So, You Want to be a Writer?


You want to write about a sunset? Then experience a sunset.

You want to write about running through a forest? Go do that yourself.

You want to write about mental or physical disabilities? For god's sake, don't randomly guess.

You want to write about true love? Go out and fall madly in love with someone.

If you want to write well about a topic, you almost always have to have some firsthand experience with it. Where there's not an opportunity for firsthand experience, there's loads and loads of research. You can't expect to be able to pick up a pen and write an amazing poem or story involving the characters experiencing something you've never experienced yourself.

"But I've read lots of books about teenage heroines running at top speed through a field while being shot at by the dystopian government's police!"

"But I've read lots of books about people who love each other!"

"But I've read-"

Yeah. So? It'll help, but it won't take you all the way.

When trying to write about almost anything, close your eyes, turn off the music, and think back to a time when you experienced that - not when you read something well-written about it, when you actually experienced it. Remember every small sound and sensation of every aspect of the incident - then you can begin to write. Even if it's something as simple as putting on your clothes or laughing. This is what will give you unique language instead of the done and done-over "soft blanket" "feet pounding" "hair flying out behind her" etc.

Suzanne Collins's father was an officer in the Air Force. Her family moved around a lot. She knew very well the effects of poverty, starvation, and war. She wasn't an eleven-year-old first-world rich girl who decided one day, "I'm going to become a bestselling dystopian author!" She knew. She'd experienced.

Writing about things you haven't experienced (or, where experience may not be an option, researched) is a recipe for disaster. You sound amateurish and stupid and ignorant.

So, you want to be a writer?

Then for god's sake, go out and experience what you want to write.

Namarië,
Ellie

12 comments:

  1. And perhaps, with the things in this world that can not be experienced, imagination is the next best thing. How does it feel to be eaten by a dragon?
    Think about that for a bit.


    Would said dragon kill you first, like some birds do? Or would it's at you alive? If it were to kill you first, how would it do so? Burning you alive? What would hat feel like? It can be researched. Biting off your head? Slamming you against hard rocks, dropping you from a high spot? Fall injuries can be researched too.
    And if it doesn't kill you first-
    Is the saliva acidic? Does it burn your skin? How does it burn? Like hot water? Like a sunburn? Like a blistering burn from the bottom of a pan?
    Are you swallowed in one gulp? How do you go down the throat? Do you suffocate on the way down? Is it slimy? Could you be crushed by the muscles in the esophagus pushing you down?

    That was fun.

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    1. You should have a writing blog, Gwen, those are all seriously very good questions. I should keep them in mind next time I write about dragons.
      But the thing of it is, how does it //feel// to be slammed against the rocks? How does it //feel// falling? Those are the sensations I am talking about in this article - the accurate and uniquely descriptive details are what make or break the believability of a scene, I think.

      - Ellie

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  2. I kind of agree...I mean there has to be an element of experience in a book?! At least a little! But I don't believe it always has to be first-hand! I think you can research and write something real and visual and amazing. Otherwise we get so limited?! But I DO know that things I've experienced I write sooo much better. ;D
    Thanks for stopping by @ Paper Fury!

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    1. Definitely! I agree with everything you just said. Research can turn out amazing too, but it almost always has to be either that or experience.

      - Ellie

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  3. Very well said. I've tried to write stories about things I haven't experienced, but know a lot about, and it's still hard. It's actually still kind of hard for me to write about things I've experienced sometimes. I could very well write about anxiety or depression, or just pure sadness, because I've experienced it. I could write about someone going to a new school and not knowing anyone there, and not telling anyone from their old school that they switched schools, because I experienced it. I could write about feeling invisible and lonely because I know what it's like – since I've experienced it. I could write about having no friends and about feeling like no one cares about me, because I experience that all the time.

    I once wrote a story about a girl whose sister had cancer, and the sister ends up dying. I know what it's like to have someone you love die from cancer, because my grandpa died from cancer. That story is, in my opinion, one of the best things I've ever written. It was one of the easiest things for me to write because I had experienced it. I also wrote another story and put a lot of things in it that happened to me, and wrote about one of those things without anyone knowing that's how I felt. One of the main characters ends up committing suicide and one of the other main characters, who was very close to her, feels empty and she can't find the words to talk about what she feels. That's how I felt a few weeks ago on the anniversary of my grandpa's death, I wanted to write something about it but I couldn't find the words to say anything. I felt so empty.

    I am sorry for writing such a long comment even though I know you don't mind. I would also like to let you know that today is National Winnie The Pooh Day, if you didn't already know. If you didn't know, you're welcome. ;)

    -Annie

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    1. Yes <3
      I DID NOT KNOW THA BUT THANK YOU FOR ALERTING ME.

      - Ellie

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  4. Yes, I definitely agree with you on this one. Having experience on the moment you're writing totally helps. Especially because you can describe EXACTLY what it feels like, and not make it short and choppy, leaving the reader feeling like they don't fully understand what's going on. (Not that everyone who hasn't had firsthand experience but has researched is always like that. I just have seen a few writings where I can't really FEEL what the character is feeling as much as some other writers who have had experience when writing.)
    When you've experienced what you're writing, you're able to describe every single sensation that went through you as it happened. When you haven't had experience it's a lot harder to imagine what it would be like.
    Great post (as always). :)
    ~ Suzy

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    1. Thank you! I agree totally :)

      - Ellie

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  5. I agree with this to some extent, but I won't elaborate. Good tips for writing realistic fiction though!

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  6. i think there are some nicer, less preachy ways you could have went about presenting this tip (not trying to start anything, that's just my honest opinion. shoot me), but the general idea is very true. one can't expect to write about something without actually knowing what they're doing--like an essay for english. if you didn't read the assigned book and bullshit the essay, it's gonna be obvious. just like in a book. and i have read published books that sound like the author just wanted to be applauded for writing something "different" (a book about a ftm transgender, if you were wondering. it was clearly written by a cisgender)...it's kind of frustrating, you know?
    (i sound like an absolute twat in this comment but eh it's the morning of my first two midterm exams i'm not exactly smiling)

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    1. Eh, it's fine, don't worry about it. I know you wouldn't purposefully try to be nasty or anything, so it's all good. *thumbs up*
      God that sounds the worst. You should write about representation issues because you're passionate about increasing representation for the certain group, not because you want people to be like "OMG so innovative!!!!!!"
      Good luck, I hope it goes well :)

      - Ellie

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