Thursday, July 16, 2009

Write What You Want to Know


For the past few months, I've been working on research and preparing the "ground work" for my next novel. This includes brief character sketches and a plot outline - nothing too detailed, but I need to know where my main plot points are, otherwise I get mired in a sea of perilous plot quicksand. I've also been doing lots and lots of research - and that is what is taking the most time. I have all my other details pretty much ironed out.

There's
an old writing saying that my friend Diane recently rephrased. Instead of, "Write what you know", she changed it to "Write what you want to know." This fits me much more accurately. And oh boy, do I want to know lots and lots of things, and it's usually things that happened years and years and years ago! That history fascination, y'know...

Unfortunately, this "wanting to know" involves a great deal of research. While I enjoy it, right now, my mindset is more of "Enough already! Let me write!" But I can't yet. The research is going to give my bare-bones characters the flesh they need to fully come alive.

But oh...the blank page beckons. I am fascinated by
this story, and even though another fully-formed story idea popped into my head the other day, that one doesn't hold the same appeal for me as the current one I'm researching.

Therein lies the rub. While I could work on the other novel "for fun", it doesn't grip me like my main WIP does. Strange how a few days can make such a difference. But that's what the ol' mind is telling me.

Now, I usually keep researching while I'm writing the novel, but I don't feel like I have quite enough research done yet to actually start writing. It's a bit of a rock and a hard spot to be in. So I must keep trudging onward.

Do you write what you want to know?

17 comments:

  1. I don't have a choice. If I only wrote what I knew, it would be the world's shortest novel. ;)

    I'm fascinated by history too. It's a miracle anyone ever survived to this day, honestly. But when I think of all the things they knew, it makes me itch for a time machine. So much that's lost. *sigh* Too wrapped up in that thought.

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  2. L.T. - It's simply amazing, isn't it, all the history that has come before us? And all those stories of people come and gone...wow. Does boggle the mind.

    I always wonder, though, if I can ever put enough historical detail into my novels. I want to research until I know just as much as I can possibly squeeze into my brain, but then I think I start to get impatient with all the research and just want to start WRITING. I wonder how some historical novelists do it...

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  3. I think not. I wrote what I know cause it is much easier for me to do that!
    Have you started sending out your other work?

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  4. Terri - Oh yes. Have sent out lots and lots of queries!

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  5. I write about everything I want to know, yep! Because I can't join the CIA or go get myself kidnapped... so I do lots of research. ;)

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  6. Lady G, how right you are! And sadly, I can't time travel back to 1944, so second-hand accounts will have to do. :-)

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  7. I write both what I know and what I wanna know. It's all about my fascination with people, personalities and relationships. Not much research involved, thankfully, because my plots and peeps live in the current world. :)

    So glad you've found the fire, Melissa!

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  8. I think I write what I want to feel.

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  9. Angie - That's a good balance - what you know and what you want to know. :-)

    Janna - Wonderful statement! That completely fits you, I think. :-)

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  10. What great advice. You know I have a would-be-author son. I will pass this along to him.

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  11. Debbie - Thanks, Debbie!

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  12. One of the great things about being a writer is that we can live as many lives as we wish. i believe in "write what fascinates you." After all, we can learn anything!

    If you've done a lot of research and the page beckons, I suggest writing a chapter or two. I find that often writing the first few chapters gives me a clearer idea of the research I still need to do.

    Then I do more research, feel more secure, and can write/research in tandem.

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  13. I second Devon. I start writing, and the writing tells me what I need to research. The research sometimes leads to new ideas and sometimes even new characters...it gets a little sloppy, but that's where the creating gets good!

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  14. Working on an awards post with your name on it. :)

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  15. Devon and Christine - Great thoughts on the writing and researching in tandem. Sometimes I think I need to know it "all" before I can even start writing. But I think I stifle my momentum a bit when I do that.

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  16. Thank you for the link. :o)

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  17. You're welcome, Miss D!

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