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

more than you know

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.


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.

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.

The Future

The future of this blog is uncertain. I haven’t blogged since November, and I simply don’t feel like blogging on it anymore. I don’t want to talk about my private life because I know there are creepy people stalking me out there who will use it against me, and let’s face it, I don’t find myself that interesting, anyway.

And I don’t want to talk about my writing, because after Storm of Blood comes out later this year and maybe gets a sequel, I won’t ever publish under this name again.


1) I hate that I’ve been naive enough to publish using my real name. I had no idea how hostile my little corner of the Internet would become.

2) There is always the possibility, as has happened in the past, that I will be ‘punished’ through my book’s ratings, for whatever reason (still trying to work that one out TBH).

3) I am going to take some time off to write several books I’ve been dying to get done. I may self-publish them, or I might seek an agent for traditional publishing, seeing as how my handful of queries in 2011 got me several requests for a previous manuscript.

4) Writing takes time and effort, and I don’t want to suddenly go, ‘How long has it been since I last blogged? What interesting crap can I come up with this time?’ I don’t want to be forced to blog just to keep an audience.

5) That previous story won’t ever be published, not even under a different name. It’s too easily identified and I’ve queried it in public contests. No, that series will stay just for me and my friends (and my craft).


Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie: why reviews are subjective, and subjective reviews are good.

Last week I saw Frankenweenie, Tim Burton’s new animated flick about the lengths a boy will go to to keep his pet dog.

It wasn’t the greatest movie ever, but it was entertaining. I, however, had a massive emotional response. See, the story is vaguely based on Frankenstein. If you haven’t seen it, it’s not spoiling to say that Victor brings his dog Sparky back to life after he’s hit by a car.

In other news, my twenty year old cat is currently dying of a kidney disease, and I’m very sensitive about it. The vet suggested to me that she might need to be put down. I can’t really cope with the idea of losing my cat that I’ve had since I was six years old. Watching a film about a boy who refuses to let go of his pet really upset me. It made me think about my cat and how I’d do anything to keep her alive and how I’d bring her back to life if it were possible. It made me think about how in the worst case scenario, she’s only got a few more months to live. It made me think about how torn up I know I’m going to be when she does die.

So when Sparky got hit by the car, I cried. When Victor grieved, I grieved. When Sparky risked his second life to save Victor, I bawled. I full-on ugly cried in a cinema filled with children, trying my hardest to keep silent because unless you knew that my cat was dying you’d think I was some weirdo at the cinema who couldn’t control herself.

The huge emotional response I had is entirely subjective. If I’d never had a pet, maybe I wouldn’t have even batted an eye. Maybe I wouldn’t care about some stop-animated dog and his devoted best friend. Maybe I would have left the film going ‘Meh’ instead of agreeing that it was an awesome film.

This is subjectivism. I will tell anyone who wants to listen about the response I had, why I had it, and how the film made me feel. If I was to look at the film objectively, I’d have to ignore the fact that my companion I’ve had for 20 years is dying and this obviously helped me frame the film.

Subjectivity is awesome. This is why the subjective reviews of books are so great. When I read reviews (not of my own work – I don’t do that) I want to know the opinion of the person as an individual. I value their opinion as an individual with a completely different background to me and different tastes in books or films and everything they bring to the book or film. I want the piece of their soul they put into their review when they feel passionately about the work.

If I want objectivity, I will read a review in some boring broadsheet. Those guys are paid to be boring and non-offensive.


I wrote this post on Friday while I was at work. Today it’s Saturday, and my cat is dead. The end.