As a writing instructor and coach, people come to me for help when they want to pen their story. And they often find that writing it isn’t as easy as one might have thought. That it is not as simple as just sitting down to do it. Because, yes, there are secrets to writing a good book, and rules. Surprised? So was I when I first started writing. I often said, “who knew there were rules to writing.
I’ve heard, a time or two, that everyone has a novel in them. And whether that’s true or not, it is imperative for those who plan on writing one to make sure they uncover the secrets of storytelling. Luckily, they aren’t hidden in some obscure place or only available to certain people or even at an impossible cost. All it takes is putting in the time to learn the craft.
In my opinion, a good place to start the learning process when you’re contemplating writing that book you want to pen is to write what you know. An old adage, to be sure, attributed usually to Mark Twain. But certainly, writing what you know is not where you want to end up.
Whatever you write—fiction, non-fiction, or self-help, you want your work to be authentic. Believable. It makes you, the writer, accountable and that is critical in satisfying your reader. When you write what you know, you show first-hand experiences by drawing on your own prior knowledge of things like places, subjects, and cultures. But writing only what you know will limit your reach in what you can write and stifle your imagination. It boxes you in. What is important is to turn that saying around, switch the places of the words “write” and “know.” I think the best advice is to “Know what you write.” And how do you do that?
To reach outside those firsthand knowledge boundaries, writers have to learn more. Experience more. Be more aware. Research is the key. There was a time when publishers would send authors on fact finding trips. And maybe some still do, but with such wonderful inventions like the internet, you now find it possible to write beyond your familiarity and understanding. Take the time to research your work before you even sit down to write. And along the way. Don’t do information dumps or be pedantic or boring, but know enough to be believable.