Tuesday, October 17, 2006

How To Get Started Writing


Linnea wrote: "An old, and perhaps overused, adage often dangled before writers is to ‘write what you know’. . . . But that adage, in my humble opinion, ignores another old adage. One that has equal, if not greater weight in my authorly mind: 'write what you love.'"

And then she went on to make a magnificent point about how it shows when you write about what captivates and motivates you.

So lets take a closer look at just how to do it -- where to get a great idea for a novel that's just so good you have to write it because YOU want to read it.

Linnea nailed the core of the matter -- write what you LOVE. That's always where to start. But it's not enough all by itself. Most of us love things we admire, knowing we could never do that.

So of all the subjects you love, the subjects that brighten your day or make you skip lunch to get the money to buy a book about it, which of those subjects is something you didn't study in school but can't stop reading about now?

If you like Regency Romances, do you devour history books on Regency costumes, language, manners, culture, The Peerage, etc?

If you like Alien Romance, do you read anthropology, sociology, psychology, biology etc etc on the side? Incessantly?

What are you hobbies? What do you do for fun? What is it you can't stop doing and learning?

Now here's the point -- you are most likely to sell only the fiction you write that is about what you love, but it will sell only if it is based in what you know.

Linnea studied criminology -- but that's the near kin of psychology, philosophy, and even art, and that's why her books shine even without a mystery to solve or criminal to expose.

Here's where, as a writing teacher, I depart from most teachers. I do not believe in doing research for a book -- except to verify details to check your memory.

First you learn -- anything, everything, without limit -- eclectically and boring down into the depths of every website you can find on it.

Then you forget -- all that you've learned.

THEN you write about what you loved about it all -- and the story comes out powerful, memorable, and inspiring to others.

Why is that? Because a writer does most of her work with her subconscious mind. That's where all the stuff you learned but forgot went -- deep down inside where you understand life, the universe and everything. Art (such as Alien Romance Novels) is about sharing that vision with others.

So you do your research ten or twenty years before you get the idea for a story.

That means that if you want to get started as a writer, what you have to do is learn -- everything, anything, all day and all night, all the time. Then forget it. Then one day you'll be sitting outside watching thunderclouds morph in the sky, and BINGO you'll have the idea for a book you have to write because you need to read it.

Where does that idea come from? Your subconscious where you stored all the stuff you learned and forgot! The subconscious is a magnificently powerful creative tool and I do suggest you make friends with yours!

When that idea strikes, you'll know everything you have to know in order to write it, and the words can just flow. That's what makes writing so much fun -- you don't have to abort the creativity to go master a whole realm of knowledge. When you're done, verify your details, and put the thing on the market.

You write what you know -- and you know it because you love it!

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

1 comment:

  1. What fantastic advice! I wish someone had told me this when I was 13. It brings to mind the classic statement (I think from Henry James) that a writer must be a person "upon whom nothing is lost." The advice to "write what you know" does NOT mean (as it's often mistakenly used to rein in young writers) "write about nothing you haven't experienced in your own life." In fact, I think it takes a great deal of maturity to write about one's own life without producing a banal and self-absorbed product; only in the past few years have I dared to introduce, very obliquely, elements from my own firsthand experience into my novels.