New words for new worlds

It's like some people have a different word for everything.

It’s like some people have a different word for everything.

I read recently that Shakespeare invented some 1,700 words. Considering that his published vocabulary was about 17,000 words, that means he used a new word for every 10 he wrote, on average, including ones like “hobnob,” “rant,” and “eyeball.” We can’t all be Shakespeare, obviously, but sometimes when you write you just need some new words, whether they’re made-up slang or a constructed language for a fantasy world.

The first book I ever finished had a pre-industrial fantasy setting, and I needed a new language to make the story work. Some resources I found helpful included:

My best piece of advice, though, is this: Don’t build a new language unless you absolutely have to, and don’t create any more than you absolutely need to start writing. Once you have some basic rules in place for creating words and grammar, you can just do it as you go. If you become obsessed with creating the perfect language, the danger is that you’ll never finish — or even worse, that you’ll never start writing.

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