Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Write What You Know

Years ago, when I opened a martial arts school after moving to a new town, I was nervous.  Sure, I'd trained a long time, and I'd learned a great deal.  I was respected as knowledgeable in the Korean Martial Art in which I'd trained, Han Mu Do, but still, I was nervous. Why?  Because the more you learn in a martial art, the more you realize you have left to learn.  When you've learned a little, at first the gut reaction is, "Wow--I'm getting this."  Then, after a few more months, you realize that you've only learned a piece of the pie.  A few years pass, and as you gain a greater understanding, it dawns on you that all of the experience and knowledge you've amassed, well, it's just the tip of the iceberg. 

Sure, I knew stuff.  I'd never have been awarded a black belt, much less a second degree black belt, if I didn't, but I also knew I had nowhere near the level of expertise of my instructor.  That's when he gave me a valuable piece of advice.  I was moving to a new town, and there was nowhere to train, so I'd decided to open my own martial arts school.  My instructor told me to "Teach What I Know." 

A simple concept, but it was sound advice.  I'd learned a lot.  I had a lot to teach my students, so I focused on teaching what I knew I was particularly good at.  And, my school was a success. We were profitable from day one, as I couldn't afford to be in the red.  It wasn't always a large profit, but it was a profit nonetheless. 

But the title of this post is, "Write What You Know," you may be saying to yourself.  True, it is.  When I started writing, I adapted that valuable advice from my martial arts instructor, and applied it to writing.  My novel, "Destined Love is Immortal," takes place in Belgium, in specific locations with which, for the most part, I'm greatly familiar.  This makes it possible for me to make the experience more realistic for the reader.  I want you, my audience, to feel like you are actually there. 

Now, am I saying that you shouldn't do any research?  Of course not.  I did a lot of research to make certain my information was up to date, or to fill in details of which I was uncertain.  As much as I would have liked to return to Belgium and travel around to find all of this out for myself, I couldn't, so I used the internet search engines and also e-mailed anyone who I thought could help.  It was a lot of fun and allowed me to fill in any gaps I had, but still, had I not decided to "Write What I Know," I don't believe my final product would have been the captivating book that it is.  Nor would I have felt so confident in writing it.  So, I encourage you to write about places and things that are familiar to you, and bring your characters to life.

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