Some Writing Tips of My Own that I Learned Through the Years
I am a strictly a poet and a non-fiction writer, so writing fiction is out of my league. However, I have learned a few pointers about good writing in the classroom over the years that I think will be of help to writers of every ilk.
The first piece of advice that I ever heard from a high school English teacher was to “write what you know,” She gave the example of one man who lived in the 1800’s who told his wife that he could write a better novel than the ones that were written in his day. She then challenged him to “go and write one then.” The man subsequently wrote a book about life in the wild, wild West when the man actually lived in Boston. So the book did not succeed and bombed at the box office not finding a publishing house that would print it. Then the woman challenged him again to write a book set in his own hometown and the book became a best seller.
This story may sound trite, but a good case in point is the luminous career of writer JK Rowling of Harry Potter fame. The the setting for her novels was her own home town of London, a city whose culture, magic and ambiance she knew quite intimately. And not only did the brilliant lady know her setting and subject, she also did her homework and knew what her target audience wanted to read.
And that brings me to importance of research. There was another novelist who lived in the late 1800s by the name of Steven Crane who wrote a Civil War story entitled the Red Badge of Courage that was heavily based on personal research. Although he had not experienced the war first hand, he elected to move himself into a deeply impoverished ghetto neighborhood so he could experience the feeling of what people were having in their struggle for survival. This is the kind of in depth sacrifice that is sometimes required to create art,
Next week I will touch on how restriction and specificity in your writing can elevate your work of art into fine art.