write what you know, find out about what you don’t know

All writers have heard “write what you know”, but we just domedical-research-study-25588827n’t know everything, do we?  Not all of us are forensic scientists writing about forensic anthropology, nor are we all doctors writing about the surgical procedure the character has to undergo.

So, what do we do about that?  Do we limit our writing to just what we’ve experienced in our short life span?  Some of us have gone through a lot in our lifetimes and that makes great story telling.  But what about those that have lived fairly ordinary lives, but dream about stories where characters do extraordinary things?  Sound familiar?

Research.  Find out about what we don’t know.  If it’s important to the story that the character is put in jail and you’ve never business-man-jail-18593741experienced that, then arrange a jail visit.  Find out first hand what the procedures are that they follow to keep you and the inmates safe.  Record in your mind the sights and sounds of this new experience so you can capture it in your story.

If your character knits and you don’t know how then attend a class or knitting club – watch, listen and learn.  If your character is a cold blooded killer, talk to someone in law enforcement or a criminal psychologist and try to get into that mind set.  Not everything should be experienced first hand.  We all have imaginations and we can use them, just make sure there is enough fact to be credible, that’s all the reader is asking for – help them suspend belief.

glasses_paper_keyboardMake sure what you need to learn is truly important to the story and fits with the plot and character.  Putting something shocking or technical into a story that doesn’t propel the story forward is a waste of time for both the writer and the reader.  So, write what you know, find out about what you don’t know, and use that new knowledge to make the story richer.


(This is modified from a post I did in 2009. It’s still true writing buddies!)

Writers are still reading….

In 2009 I wrote: “good writers – read.”  And that remains true today. While I write mainly women’s fiction, I do a lot of reading in that genre.  But I also enjoy chick lit, mainstream fiction, mysteries, thrillers, romance, sci fi and much more.  If there’s a book review and the story sounds good, it goes on my list of things to read. If it’s on sale somewhere or at the local used bookstore, I pick it up and add it to my library.


When I find a particular author I enjoy I will read everything they’ve written. It’s fun to read first time authors and sharing ANY new found book treasures is a MUST.  Many of my friends and I book swap, and if we’ve gotten the book from the library we make sure and email the title and author around the group.  There is also GoodReads.com, which is a network of book lovers who share what they are reading with each other, which really rocks!

Occasionally films will come out about the lives of authors or based on one of my favorite books.  It’s fun to get a group of writers together to see a matinee and then get coffee and hold a discussion afterward.  Writers have such an interesting way of viewing things.

There are lots of book clubs that get together and discuss their favorite stories. (But, you have to read them first!) 

Many of us have a library of unread books that we have collected from friends, book sales at the library, yard sales, and those bought with coupons from the local bookstores.  Heck, I’m always on the lookout for a “good deal” on a great read.  Whwoman_reading_riveren I’m finished reading and sharing a book I donate it to the library so others can partake of its pages.  The bottom line is – you can never read too many books.  And reading good books will help you become a better writer – Promise!

A new writer buddy of mine has opened up his mind to the world of writing and reading fiction. Every time he reads a book he enjoys he disects the best parts so he can apply those techniques to his own manuscript. I do that, too, but I admit to getting so caught up in the story I seldom get to the analysis part anymore.

“So many books and SO little time,” is the honest truth. Enjoy the journey.


Reminder: Never Give Up on your dreams

We writers have to be reminded sometimes, to “never give up”. I’ve heard stories about writers who wrote their novel during NaNoWriMo (a month) and others took years to write their book. I’m more in the latter category. I lead a very busy life. There’s lots of things I want to do, learn, experience, see and share with my family and friends.

skaterI work full-time during the day and I do freelance writing as well as novel writing. Sound a bit like your schedule? Don’t worry, the dust isn’t going anywhere. You will get the bills paid on time (hopefully), and hubby will take care of dinner if there is no alternative. I also try to read a book every week or two, because writers really need to be readers, too.

So, what am I rambling on about? Not giving up.

working_on_keyboardNo matter what gets in the way, make time for your writing. Doing a little bit as often as possible adds up, “cross my heart, it does!” And once your manuscript is done and been edited, edited and edited, well, then it’s time for the next phase.

Do you want to publish it? Do the research and decide which method is your choice (i.e. self-publishing, traditional print publishing, e-publishing, etc.). Do you want an agent or do you want to go with a small publisher who doesn’t require one? (so many questions, but the answers are out there.) Try Writer’s Market, Publishers Weekly, Writer’s Digest, for example.

From the time I conceived the idea of Feisty Family Values (working title, Feisty Fossils) in 2000 it was ten years before it was in hardback on the bookshelves. (Thank you Five Star Books!) Obviously, writing is a test of patience, but if you want it, then you have to work for it and not give up. There is a lot of rejection and that hurts. And critiquing isn’t always easy to swallow (what do you mean my baby is ugly?).

My second novel Patchwork Family is a follow on to Feisty and has a new publishing home with Belle Books. It comes out March of 2014. So, you see, waiting pays off. When you’re a new writer each book is like starting over. And it’s a long process between querying and signing a contract, signing a contract and book on the shelves. But it is “oh so nice” to see that book in the bookstores. Most authors dream of not only being published, but being able to make it a financially viable career. That’s a big DREAM!

writing_oceanIf being an author is what you want, then do not stop writing, or learning about the craft or industry. Be a sponge and squeeze that story onto the page, using all the feelings of joy and sorrow you’ll experience in this business.  It’s a huge wave of a journey and worth every dip and rise.

(Eighteen months ago I wrote about “never giving up” and this was BEFORE my second novel found a home. See, it can happen IF you Never Give Up!)

What are your favorite stories and why?

As an author I wouldn’t exist if I didn’t have readers. Writing for my own enjoyment alone, while personally fulfilling, it’s not the whole picture. A story isn’t really worth much if it is never read.

Now, the act of writing can be very cathartic, at first, but often times the muse has other ideas and we authors get lost in the imagination. We go where the story goes and we hope that the world we build and the characters that live there will be interesting to other readers.

I’m also a reader. So, depending on what hat I’m wearing when,  I want to be entertained and read about characters I can care about. To be a fly on the wall of this world the author has created and watch every move and thought the players make. It’s very exciting.

Just as language has changed over the years, so have stories and books. They are more condensed now, the language more pointed with less flowery narrative. It’s active. What we read is more true to the times we live right now. That doesn’t mean that we don’t enjoy a historical story now and then, some of us do–Very Much. The bottom line is that the story needs to be written to appeal to the audience of readers it is written for. Okay, that may be a duh moment for some, but new writers don’t always know what that means. And what about the authors who don’t write genre fiction, but mainstream or literary that is supposed to appeal to the masses. Does it? Not always.

I’m an author of adult fiction about mature women, families and relationships. I also like to write stories geared to young children, but they are generally driven by something that has happened involving my grandsons, so it’s more personal and focused to a small set of readers (2). 🙂

We’ve always heard that “everyone has at least one book in them.” Maybe. Maybe not. But right now is a great time for people to try, because there are so many publishing options available (traditional, indie, print on demand, online, self pub…).

But how do we connect with the reader? How do we let them know we have a story for them? That’s really a tough one. There are lots of ways and you never know which is going to work–print advertising, online advertising, social media, mass snail mailings, a message in a bottle … ? So many options, so little time.

Time to target not only our stories, but the promotions to the readers who read things similar to what we write. Sounds easy, but it’s not. I don’t know how I feel being “targeted” and yet, there are stories by authors that I love so much I read everything they write. It feels like they are telling their stories just for me, but don’t worry, I’m willing to share. What are your favorite stories and why?

I love books!

I am a book-a-holic. I love to read them, look at them, smell them, share them, and write them. Places that have lots of books are my favorite places, like bookstores and libraries. I have a pretty substantial library at home, but there are new books coming out every day and I can’t possibly buy them all.

In the pocket of my purse is an index card. On it are the list of books I’ve heard I should read from friends and colleagues. The list gets longer and longer and I’m excited to learn about what’s new or old, but new to me – to read. “So many books, so little time.” Boy, can I relate!

Do you read one genre alone? Probably not. I certainly don’t. I’m a mood reader. Sometimes I’m in the mood for Sci-Fi or Romance, sometimes a good mystery – but I LOVE books with strong female protagonists. WOMEN ROCK! Okay, men are nice, too, but…

When I find an author whose work I love I have to read EVERYTHING they’ve written. How about you? We humans are unsatiable when it comes to things we like, love, or desire. And good stories are among the top ten, for sure. That’s why books, films, audio story telling, stage plays, stories in any form are popular with so many. What is my favorite venue for story telling? All of the above, but somehow, escaping into a book is the most intimate. Don’t you think so?

 One last question today, do you prefer books with happy endings? My answer: Yes. But a satisfying ending is good, too. Not all stories have happy endings, neither does life, so I have to be content with a “satisfying” one.

Quick Question

Who is your all time favorite fictional character?


In romance, mine is Elizabeth Bennett or Pride & Prejudice.

In mystery w/humor it’s Stephanie Plum (the first dozen books).

Other mystery faves: VI Warshowski & Kinsey Millhone

In women’s fiction: Pearl, the maid in Dot Frank’s Sullivan’s Island stories.

What about you?

Stories need to be heard.

Even before there was the written word – stories were shared, repeated, and even put to music. We all have stories, funny ones, sad ones, horrific ones, romantic ones, mysterious ones, and even stories that teach us. The oral story tradition still exists, as does the stories in music, and many of the artists who share them have become famous (or infamous).

Mostly human beings have a fundamental need to be “heard.” To share feelings and experiences, joys and sorrows. Everyone struggles from time to time and if you can help someone with a song or a story, then it’s a job well done.

We need to know we’re not alone in life and stories help remind us that we aren’t – we humans share many similar experiences. How we handle them or don’t, helps the next person have options. How did your best friend handle her cancer? Did you have an easy pregnancy and hard delivery? What did you do to cope? How did Annabelle stop the cycle of abuse in her family? Will it help your cousin who is in an abusive relationship? How did you find the love of your life? Who solved the mystery of grandmother’s missing pearls?

In stories we can herald the heroes in our lives. We can mourn our loss and share the faith we have to go on despite difficult circumstances. We can share our journeys and lead the way for those that may follow.

That’s why I write. To entertain, to share ideas, to explore relationships and difficult issues or nation or world may face. I can’t help it. Telling stories is fun, challenging and a dream come true. That’s why I’m not only a writer but a voracious reader.

What are your favorite stories and how have they helped you?

Hero Worship

I’ve got a serious case of Hero Worship going on. In fact, if Dot Frank was a man I’d have a crush on her. Last night I had the pleasure of meeting and listening to Dorothea Benton Frank speak at Watermark Books. Folks, let me tell you – she is funny, down to earth, and totally inspiring. I want to be like her when I grow up – IF I grow up.

First of all, I’m so tickled that she came to Wichita and visited one of my favorite bookstores. How cool is that?

Sorry, I digress. My best friend Maxine and I got there early, meeting up with my friend Janice. We strategically sat on the 3rd row, directly in her line of sight. To be honest, I felt like a kid in a candy store filled with free candy.

She was kind enough to answer all our questions and tell us wonderfully funny stories about how she got started writing, her first book and her new book Porch Lights (which I loved), growing up on Sullivan’s Island (I’ve got to go there!), and bits of historical information about Charleston. I’ve read everything she’s written, as had many of the other attendees last night. We were a room full of happy women, laughing and fanning ourselves (it was 103 yesterday and all those bodies made the a/c struggle). There was about 100 of us!

When Dot Frank writes about South Carolina and the islands I not only see them, but I feel the humidity and smell the salt of the ocean air. Wow. If you haven’t read her books, get to the bookstore – this woman knows how to tell a story!

Would you belive I have about 200 books to read on my shelves and all I want to do is read hers over again?

I’d better get busy and write!