WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW
One of the best pieces of advice I ever received as a writer was the following phrase: “Write what you know or believe.” Sounds easy, right? As a writer of the darker genres, I know that these things are worthy of my belief systems: there is life beyond the human life. There are ghosts caught in the world between the seen and unseen. There are unexplained phenomena, and there are more than three dimensions. I believe in forgotten gods, unremembered civilizations, and dark caverns that lead into the unknown. I believe in undecipherable languages, and museum artifacts which are not properly catalogued. I think that there is water on other planets, and I think that there are life forms which are not carbon-based. I want to believe in sea monsters and mysterious land creatures that are still alive and hidden. I also know that I want what is hidden to stay hidden; just because I believe in them does not mean I seek confirmation or proof.
So I am very careful to write about what I know and what I can justify, whether real or imagined. Are my stories too basic or common? Perhaps. But I want the reader to make an identification between the world I have created and the existing world; I try to use sentences which are long enough to communicate the story, but short enough to let the reader’s imagination fill in the blanks. I write, and then I edit. And then I edit again. And again. I am in awe of writers who can get their thoughts on paper with just one or two editorial passes – how do they do that? It takes me such a long time to write because I never stop trying to make it sound or feel better. I want the words on the page to touch on all 5 senses, and to roll off the tongue like a beloved song.
"Write what you know or believe” sounds so trite, but it has saved me many times from writing under false pretenses. I understand the worlds of heartbreak, desire, physical phenomena, and developmental disability, because these are the memories I have collected throughout my life. I have worked in the social services-type fields for years, and I believe that my knowledge of psychosis and adolescent angst have been invaluable in helping develop my characters. For instance, if you have never been in a mental hospital, you will have a very difficult time describing one accurately without a field trip and lots of research. There are many different kinds of Autism, people with Down’s Syndrome are not always cute, and having an obsessive-compulsive disorder is much more involved than just frequent hand-washing; in order to create dynamic characters it is vital to have a working knowledge of what the heck you are writing about. Examples of situations where I would have a difficult time with accuracy would be scenes involving mechanical or scientific equipment, factories, and foreign cultures of places I have never visited.
So I continue writing, and editing, and seeking out beta readers and fact checkers to help me improve what I am not an expert in. I write using the language I know and the words I am fluent in. I hope that others will be able to believe in the worlds that I create, and that my stories are written in the simplest form of complexity that I can achieve.
Let It Bleed is available in both E-book and soft cover through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords. S.L. Schmitz lives in North Carolina, and spends her days chasing a five-year old and keeping 4 felines happy. Please visit her website at www.thedeadgirl.com.