Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Writer Writes: What You Know or What You Don't

I used Grammarly to grammar check this post, because I’d rather give my readers good grammar than second guess it and have them tear my reputation to shreds like a leopard attacking an elephant’s….uh, leg."

If you’ve ever watched the hilarious movie Throw Momma From A Train starring Billy Crystal and Danny DeVito, you’ve heard the often quoted advice, “A writer writes.”  Crystal’s character,  a would-be author and creative writing teacher, named Larry shares this mantra with his class.  Larry’s bitter because his ex-wife ran off with his manuscript and made it a bestseller.  One of his students, Owen, lives with his Momma who makes his life a living hell but Owen aspires to write too.  Throughout the 1980’s flick, Larry shares his advice, “A writer writes.”

It’s often the first piece of advice given to would-be writers and it’s valid.  Yes, writers do write.  But often writers are forced to juggle their writing time around job and family, not necessarily in that order.  While I’m a firm believer a writer can and should write every day I also realize in the real world, it’s not always possible for everyone.  It’s vital for me and I do write each day.  It’s part of who and what I am.  Writing is much like breathing for me.  I have to do it to survive.

The second thing well-meaning sages will often tell those who write is “write what you know.” And I also agree – but to a point.  Since I write about everything from history to vampires, there’s a great deal I write about which I haven’t experienced.  I’ve never drunk blood, been undead, or experienced immortality.  But I write about it using my imagination and what resources exist.  The fun thing about writing fantasy of any sort is you can create your own lore or use what has existed for centuries.  Either way, it’s up to you.  My historical romances have ranged from the 1920’s to the American frontier to the 1940’s and the period just after the Armistace but I’m a late baby boomer, born long after all of the above.  But I was the child who listened to the elders telling stories and remembered.  I also earned one of my two college degrees I history so I know how to do research and I make every effort to get it right.

I do often write about locations I know.  I think it offers the reader the kind of details you don’t get if you’re not familiar.  I may not have lived most of the places I write about but in most cases, I’ve been there.  As an example of how this can go very askew – a few years ago I read a novel by a top notch, best selling romance writer.  Her novel was set in the Ark-La-Tex region (a corner of Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas), an area I happen to be quite familiar with.  Overall the region is flat.  In this novel (which I’ll be kind and not name) the author called the area part of the Ozarks which it’s not.  I happen to live in the Ozarks many miles north of the Ark-La-Tex with a very different terrain.  She described the pine trees and mountains of the Ark-La-Tex and lost me. I refused to read any of her other titles for a very long time and although I have read a few, I’ve yet to be impressed.  Write what you know- or do your homework.

Or write what you don’t know but get it as right as possible.  With the wonders available via the internet, it’s easier than ever before to visit another place, look up historical facts, read personal accounts of almost anything. 

So yes, writers write.  Write what you know but if you don’t, take the time and put forth the effort to get it right.  If you don’t, your readers will know.

That’s my Monday advice. 

If you’re looking for something to read, check out any of my titles but if you want to save, there are two days remaining over at Coffee Time Romance where my Elvis time travel novella, Long Live The King is Christmas in July sale priced at just 74 cents and my other time travel novel, A Time To Love is sale priced at $4.49.  Happy reading!


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