Close-up of woman typing on keyboard of laptop

Write What You Know: Knowing More Than You Put On The Page

knowing more

As a writer, I feel the need to really know my characters, their situations, their props and settings.

For The Edge of Darkness, that wasn’t so hard. It was largely a made-up world, set in deep space on a spaceship and the weapons used were also made up.

Internet-Based Research

I did some research on amputees and prosthetics to try to get a feel for what Max might be feeling as a cyborg with a robotic arm. I researched what kind of food could theoretically be grown on a spaceship. I researched some other science-y things. But when I wrote the story, I probably knew a lot more than I was putting in to the book.

With Winter Witch, one of my characters wears a monocle. I had no idea how monocles stayed put, so I did some research to better understand my character. I found out how someone inserts and wears a monocle, and I felt like I had a strong grasp on the eyepiece and I wrote it into the book.

When I mentioned the research to friends, another author piped up that she was interested in how people wore monocles. I was surprised, because I was sure I’d read one of her characters in one of her books I’d read actually did wear a monocle. I was surprised because this author didn’t know how her character wore a monocle and she clearly hadn’t done the research into finding it out. Maybe she didn’t care. Maybe it wasn’t important. The character wore a monocle and that’s all we needed to know.

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Write what you know.

“Write what you know” is probably one of the most repeated pieces of writing advice out there. And it’s true, you should write about what you know. But you can always expand upon what you know by research.

As for me? I didn’t feel comfortable writing about a character who wore a monocle until I knew exactly how a monocle worked. I think it’s an issue with my perfectionism that I needed to research something so foreign to me. But I didn’t want to make some basic mistake that a monocle-wearing fan might point out in the book.

My character doesn’t even take his monocle off or put it back on, so I’m not quite sure why it was so important to me to know these things. Maybe for future reference? I’m sure I only mention the monocle in passing.

The research I did certainly wasn’t earth-shattering, but as a writer I felt like I needed to know more than I was putting on the page.

I think that’s why we’re told to write what we know.

Halfway Report

halfway report

It’s a little more than halfway through April’s Camp NaNoWriMo and I have discovered a few things:

The book wasn’t as finished as I thought it was. I thought it only needed one or two more scenes when in fact it needed a whole heap more, including two murders, a horseback chase, a ‘The Last Airbender’-inspired battle, betrayal, and more murder. I love how even when you have the bare bones of a plan, when you’re in the process of writing, your brain opens up and offers you filler scenes that help wrap the story up.

Apparently I don’t like writing on weekends or Friday nights, so I’m now about 8000 words behind my goal.

That means to date I’ve only written 10,000.

However, I’m not letting this stress me out. This Camp Nano was supposed to get me back into writing slowly and most nights I can dash off 1000 words in a half hour or an hour if I get distracted or need to do some research (like how someone wears a monocle – how interesting!). I’m primarily interested in getting this book finished, because finishing a book is really tough for me.

I’m not using my soundtrack.

I have a very massive plot hole I need to fill and I have no idea how I’m going to do it. That will be fun when it comes time to edit.

I can’t decide if more characters should die, primarily because I have a main character who can bring the dead back to life.

I’m enjoying it, but it’s a lot of work and I’m still trying to find my writing/life balance.

Is Perfectionism Holding You Back?

perfectionism

Recently I’ve come to realise that my perfectionism is holding me back when it comes to delivering complete manuscripts.

I’m afraid that once I finish it, that’s it. And it’s true, that is it. Except for editing.

But you know, it’s always better in my head. So I don’t want to finish. And my excuse for not publishing anything is that it’s not finished.

It’s a no-win situation.

I don’t know why I feel like this. I’ve published two books and two short story collections. I know how to do this. I’ve had good reviews and bad reviews. I’ve had campaigns organised designed to drive me off the internet. I’ve retreated from any author communities and basically just stay by myself.

My plan this year was to write three complete novels using the Camp NaNoWriMo and November NaNoWriMo to give me the encouragement I needed, but that plan’s gone out the window.

Since I haven’t written anything in over a year now, I’m afraid I simply won’t have the juice to get going. Like an abandoned car whose engine won’t tick over.

So I’m going to tackle this perfectionism/procrastination issue by finishing my 2014 NaNo novel and another novella I’ve had sitting around waiting for me to just finish it.

I know how both of them end, so it should be easy, but a part of me doesn’t want to finish either project. I’m dreading locking myself away for hours on end in my office to write.

This is probably why I could never write anything to deadline. Or maybe a deadline would help. Who knows?

So it boils down to:

  1. Can I still write?
  2. Can I face hours of loneliness writing by myself?
  3. Can I finish those manuscripts?

Ah, the life of a full-time employed self-published author. We’re good at beating ourselves up.

New Year, New Ambition

 

new year

I didn’t make a single blog post in 2015.

That’s because due to personal reasons I decided to take the entire year off from writing.

It was awesome. Instead of feeling guilty for not writing, I simply said, “I’m not writing this year.”

It was liberating. I spent lots of time on my other hobbies.

It was scary. I felt the itch return a few times.

But I didn’t write anything.

I always get burned out after NaNoWriMo, and 2014 was no different. I didn’t even finish writing the book, although I did ‘win’ Nano. So I was OK at taking six months off. My computer barely turned on during that time. I didn’t miss it at all.

After about six months, I started to get the urge to write again.

Contrary to what people believe about writers, I didn’t succumb to the temptation.

I wanted to complete my ‘no writing in 2015’ goal because writing is what I’ve always done, even if I don’t have a lot of quality finished work to show for it.

‘Writer’ is part of my identity, like being tall and blonde.

And I needed to be able to devote more time to the other important things in my life, because writing takes up A LOT of time, and I got married in 2014, and I’d felt like I wasn’t spending enough time with my husband.

My plan for 2016

is to find a better balance between ‘no writing’ and ‘writing every day’.

Because writing takes discipline, but I don’t want to burn out.

However, some of you may have noticed the rebranding I started in early 2015 just before I decided to take my sabbatical.

It says ‘Lissa Writes sci-fi, paranormal, fantasy, contemporary romance.’

I’ve published the sci-fi and the paranormal. I’m sitting on the contemporary romance because they’re novellas and I need to make the decision on whether to publish them myself or not.

My 2014 novel was the fantasy, the first part of a trilogy I am determined to complete.

To do that, I’ve formulated a basic, flexible plan.

I’m going to attempt all three NaNoWriMo events this year.

That’s the two Camp NaNoWriMos, held in April and July, and the regular November NaNoWriMo.

After completing the Camp/NaNos, during the ‘off season’, I’m not going to write anything else other than working on the previous NaNo novels.

(Unless I feel like it, of course.)

I’m going to dream, plan, and let my imagination flow with creativity.

I’m going to fill the pages of my colouring books, read books from my ‘to-read’ shelf, play with my three adorable cats, and spend time with my husband.

I’m going to find the balance.

NaNoWriMo Prep in October – The Writing Playlist

Every year I prepare a writing playlist specifically for NaNoWriMo. Sometimes I need absolute silence to write, other times I can do with some tunes to get me in the right frame of mind.

I find that film soundtracks work best of all.

This year I discovered Spotify. It’s a free web player with a massive library of albums. The only downside is that sometimes they put in ads, but that’s OK because they tend to only last for about 30 seconds. It can be frustrating interrupting your music flow, but for a free web player i won’t be complaining.

NOTE – I tried using the Spotify app on my phone, but it’s not the same. Selecting a playlist led to other random songs being played as well. Only on the web player and on tablets does it actually do what you want it to do.

Here is this year’s playlist, thanks to Spotify:


Spotify says it’s about 6 hours worth of music. It’s remarkably different to my 2011 NaNo soundtrack which eventually consisted of one song played on repeat.