The advice I heard when I first started writing fiction, was this: “Write what you know.” Well, that didn’t work out very well, because I soon discovered that I just didn’t know enough.
So what to do?
I ventured into new territory and took some chances. I began writing what I knew absolutely nothing about, and guess what? I discovered I could learn all kinds of new things.
My first story was about cutting. When I first heard about young people who cut or self-abused in other ways, I was shocked. Then I wanted to know why. It was complicated, but self-abuse was a growing issue–still is. Since Sliding on the Edge was published, there are a lot of other young adult books that address it, and in my opinion, the more that’s written about this, the better.
With Double Negative, I had a chance to explore the issue of illiteracy. I discovered that 1 in 7 people in the United States can’t read. They can’t read a newspaper in print or online. They can’t read instructions on medication. I also discovered a lot of programs that are available for those who want to learn to read, so while that 1 in 7 statistic isn’t positive, the fact that there’s help out there is.
With Shattered, I stepped into a very large sea of uncertainty. I’d lived with people who were disabled, but I wasn’t disabled myself, so I had to do a lot of research in addition to drawing on the experience of those I knew very well and loved. What this book has taught me is probably more than any of the others. I’ve posted before about how people with disabilities are under-represented in books. Like any group, they deserve to have stories, and not stories that depict them as different, but stories that depict them as people.
So what do I want to learn about next? The story’s on my C-Drive, but it has a way to go because this topic is really a big challenge for me. It’s something I hate to read about and something that I dread happening. Unfortunately, it happens all too frequently. I’m still not sure I want to move forward with this project, but I’ve carried it around in my head for a while now, and based on previous experience, it probably won’t go away until I put the story out.
If you write, do you stick with what you know, or do you explore themes and topics you want to learn about?
The winners of the Rafflecopter Giveaway have received their gifts. Congratulations to J.M. on winning the $35. GC. Congratulations to Diane B. Jess H,, Christine R. and Nancy P. on winning the free eBooks of Shattered.
Quote of the Week: The heart and soul of good writing is research; you should write not what you know but what you can find out about. Robert J. Sawyer, Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Author