Tag Archives: things you learn

Write What You Know #atozchallenge


K. There are a lot of good k words. Kangaroo. Kumquat. Kitchen. and… Knowledge.

That’s what we’re going to talk about today, that old maxim to write what you know.

But… guess what? I’m not going to sit here and tell you to limit yourself. Nope! Not even close.

If you’ve been reading along all month so far, you know this. I said it during G is for Guns day: Go learn. Teach yourself. Find a teacher. Do whatever it takes to learn, to soak up that gorgeous stuff in life called knowledge. Add in some experience while you’re at it for a true ability to write what you know from a place of authenticity.

Oh, that doesn’t mean you should become the world’s best downhill skier, but you should at least have an idea of how to snap your boot into your bindings. You should know what the different types of snow are and what each means for a competitor. You should know how races are run — and not just the part where the skier physically hurtles down the slope, either. What about the backstage life? How does all that come together, unfold, become a major spectacle that’s so seamless, people never stop to think about the logistics behind it?

All too often, we authors sit and home and dream. That’s where the genesis of our stories comes from, and it’s important stuff. It’s important stuff to sit and pound out a first draft, then spend time revising and crafting and shaping it, then sending it to our beta readers or our critique group, and then revising some more.

That is, after all, where the image of the solitary writer comes from. And it’s important stuff.

But so is being able to write what you know. Which means you have to shrug off the solitary part of yourself and explore this great big huge, wonderful place called the world. Travel. Learn a new skill. Explore something you’ve always wanted to. Use your book as your excuse, but gosh darn it, our rears spread when we spend too much time sitting on them, and our souls empty.

Who can write on an empty soul?

Go fill yours. Write what you know, and devote yourself to knowing a lot of stuff. You’re a writer, after all. For the duration of the crafting of your manuscript, you can have that same career as your hero or heroine. (Note that I said crafting, because that often starts at the research stage). Embrace life. Live in the moment, learn what you’ll need to make your characters and your book their best possible selves.

And then come back and write about it.

Go on. You can do it.

Write what you know — what a great excuse to know things.


Guns Going Bang #atozchallenge


Although I’ve said this before, it was awhile ago now. Since there are new folks here for the A to Z challenge, I’d like to repeat myself. Besides, this is one that I feel very strongly about.

A lot of books involve guns. A lot of books, regardless of time period and genre — including some genres that might surprise you (like YA and romance — not romantic suspense. Romance). If a gun’s been invented, it’s possible that one will make an appearance in a manuscript that crosses my desk.

Now, we can talk about the gun culture and how including guns in our books so easily and with such frequency helps perpetuate it. Or we can argue that fiction is merely reflecting our reality. Guns are everywhere.

BUT we’re not going to.


What we’re going to talk about is how you, the author, are charged to write what you know. And that means that if you don’t know much about guns but want to include them in your book, you owe it to your credibility as an author, and you owe it to your reader to get yourself over to a range or a sportsman’s club and learn.

Now, not all ranges and clubs offer classes to non-members. I get that. But many do. (Mine offers a ladies’ pistol class every October, for instance. And they offer other classes, as well.)

(Yes, I just came out as belonging to a sportsman’s club. What of it?)

Writing responsibly about gun use means knowing what you’re writing about. Educate yourself. Take a class. Find a certified instructor and hit the range. (And, like you expect me to say anything less, WEAR YOUR EYE PROTECTION!)

Learn what it feels like to have a gun barrel kick into your palm. Into your shoulder, if you’re shooting a shotgun. Learn how to seat it properly in that shoulder; it’s not nearly as easy as it looks (she says… from experience). Learn what it feels like to flick the safety. To load. What a bullet feels like, what a hot casing feels like when it pops free and grazes your cheek (HELLO EYE PROTECTION). What it smells like, how heavy it is, what it’s like when you’ve been holding it for long periods. Do you find using the sight intuitive?

I can go on and on.

These are details your reader expects your character to know. That means, by extension, your reader expects you to know them.

If you’re going to write about guns, do it from a position of knowing how to use a gun, how to hold a gun, how to fire a gun, and all the rest. Know what guns cost. Know what ammunition costs!

Write what you know.

Which means that if you don’t know first-hand, go find out.

I bet you’ll learn more than simply how to write about a gun in your manuscript. In fact, I’d bet an entire edit on it. Because unless you grew up around guns or have a career that made gun safety a priority and something as natural as breathing, I know from experience. You WILL learn.

And your fiction will be better for it.

Just wear your damn eye protection so you can read about it once the book hits the market.*

*For you not in the know, no, I did not hurt my eye while at the sportsman’s club or while otherwise handling a firearm. But damn if I haven’t learned to go overboard on the eye protection issue.


#SaystheEditor and a #WritingPrompt: To Lick or Not to Lick



Do you guys like the graphic? The amazing Magnolia Belle made it for me two years ago, and I’m finally getting around to remembering I have it and should be using it! Pick up her books — I am partial to Lady Gwendolyn, although MB also writes some good Rock Fiction — or get in touch with her about graphics for yourself. She’s awesome people, and I’m proud to know her. And I’m proud to use her work.

So, let’s get to business, shall we?

I was at a business meeting last week. It was a good day: The provided lunch was good. The few people I chatted with were all interesting, and one owns a local Mexican restaurant I used to frequent when I first moved out to Chez West of Mars. If you saw the movie Dogma, you’ve been there, too.

I learned some other things, too, some of which we’re going to apply to writing. Ready?

Like I said, lunch was provided for us. Good food, I must say. But… it was a boxed lunch, which means sandwiches, chips, a pickle (in its own plastic wrapper! How cute!), and a brownie. All of which adds up to finger food.

Know what I learned at this business meeting?

I lick my fingers a lot.

I promised this would tie back into writing, right? This is where I do that. Right here, right now, but I’m sure you can guess what I’m going to say. Yes! Character quirks!

Licking one’s fingers sends a message, no? Think about the various ways one can lick fingers: with gusto, with embarrassment, with nonchalance. What does each say about a character? What else does the character do while licking? (Oh, my, Kota, STOP THAT. This is a clean post! In more ways than one!) How does the character convey their licking style via their clothes? Their hobbies? Their friends, their politics, their general outlook on life? Hell, even the way they walk can all be inferred based on how someone licks their fingers.

Yes, you CAN derive all that just from one simple gesture. Think about it. I bet you’ll see I’m right.

In fact, do more than think about it. Take a character you’re working with. Let them lick their fingers. Show me the scene.

Yes, show it to me! Here in the comments. Go on. Post it. Be brave. Have fun, too.

Not a writer? Who cares? What’s stopping you from trying? Try it; you might have fun. And isn’t fun what life is all about?