Write What You Read

So you’re staring at a blank screen, ready to type your first words, but you have no clue where to start? Short stories. Poetry. A full-length novel. Why not write in the genre you read? You’ll be able to nail the tone and pacing, understand your characters’ motivations, and recognize which plots work and which don’t. Tip: If you’re struggling with a scene, that’s a sure sign to put the scene away and start something new. If you’re bored with your work, chances are you’re readers will be too.

Write What You Know

You’ve heard the old adage, “Write What you Know.” There’s a certain truth to this, although it’s not a writer’s gospel. So you’re a large animal veterinarian, if you like romances, write a novel about a cowboy who falls in love with a veterinarian at a rodeo. Understanding your subject gives you an advantage, if your subject is interesting. A sommelier at one of New York’s hottest new restaurants is hands down more interesting than a clerk in an auto parts store. Whether you’re an expert or not, gaining knowledge of your subject is key to authenticating your work. With Google at your fingertips, there’s no reason not to do the research. I’ve learned many interesting tidbits about things I would otherwise have never known.

Tap Your Resources

Is one of your characters buying or selling a home? Ask a realtor friend for advice. One of my friends owns a women’s boutique. Guess who I go to when I need fashion consultation on a special outfit for a character’s important date? My characters frequently find themselves in trouble with the law or hospitalized with a terminal disease. When I find my online research conflicting or confusing, I seek guidance from an expert. Recently, I received an email from a reader offering kind words about Magnolia Nights. In our exchange of emails, I learned that she’s a criminal investigator in Georgia. I’d been struggling with technical issues in writing Beyond the Garden, the Magnolia Nights sequel. I sent her the manuscript, and she provided invaluable feedback. I look forward to working with her again.

Write From the Heart

Readers can spot a fake a mile away. Believe me when I tell you, your readers feel what you feel. So how do you write from the heart? Set the mood and go to that place in your head where you exist alone with your characters. Create a playlist of songs for ambience. Writing a romance? Light a candle and pour a glass of wine. Writing an outdoor scene? Take your computer outside to your deck or patio and listen to the birds sing, smell the fragrance of flowers in bloom, feel the cool breeze on your face. Or lie quietly on your sofa or bed with your eyes closed while you think back to the memory you’re trying to recapture. And then let yourself be free. Open those floodgates and let the words flow. Write whatever comes to mind and heart. If need be, pretend you are writing in a journal. Share your deepest thoughts. But, above all else, write for yourself. Don’t worry about what your husband or your mother or your critique partner might think. Your first draft is between you and your characters and nobody else. No one will see your words until you’re ready for them to read it. Think of it as an exercise. If you decide never to share your work with anyone, at least you’ve learned something valuable about yourself in the process.

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