I find myself with a little writing-related time on my hands while Second Novel brews in my head and Weird Novel is beginning to make its first tentative steps out into the wide, scary world of queries, so I thought I’d blog about part of the writing process today. The title really says it all, but it’s worth saying twice: writing what you know is crap. The (many) of you (us) out there who write speculative fiction, sci-fi, and fantasy prove that. We’ve never been on a spaceship, had magical powers, been a vampire/werewolf/vegetable lamb (my personal favorite mythological creature/supernatural being of your choice.
So, here’s the thing. Don’t write what you know, write what you can extrapolate. For all the wide range of human emotions and experiences, the nuts and bolts of those things don’t change that much. Guilt is guilt, whether it’s over breaking that jug your mother was fond of or crashing that spaceship prototype into the Ocean of Storms. You know what your first kiss felt like, so when you write about it, it doesn’t matter whether the other participant in your fictional game of tonsil-hockey is a cute guy in your protag’s drama club or a demon from the depths of hell (but he’s TRYING to be a better person, Mom, honest!)
Sit down at your keyboard, think back to a time when you felt the *thing* you want your protagonist to feel. That’s where it starts. Subjects and settings…that’s all research, and we’ve never lived in a better time for having access to information. You’re (probably) writing because you want whoever reads your work to be emotionally affected, invested, to cry when your protag does, laugh when they do, cheer when something great happens. That’s what has to be real, that’s what you have to know. You already do-you’ve been navigating the world through a haze of emotions Spock would disapprove of since you could walk. Write from the heart. You know that.