Sunday, July 13, 2008

Write What You Know


I'd like to welcome Terri Molina with us today. She's smart, witty, and one heck of a writer. On top of that, I just adore this cover. One of my top requirements for a hero is he has to be a good kisser. And just look at this guy and tell me if you don't think he couldn't kiss the clothes right off of you.
Take it away Terri!
* * *
First off I’d like to thank Christie for inviting me to guest on her blog…of course she obviously hasn’t read my other attempts at blogging. Haha
To be honest, I’m not really much of a blogger…and I have three of them. Go figure.
The problem isn’t that I don’t want to blog it’s that I can’t ever think of something to blog about that won’t have the reader’s eyes glazing over. Oh, and there’s also the whole…gotta have a title that’s also a song lyric thing before I start writing. (You’d have to read my other blog to get that) ;-)
So, for the past week or so I’ve been sitting at my computer trying to think about something to blog about. Yeah, I know, I’m a writer. I’m supposed to know what to write about, but really, it’s not as easy as you might think. Writing not only takes talent, it takes patience and a very active imagination. Hey, two out of three ain’t bad. And, there’s my song!! Haha
Anyway when I first started training myself to write, one of the first pieces of advice I saw was you should “write what you know”. Now if I’d taken that advice literally I’d have never written anything interesting, much less salable. The first book I wrote was about a serial killer…nope, I’ve never been one of those. The second book was about a woman whose ex is stalking her using black magic….okay, that one is loosely based on an ex whom my friend claimed was into black magic (which is where the very active imagination came in). But, for the most part I had to learn how to research in order to get in the know. Lucky for me, I have an uncle who believes in that witchcraft stuff…he doesn’t practice it of course, just believes its real (no offense to anyone out there who believes as well). His crazy stories helped build several of the scenes.
Now, when I wrote my novella Her Will His Way I actually had to dig into what I knew…which was nothing. By that I mean, my character Anita is Mexican but knows nothing about her heritage or how to speak Spanish….I could definitely relate to that. I was raised to think that since I was born in the US I had to give up that part of who I am. Heck, even half the people who’ve met me don’t believe I’m full blooded Mexican….must be that Texas accent that throws them off.
There are times I regret not being able to speak Spanish (especially when someone assumes I can and starts chattering away thinking I know what the heck they’re saying). But, as Anita in Her Will His Way says to Antonio, “just because I don’t speak Spanish doesn’t mean I’m any less a Mexican.”
I have to say though, writing this book was also quite a step out of my comfort zone. The editor who had originally requested it had three stipulations. (1) The story had to be contemporary. I generally like to kill people in my books. (2) The story had to be erotic. *gulp* I can write a hot love scene…but boy howdy did that active imagination come in handy here! And (3) the story couldn’t be more than 65 pages. Yeah, that may sound like a lot….but when you’re used to writing 350+ pages….boiling it all down into 1/3 of that ain’t easy! I somehow managed to do it all though and I’m pretty proud of the results. Of course, now my husband and I are starting to get those funny looks from readers who think I’ve written what I know. ;-)

29 comments:

Christie Craig said...

Terri,

Thanks for guest blogging today.

I know what you mean about people thinking you are an expert about what you write.

This book sounds like a winner.

Crime Scene Christie

Faye Hughes said...

Terri,

I'm writh Christie on this one - your book does sound like a winner. For me, "write what you know" means the emotional truths. All the rest is window dressing, IMO.

Great blog!

Faye

Terri said...

Hi Christie,

Thank you again for inviting me. And you're such a doll for saying such nice things about me. My blogs tend to come off as babbling sometimes...I think I channel Ellen Degeneres when I write. haha

I'm looking forward to picking up your next book. The first one was a trip! ;-)

Hugs!

Gemma Halliday said...

Great post! I do the same write-what-you-know thing. I was doing a library talk last week and one of the women asked where I got my inspiration for my character, Maddie. I just held up a cover and my picture. Yeah, it's totally me.

~Gemma

Terri said...

Thanks Faye. Writing what you know, though not always intentional, tends to show up on the pages of your work. So, I know what you mean about emotional truths. Sometimes, when I'm revising, I'll see something I've put in that totally surpirses me and I think...wow...do I really want people to know that about me?? ;-)
Thanks for reading.

Terri said...

Har Gemma. You're a brave woman! I'd *never* show my picture in public! (lol) So, now everyone is going to look at all your characters and say...hmmm.
;-)

Ciara Gold said...

More power to you for being able to take on the challenge of a short. I'm like you, used to writing long books, 350 pages plus so I admire anyone who can boil it down to fewer than 100 pages.

The research sounds fascinating. Thanks for posting an interesting blog.

Vivian said...

Hi Terri,

I agree that writing is often what you know combined with what you can imagined with all the boring bits of real life dumped :)

Terri said...

Hi Ciara,

Thanks for stopping by. Writing the novella was definitely a challenge for me because I tend to babble...in case you hadn't noticed. hah

Terri said...

Hi Vivian,

Good to see you.

Most times I think 'writing what you know' is done more through your subconscious. I never notice I've mentioned something of a personal nature until I start editing and then I'll tend to 'dress it up' in a more favorable way. lol

Vivian said...

Yeah, I know what you mean. Don't want a family member to suddenly figure out that they are antagonist #2, do you?

I have often realize after the fact that an opinion stated came from me, but I didn't realize it while writing it.

terrio said...

Hi there, Terri. (great name)

I stick with the write-what-you-know because I hate to do too much research. Then again, everything seems to take some bit of research. And I know how you feel with the blog thing. I have two and I'm a rambler so usually by the time people start commenting, I realize I never did get to my point. :)

Oddly enough, I write short. I wrote a short story at the first of the year and it felt just right. Came in around 65 pages I think. Then again, that may be because I'm terrible at description. Everything tends to take place in a void.

Desirée Lee said...

Thanks Terri for the reminder that experience and imagination go hand-in-hand.

Carpe Noctem,
Des

Desirée Lee
Putting the Romance Back in Necromancy
http://www.desireelee.com
des@desireelee.com

Terri said...

Hi Terri,

I guess it can now be said great *names* think alike. ;-)

Btw, I've read your blog and find it very entertaining.

Terri said...

Hi Desiree,

Thanks for stopping by. Great Picture!

Joylene Butler said...

Nice blogging, Christie. You're a natural. I know what you mean about the 2nd language thingy. I'm French & wouldn't dare speak it in public. My teacher once told me it was the worst French she'd ever heard.

Joylene Butler said...

ps.
The fellow on the cover looks like my middle son. I have 3 grandchildren, so I'm guessing he's a good kisser too.

P. Bertram said...

It's better to know what you write than write what you know. Few of us know anything that anyone else cares about, but we can always learn what we need to know in order to write killer fiction.

Terri said...

Hi Joylene, cool name! I imagine French is just as hard to articulate as Spanish if you don't grow up speaking it.

Thanks for swing by. =)

And, I'll be your son has to beat the woman off with a bat, huh? ;-)

Terri said...

Good to see you Pat. Thanks for swinging by. Your comments are very wise! ;-)

terrio said...

Thanks for checking out the blog, Terri. Please chime in anytime. I'm reading your story right now and I'm really loving it. I have a strong independent streak so I can totally relate to Anita. :)

Now, if I could just find an Antonio...

Word Actress said...

For me writing is all about the imagination. I'm not sure where the term 'write what you know' originated but if it were true, in my book, 'The Shadow of a Dog I Can't Forget', I would be a stripper, an adultress, a runaway, Marilyn Monroe, a priestess and a twin - and I am here to say I am none of those things but that doesn't mean I can't write about them. When I did a guest reading at a friend's book club in Oregon, one woman thought all fiction was memoir-ish. She was very surprised when I told her I was none of the characters in my book and that they all came from my imagination. Writers are the luckiest people on this great earth because we get to inhabit the bodies and minds of so many different characters. I always wanted to be all things and writing has given me this great opportunity. Good luck with your book...Mary Kennedy Eastham, Author, 'The Shadow of a Dog I Can't Forget' and the soon to be released novel
'Night Surfing'

Terri said...

Thank you for ordering my book TerriO...I'm really glad you're enjoying it. (and don't we all wish we had an Antonio!) ;-)

I usually just read the blogs but I'll definitely chime in one day.

Terri said...

HI Mary,

Thanks for stopping by.

*Writers are the luckiest people on this great earth because we get to inhabit the bodies and minds of so many different characters.*

Very well said!! And, it goes for readers too! ;-)

Rachel Maizes said...

Terri,
Nice thoughts on writing what you know. The inspiration for the stories I've published has always come from things that have happened to me or people that I know but in the process of writing my imagination has taken over and radically reshaped the stories and the characters.

Terri said...

Hi Rachel,

I know what you mean. And isn't it's a great feeling to get to the end of that book, knowing you've given your reader something to think about?

=)

Kristina said...

Good stuff, Terri! An editor once said to me about my novel, "I can't believe these characters, do you KNOW people like this?" She sounded aghast! Too funny...

Terri said...

haha Kris. That is funny. So..uh...do you?? ;-)

Thanks for coming by.

Anonymous said...

Hi Terri, I love your take on writing what you know. Most of my high school fiction was about the end of the world - not sure what that would've said about what I knew.

Sheila