Writing What You Know

When I started my first novel, A Box of Rain–well, technically the second–in 2008, I followed the old advice-write what you know. I knew very little about novel writing or myself as a writer at that point. I knew about teaching and schools. So, it started out about a teacher who’s marriage is going to hell fast. She develops a relationship with another teacher who helps her through and they fall in love, etc. In the end, she ends up a teacher married to a teacher, which is actually quite common. And boring and predictable–to me, anyway. It didn’t help that I was disillusioned with the education field, big time.

I devised an alternate ending which involved a relationship with somebody who wasn’t a teacher and that was better, but…meh.

So I thought, who would take my MC, challenge her to the nth degree and put her in an environment she never planned on. Hmm. I remember sitting on my sofa, laptop on lap and thinking…an actor. Meh…maybe. Ah! A movie director! This became Another Place on the Planet.

But, I knew very little about filmmaking. But this director character stuck with me. He wasn’t going away. So, I researched filmmaking.

For about a year, I checked out and read books from the library about directing, producing, assistant directing, the language and little recognized but important areas of making movies. I found websites and studied a lot about the politics and lifestyles. I am by no means an expert, but I know more than I used to and it was enjoyable.I appreciate movies on different levels so much more. It made me wish I wouldn’t have given up on my theatrical leanings in my college days and would have pursued some field of it like costume or set design. Much like my MC wishes she wouldn’t have dropped her music.

My next stand alone novel, What Doesn’t Kill You, involves filmmaking, too, to a degree. I figured why waste all that new knowledge I had acquired? I threw in dressmaking, of which I know a bunch. And Leukemia, which I also am familiar with.

My sequel to Another Place on the Planet is Places Bright and Dark and has me researching sex addiction, co-addiction and recovery. I’m slightly amazed at how some of the knew information I’m already familiar with. Writing what I know. Hmmm…