Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Writing Commandment #4 Write What Thou Knows

Okay, and forgive me for being cliche, but this is so true no matter what you write. If a writer doesn't know his subject matter, that lack of insight comes across in the writing. And guess what, the writer ends up looking like a big old tool.

We all know a few of those, don't we?

So in this life, we are confined to a certain number of hours in a day and there are just way too many things to experience. As I've already said you can not write about yourself. Why? Because A) It's arrogant and presumptuous to do so. B)That's why we have blogs and C) It hurts more when those rejections start piling up. Then you wonder why the agent/ editor doesn't like you, not the story you wrote.

There are more, but I digress.

So, what is a writer who wants to write about everything to do.
Simple--research.

This is one of those neat things that you may not be told very often. Inspiration for a story can come from just about ANYWHERE. All it takes is an observant mind and the question "I wonder what would happen if...?"
There are a ton of different, fun ways to research. When I was an assistant den mother for Danny's Tiger Cub den, we toured the brand new correctional facility in the town of Concord. (And no, no guests there yet.) We saw the new 911 call response center as well as state of the art equipment.

Pretty cool, right? I haven't used this info yet, but the door is open.

There's also the Internet, telephone calls or just day to day networking. A good story can come from anywhere, so keep your eyes open or you might trip over it.

I've done so a few times. ;-)

So tell me, what do you know? What have you studied inside and out and can now safely use in your writing without looking like aforementioned big old tool?

2 comments:

  1. Actually, Jenn, I'm gonna tell you what I know about YOU from your work :). It's how we came to meet. When I first read the beginning of your novel RIVER RATS, you had Sullivan county, NY DOWN. I knew you were from there! Now, you didn't right about YOURSELF, so your commandment wasn't broken, but you did prove something important: It is hard to write about a place you've never been. I am from Sullivan Co, and recognizing it in your novel was thrilling. For those of us who don't have the option to travel to the places in their novels (*sigh* Scotland *sigh*) Google maps does 3D! Also, check out travel shows like Rick Steves Europe on PBS and check your local library for such DVD's. Look for online groups for writers and send out a query about something you need clarification on. Fellow author Deb Blake uses this tool all of the time. It is also very handy when looking to translate sentences. Getting *it* (whatever it may be) is very important. Author Dina Gabaldon wrote much of her first novel of the OUTLANDER series with many errors--and she still receives hate mail for it. Spare yourself the ulcer!

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  2. Glad is showed, Robin ;-) Love Sullivan County even if I will never live there again. (Too freaking cold ;-)

    With Laundry Hag, I placed the story in Hudson M.A because there was the possibility we might move there after my husband finished his final tour w/ the navy. So a great deal of research was done, which just kinda stayed with me even as we were setting up house in NC. So here I am a yankee from New Yawk, living in the south and I wonder, "Hey what would it be like to be a born and raised Southerner living in the North?"

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