Skip to main content


Showing posts from May, 2012

Writing What You Know...When You Don't Know Much

So we chatted Tuesday on writing what you know...but how do you write what you know when what you want to write is pretty far from your personal experience?  Research gets you halfway there, but often the tactile and emotional experience can't be found in books or articles.

It can, however, usually be found in your experience.

You might not have the same experiences as your protagonists, but it's pretty likely that you do have transferable knowledge.  J.K. Rowling had (probably...) never played quidditch--but I bet she knew what it felt like to play on a team, have others relying on her to play hard, to play hard and win, and to play hard and lose.  Anyone who's survived P.E. class has that, right?  It's just transferring what you already know into understanding what you haven't experiences.

Everyone has unique experiences that lend all kinds of insider's knowledge that can come to play in writing.  One of my most common sources of inspiration and intuition is …

Write What You Know...?

It's a pretty old adage...but what does it mean?

The quote is attributed to Mark Twain, and if we take him at his word, he did, essentially, write what he knew firsthand. Twain is famous for writing about a world he was familiar with, generally times and places he'd experienced (though not always--I doubt he'd been to King Arthur's Court any more often than the Connecticut Yankee had, but you never know).  Still, we as writers clearly branch out and write what we don't know pretty often, too--for every writer inspired by his or her hometown, there's another writing about space colonies on asteroids or court intrigue in 16th century France.

So, can you effectively write what you don't know?

I'm going to say no and ask that you hold your horses to let me explain.  A writer can't write what he or she has no grasp on--but there are more ways that living through it to get a handle on a subject.  After all, writers write dozens of lives but only live one…

Accountable to the Page: Writing and Schedules

Tuesday I shared what gets me motivated to write--today I'm thinking about what I can do to hold myself to write.  Having a schedule or goal or other expectation keeps you accountable to your work--and the best partner, I think, to creativity is accountability.  We writers have a little problem most of the time during our writing careers: We aren't accountable to anyone but ourselves and the page--no boss, no time card, no nosy coworkers--so we have to create that accountability for ourselves.  I want more of a schedule-based writing life, and a few ways of doing so have emerged for me:

1) The Clock Method.  This one is basic--you clock in, you clock out.  Your butt is in your chair for a set number of hours each day, hands on keyboard, writing.

2) The Goal Method.  A little more flexible, but also, in my opinion, harder to hold yourself to.  You have a daily (or, depending on your schedule and lifestyle, weekly) writing goal, and you meet it by scheduling yourself to complete …

Going to Your Happy (Writing) Place

Slumps happen.  Sometimes they're life-induced--no matter how much of  a superwriter you are, it's not easy to balance giant life changes and normal writing habits.  Sometimes they're creativity-zappage-induced--everyone hits a point where you just don't feel like writing.  Or thinking.  Or being creative or imaginative at all.
Either way, when you decide to get back in the swing of things, I find two things help.
One is a schedule--more on that on Thursday.
The other is finding your happy place.
No, seriously.  I don't do the tortured artist thing.  Even if I'm writing something deep or introspective or dark (umm, as deep or dark as I can get, anyway...), I find I do much better if I start with a smile.  Or at least not a scowl.
So I've identified a few things that never fail to put me in a better mood--and a more optimistic mood is a better writing mood, at least for me.  Because if you're feeling like a giant pessimist, you start to ask those awful q…

Why I'm Here...Blogging, That Is

Why have a writing blog, anyway?

Good question.  I keep hearing it repeated--blogging doesn't have the same chutzpah it used to in terms of creating platform and garnering readership.  Not with Twitter, Facebook, and other quick-connect methods for creating a network.  Fewer people are blogging.  Fewer people are paying attention to blogs.

So why have a blog?

I confess--I don't have a blog to ratchet up a readership.  I agree--excepting a few choice cases, those days are done.  Perhaps fewer people are blogging--but fewer people doesn't mean that the value is gone.  As a writer, I think there are more important reasons than platform to have a blog:

1) I like keeping in touch with other writers.  Sure, Twitter and other sites allow this too--but not on the same level, in my opinion, as blogging.  I get to see what my writer-friends are struggling with, triumphing over, and just thinking about--in more than 140 characters.  Twitter may foster conversation and sharing, but blo…