Obligation to expand my literary horizons.
I’m always on the lookout for writers who do new and unexpected things with words. I love the rhyming phrases Lloyd Alexander put in the mouth of his hairy side-kick, Gurgi. I adore the made-up, onomatopoetic words Terry Pratchett uses to describe sounds. I revel in the quirky, dry wit of Georgette Heyer’s Regency lovers. And when I spent some weeks investigating Elizabethan broadside ballads, I wanted desperately to swear like them. A turd in thy teeth!
This is what makes a writer outstanding, their phrases sticking like porridge to the inside of your head: words combined in new spirals and twists, or even expanding upon the dictionary itself if the occasion demands! So I agree with Hart Crane – soak, drench, drown yourself in words of all sorts. But don’t limit yourself merely to one genre, or even to novels in general. Last night I surprised myself by soaking myself in some poetry – and enjoying it. If any of you can suggest further ways to stretch the literary boundaries, do let me know!