Friday, December 12, 2014

Writing What I Know - The Pros and Cons pt. One

Originally posted on Girls Love To Read.

Over the past couple years I’ve taken quite a few stabs at writing my first novel. It usually ended with me closing the document a few hours in and never opening it again. Not until I had my own story I could adapt to a novel, was I able to finally get past the bullet-point-list phase. Most writers have heard, “Write what you know” at some stage in their career. Some say this advice is limiting, others say it’s the only way. Here’s what I learned writing my debut novel.

The advantage is obvious—already having a first hand experience with an event you’re writing about helps you in making them come alive on paper. You’ll be able to add seemingly trivial details that others could easily have overlooked but that are what makes your writing authentic. And this doesn’t just apply to the tangible details. Having first hand experience also helps you in finding creative ways to describe the emotions these events arose.

But there is a disadvantage that you may want to prepare yourself for. Unless you write about a particularly joyous event in your life it could easily drain you to remember these emotions. While not everything in my novel is real, a lot of it is and many chapters took me weeks to write a first draft for. Having to remember details of not such fun events and going over unpleasant conversations in my head, I found myself experiencing it all over again and after twenty minutes of writing I’d be emotionally exhausted and much too blue to write.

But the result is an honest debut novel, and the emotions I was feeling are what made the novel what it is today. As rough as the year that inspired me to write my novel was, I would not have been able to write it without those events. Writing what I know worked for me. Not to mention it was an incredible learning experience for the sequel.

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