How Blogging Saved my Sorry Writer’s Ass

words

Started out innocent enough. A writer friend was going on vacation, could I cover his blog while he was gone? A blog? WTF is a blog? He showed me the ropes:

  • Where to find images
  • How to post a blog
  • What categories and tags were
  • How to respond to comments

Back then you needed a handle, a blogger’s name, an avatar. Because you know, back then we didn’t use our actual names. Privacy and all that, right? So for lack of a better idea I went with Writer Chick (who knew it would stick?).

So….I blogged for him. I wrote about whatever came into my head. My first post was called Cream Boogers.  Surprisingly, people liked it.

After a week of this, I kinda got the blogging bug. So when he came back I started my own blog. I was scared. It was weird. I mean, who’d want to read what I thought about anything? I had no idea…

Writer rebooted

I’ve written stories pretty much all my life. Words were always my friends – especially written words because I didn’t stutter and stammer over those. I didn’t burn bright red when I wrote words, only when I tried to speak them. I could let the words do my talking and really it was better that way.

And I always ‘dreamed’ of being a writer. Of writing books, movies, TV shows, poetry. Yeah, all of it. But life always got in the way. There were jobs to work, rent to pay, relationships to nurture. Whatever, always some reason I should put it on the back burner. Or I could do what I really wanted to do someday. And I had periods, maybe you’d call them spurts where I was ‘being a writer.’ Got an agent, yeah I was going to hit the big time baby. Meh, not so much.

I gave up a lot of times. I decided it just wasn’t meant to be. I wasn’t good enough or just didn’t have the guts or something. But I always missed it when I wasn’t doing it. I always thought about it when I wasn’t doing it. Every time I read a book I thought, “I could do that. I could’ve written that story…”

So this blogging thing – that I did for a friend – forced me to write. Not dream about it. Or think about it. Or long for it. But to do it. I couldn’t let my friend down, right because he was depending on me so I did it.

So I figured if I had my own blog I could make myself ‘be a writer.’ I could make myself write. So that was the deal. I started blogging to see if I could make myself write everyday. No. Matter. What.

And I did it

I wrote a blog post everyday for 18 months and somewhere along the way I realized I was a writer. And always had been a writer. And I’ve been a writer ever since.

So just by writing this silly blog I:

  • Got into the habit of writing daily
  • I got a lot better at writing
  • I learned a lot more about writing
  • I got work as a writer
  • I became a freelancer
  • I published a book
  • I now make my living as a writer
  • I am currently writing a series (soon to be published)

And I was saved. From being the 9 to 5 grunt I feared I’d become. From keeping all those words inside. From being miserable.

So you just never know what a silly little thing like a blog can do for you. So I say, if you have a dream, find a way. Find something that helps you to walk toward that dream. Do something that reinforces it. That validates it. That makes you better at it. Gives you more confidence in it. Helps you prove to yourself that yes, you are that thing that you want to be. Because nothing creates being like doing.

So what about you? Did blogging save you too? What’s your story?

Writer Chick

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Is there too much of you in your story?

image courtesy of morguefile.com
image courtesy of morguefile.com

There is an old adage about writing, or maybe it’s advice from a very ancient English Lit teacher (not sure) but they saying goes that writers should write what they know.

The problem with this old chestnut is that:

  1. It’s too general
  2. It’s too restrictive
  3. If followed literally there would be a lot of really boring fiction
  4. It might keep an otherwise talented writer from writing

Are you always your own main character?

Based on this piece of advice, it would make sense that since you have to draw from what you know that you would use yourself as a template.  You become the main character of all your stories because who do you know better than yourself?  But that can lead to problems…  Seriously, have you ever been a spy?  Or a murderer?  Or a preschool teacher?  Probably not.  So then how can you be your main character if your main character is one of those (or countless others)?

Should you use your own real life experiences in your fiction?

This one is tricky because sure, you could use your own real life experiences if you have experiences that are relevant to your story and plot.  However (and this is a big one) you shouldn’t use the real life experiences of others.  For example, let’s say you knew a nerdy guy in high school who was pants-ed on a regular basis by all the football players, and often cried at lunch, where he sat all by himself in the middle of the cafeteria because he had hygiene problems?  If you used the real life experiences of this person, you could get sued.  If that person read your book and recognized himself or herself in the story they could sue you and perhaps demand royalties and countless other things.  You actually don’t have a right to use what happened to other individuals in your story.

You could of course take real life experiences and create a conglomerate, use a characteristic here or there – but thinly veiled stories of terrible or even wonderful things that happened to other people are bound to get you in trouble.  Plus it’s kind of a cheat, and in my opinion, borders on plagiarism.

So how does a writer write what they know?

First of all, you can’t take this kind of advice in any literal sense – unless of course you have led an amazingly adventurous life.  But you can weave into your stories the things you know and understand and have experienced.  Like what – you may ask:

  • Location.  Anyplace you’ve ever visited or lived in is great fodder for stories.  Especially places that have well known landmarks, are famous for something, have distinctive customs, local color, dialects, etc –
  • Jobs.  Any job you’ve ever held enables you to write about those fields and industries.  I was a waitress for many years – I know restaurants, customers, tipping habits, what goes on in the kitchen – there are a lot of interesting tidbits there. Most industries have their own culture, rules and idiosyncratic behavior which can be used to enhance your story, your character’s life or even create a plot twist.
  • Religion.  Were you raised as a Catholic?  Did you go to parochial school?  Are you Jewish?  Muslim? Presbyterian? Southern Baptist? Then you probably know how real people practice the religion (or don’t).  Give us the inside scoop – do nuns really rap knuckles with rulers? How do you keep a yamika from slipping off your head? Does your church rock with music on Sunday mornings?
  • Lifestyle.  Are you gay?  Are you straight?  Are you a baby-boomer?  Are you an Evangelical Christian?  Are you rural or urban?  East coast, west coast, northern Yankee, southern belle?  First generation American? What is that culture like? Tell us about things we don’t know about it, not the usual stuff that you see on every television show or movie – something real that comes from actual experience and understanding.
  • Family relationships.  Did you grow up in the typical American family?  A dad a mom and siblings.  Were you raised by a single mom or dad?  Did your parents divorce when you were a child?  Were you raised by aunts or uncles or cousins or grandparents?  Were you adopted?  Did you grow up in foster care?
  • Hobbies/Interests.  Are you a great cook?  Do you grow the best tomatoes in the western hemisphere?  A do-it-yourselfer?  Furniture refinisher?  A gun enthusiast?  A hunter?  A fisherman?  A hiker?  Were you a boy scout or a girl scout?  Do you scrapbook?  Collect memorabilia?  A film noir expert?  Restore old cars?  A mechanical whiz? All of these are things you know about and are probably passionate about.
  • Experiences.  Have you ever been lost or stranded?  Been arrested?  Had a car accident?  Had an operation?  Come close to death?  Saved someone’s life? Gone scuba diving?  Chased by a shark?  Been stalked?  Been bullied?  Won a contest?  Worked a bunch of really bizarre jobs?  Been caught cheating?  Finish school two years early?  Met the Pope or a celebrity?

Putting what you know in perspective

While I agree that you should include the things you know, have experienced, and understand into your writing – I also believe you can’t restrict yourself to what you know – literally.  After all, there is this little thing called research that writers use all the time.  If your story is about crime solving there are thousands of books on the topic, there are local police stations where you could probably get an interview, or even a ride along. Google, Bing, and Yahoo all have enormous data bases which you can access at any time. Documentaries are available everywhere about everything under the sun. Heck, even people you know can tell you about things, professions, industries, etc that you want to know about or use in your story.

So yes, do write about what you know and what you don’t know research like crazy until you know it enough to write about it.  You don’t have to be literal you just have to be convincing – all the good writers are.

Do you write what you know?  How do you tackle the things you don’t know so you can write about them? 

Writer Chick

Copyright 2014