The title is overly simplistic. Also, it covers enough of a chunk that it would take a whole book. Or six. But it got your attention. And I guess that’s lesson one: Yes. Write your truth, always. But do it in a way that will grab a reader. And so here we are.
There are more simple-but-important rules to help you be the best writer you can. Here are a few of them:
Stephen King said it best: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” Pay attention to the books and authors you enjoy reading, and what you like about them. Is it the subject matter? The characterizations? The writing style? Read an array of books, including those you might not normally pick up. Sometimes read outside your comfort zone and make note of the things that move you.
How do you react to loud sounds? Do you associate memories with certain smells? Noticing your senses can help you find stories that might be hidden behind your own behavior and preferences. By being conscious of your complex-self and of different environments, you can create more realistic characters and settings.
Carry a notebook
When inspiration strikes, write it down. The thoughts you don’t capture might never hit again in quite the same way. In airports, cafes, bars and any place people get together, it’s sometimes impossible not to hear pieces of other people’s conversations. Try taking note of the details. What struck you about the dynamics? Maybe you first noted tense body language between two people or a raised voice? Note details like a hand rubbing a brow or kneading a stiff muscle. Note long fingernails or a pale bruise. Think about what details you might add to a story to give it richness and verisimilitude.
It’s hard to focus on your own thoughts when you’re constantly being stimulated. While it may not be feasible to live on Walden Pond like Thoreau, it’s possible to turn off your phone or close your web browser. It’s too easy to get distracted. Spend less time scrolling random web sites and checking your socials. Use the time you harvest in that way to get down to writing.
Though the dream of many writers is to shut themselves up on an island, in a garret or on some lonely ski hill, the things we do in our every day lives is as important to our writing as the things we think. It’s impossible to know which of the random encounters we have will inspire our writing. (That makes keeping a notebook doubly important!) Get out there and live a little. Then let your experiences fuel your fiction.
How do you use your own experiences to inform your fiction? Let’s talk about it on the Career Authors Facebook page!
Linda L. Richards is the author of over a dozen books. The founder and publisher of January Magazine and a contributing editor to the crime fiction blog The Rap Sheet, she is best known for her strong female protagonists in the thriller genre. Richards is from Vancouver, Canada and currently makes her home in Phoenix, Arizona. Her latest novel, Dead West, publishes September 5, 2023. “Linda L. Richards delivers yet another riveting entry in her hired killer series,” says New York Times bestselling author William Kent Krueger. The first book in her Endings series has been optioned for series production by a major studio.