Sunday, February 17, 2013

Write What You Know

I was sitting in a class at USC, in the Professional Writing Program, when a young woman confessed that she had a hard time writing because she was "young and hadn't experienced anything yet." How wise she was to recognize the importance of experience. And how smart we would all be, as writers, if we realized that everything we go through is grist for the mill. Even our bad experiences teach us something and give us wisdom. Our trials, our adversity-- it can all work its way onto the printed page.

So my message for you today is to use your experiences and write what you know. From the city where you grew up, to the jobs you've had, to the people in your world-- these are the elements that will give authenticity to your work.

I just listed a YA adventure romance with Kindle and CreateSpace. It's called "JUNGLE" and it takes place on an uncharted island in the Indian Ocean. Now, I'm not an anthropologist (though I loved those college classes), and I'm certainly not a cannibal, but I used life experience to create villains, heroes, and real romance. Research helped fill in the details about sailing, botany, language, and primitive cultures.

In another of my Kindle books, "SISTERS IN THE MIX" I drew heavily on my actual life. This is a humorous chick-lit novel about an obsessive-compulsive woman with a cooking show, whose flamboyant sister moves in and creates all kinds of chaos for the main character. I don't have OCD, but I've lived long enough to know lots of people who do, so that made writing about it easy. I used to host a daily TV talk show. I've won tons of recipe contests. I like word puzzles and sometimes correct the grammar on signs. I have a husband and kids. So my actual life experience helped me include those details and write about these people in a setting I know well.

Look at your life and take a stab at a story that incorporates the elements you know best. That's how to best write a story that will ring true to your reader.

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