Where I share my love of books with reviews, features, giveaways and memes. Family and needlepoint are thrown in from time to time.

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Write What You Know. . .

. . . And Sometimes What You Don't Know
by Jennifer Walker

One of the most common pieces of advice bandied about by experienced authors is that you should write about what you know. This is definitely a good piece of advice! It drives me crazy when I read a book or see a movie with wildly inaccurate facts...horses that do things real horses don't do, dance scenes that don't look anything like the dance they're supposed to portray, etc. Some of these things would be so easy to correct with a modicum of research.

Beyond getting the basic facts right, when you live something, there is a depth of knowledge you have that cannot be replicated by someone who has never spent much time with that thing. For example, my thing is horses (big surprise if you've read anything about my books). One thing that is common among reactions to the books is that my knowledge of horses comes through. On the other side of the coin, I was once asked to write some reviews of high end luxury sports cars for a magazine. I knew I couldn't do justice to them, so I handed the assignment over to my husband. He claims he's not a car guy, but secretly he is. He did a fantastic job--way better than I could have done. I could have presented the facts about the cars OK, but when he did it, his enthusiasm for the subject matter shone through because he's spent a lot more time studying and drooling over cars than I have.

All that said, I think it's good to step outside of your comfort zone every once in a while. For NaNoWriMo this last year, I wrote a middle grade fiction that had no horses whatsoever. That took some effort! I also have some other story ideas that are way outside my comfort zone. I'm going to have to do a lot of research, because I want to get everything exactly right. And that's the key right there: if you do decide to go into unknown territory, make sure you do your research. If you're talking about something you don't have a background in, you might find a beta reader who knows the subject well just to check on you so your story rings true.

Above all, keep writing...no matter what the topic!


Jennifer is the author of the Green Meadow Series (for middle grade girls), one of which I recently read and reviewed - Bubba to the Rescue.  There is still time to comment to win a copy of her short story, Leslie and the Lion.

1 comment:

Maggie Dana said...

Great post, Jen ... and so true. I often wonder what would happen if a writer's browser history was examined by someone who didn't know the reason behind it all.

What a mix it would be. My recent research for my mid-grade horse novel includes butterflies in Brazil, Marlboro cigarette packs, the Mounties, ski lifts, wheelchairs, and curling irons.

Thank goodness for Wikipedia and Google. Can you imagine life for a writer without them? (Yes, I do ... and it wasn't easy. Lots of time at the library and on the phone with people who weren't quite sure what you were asking about.)

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