Write about what you know

Write about what you know

writing4 bArdain Isma

Write about what know is one of the first lessons in creative writing. For a novelist, especially a beginner, this task entails patience. He must master the skills necessary to create a world unknown to us, his world, crafting it with settings, characters, background, and language and then share it with his readers. But the fact that he is writing about a familiar milieu, the passion is usually obvious. Readers love that.

If you are a memoirist, your work seems easier because the job is to put into words experiences of the past. One thing here is quintessential: Stylistic eloquence—vivid, forceful, persuasive—which constitutes the magic wand that lures readers into your world and traps them there.

Write about what you do not know

The job gets harder when you write about places you don’t know, unfamiliar cultures etc. To do this, you must have the vital skill—the ability to use your imagination.  Creating new situations, new characters, new relationships, even new worlds, is an integral part of effective writing.

Jacques Stephen Alexis, in his historic piece Où Va le Roman? (Where Does the Novel Go from Here?), tells us Le roman, c’est la conciliation de l’imaginaire et du réel, il est éternel comme notre goût des belles histoires, notre incorrigible propension au conte et à la légende. (The novel is the bridge between the imaginary and the real, it is eternal like our taste for beautiful stories, our incorrigible propensity for storytelling and legend.) And where your imagination needs help, you must fill the gap with research. This is particularly important in historical fiction.

Creative writing is an art, and like every artwork, it needs patience and passion. You do not submit your work on the first draft. Some writers spend months and even years, polishing their works before deciding to publish. Remember, “it is practice that makes perfect,” as the old saying goes.

Note: Ardain Isma is a novelist and editing manager at CSMS Magazine . He heads the Center for Strategic and Multicultural Studies. He also teaches Introduction to Research Methods at Embry Riddle University. To see his books, click here.

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