Saturday, August 31, 2013

Writing What You Don't Know.

Lexi Brady

Rule One of writing is to WRITE EVERY DAY.

But according to several conferences I have attended rule Two is Write What You Know. Well. I disagree completely. Honestly, if I were to only write things I knew I don't think I could write much other than a journal that prattles on for pages about day to day life. Besides if people only wrote what they knew, we wouldn't have the books that helped me discover a love for books, like Peter Rabbit, Harry Potter, LOTR, The Chronicles of Narnia.

Writing what you DON'T know is so much more thrilling. You can create mystical creatures, frightening demons, ethereal worlds with enchanting people to inhabit them. I must insist to write what you don't know. CREATE SOMETHING.  Plot out the un-plottable, or rewrite history that doesn't make sense, but at the same time makes more sense than what you learned in ninth grade.

Write about people unlike any you have ever met, write the story of the person that lives in your dreams, and wades through the haunted backstreets and canals of your mind.

As you write about things you don't know, you plan. Even if just a little, you plot out the problem and the solution, if you are kind enough to give your characters one... ;) You choose who is going to live, who is going to die.

You decide upon the fate of everything, which is a lot of responsibility because it can't just sound okay. It has to feel like the most brilliant decision you have made with your characters, you need to feel it in your bones that making them walk down this corridor or opening the old oak door that leads to the basement is what will ultimately lead them to the fate that awaits them.

Plotting a book out is like playing a perfect game of Tetris. Or maybe some would compare it to walking across a landmine, troublesome and at times terrifying. When you first get the idea for your new novel everything comes to you with such stunning clarity, you can see the faint scars on your hero's face from a fall he had as a child. You can hear the laugh of your witty tension breaker and you can feel the frustration from the little boy who is getting bullied.

You write the beg ginning, grinning like the Cheshire cat the entire time because well, YOU ARE WRITING. It all seems to be coming together and the BAM.  You can't figure out how to connect the begging with the middle. Or you know something creepy and most likely dangerous is going on with that sullen looking old man slinking about in the corner of your mind as your are writing. How does he fit in you wonder?

You have hit a stalemate where you are unsure of how to proceed to connect your story together in the way it was meant too. That is where I found myself a few weeks ago as I found myself stuck writing the same chapter as the week before.

Now here is when the fun comes in, because just like the dangerous and difficult parts ore often the most appealing to read,  as the writing gets harder I find myself becoming more and more connected to my characters. I learn how they deal with situations I know for a fact I couldn't handle and how they think. I feel what they feel as they brave the challenges I have been throwing at them ruthlessly.

And then I went back to the basics! Rule number one, write every day. Even if just a page or two, sometimes all I can manage is character background or some dialouge that will never actually make it into the manuscript.

And then I continued onto my rule number two. Writing what I don't know.  And that freed up my mind to consider possibilities that certainly don't exist in the world we live in.

Getting over this hurtle in my book made me take a moment to breathe and remember that there is no point to writing if you aren't enjoying it, and creating something that is unique to you and your writing style alone.

Until next time geeky ones.

LLAP- Lexi


Ilsa said...

Yup. Know exactly what you're saying . . . and I even outline my books. I STILL end up writing what I don't know.

Jordan Dane said...

I love this post, Lex. I cringe when I think about that old adage of writing what you know. Really? Pffft.

Thriller author Lee Child said in an email once that it's not "write what you know," it's write what you fear. I took his meaning a step farther and added, write what you fear, what you love, what you hate. Writing is about emotion. It's what makes the story resonate with readers because we all know what it's like to fear something. We have common ground there.

Ever since man has been writing on cave walls, showing the joy of the hunt or the tragedy of a warrior's death, the stories have been about emotion--and who doesn't know about that?

Take pride in writing what you don't know. That only means you are using your imagination and even researching interesting ideas to add depth to your world. Good for you to realize it.