What Should I Write?

Sunday, February 15, 2015
Figuring out what to write isn’t always as easy as you’d like it to be. This was especially true for me after hearing the advice "write what you know."  That simple piece of advice led to trying to write for women. After all, I am one.

First, I ruled out chick lit. It was all the rage and selling like mad. When I tried reading what my friend touted as “the best book ever,” I got stuck on page 2. The main character was debating what to call the blue of her favorite scarf. I think someone was murdered, but the body got lost in aqua, navy, teal and robin’s egg.

Next, I ruled out anything fashion related. I only had to recall a conversation with my sister and her sister-in-law. My sister knew better, but her sister-in-law didn’t want me to feel left out so she tried to involve me in a conversation about make up. “What mascara are you wearing?” “Black.” “No, what brand is it?” “The tube is green.” We eventually determined that the cap was also green and the mascara wasn’t waterproof, because waterproof makes my eyes itch. Beyond that, I didn't have a clue.

DIY and decorating also went by the wayside. I don’t understand why anyone would build a fake fireplace to make a wall more interesting or box in round posts to make them square. And cute food is pointless. I live in Manland. After a swim meet, dinner is like eating with the Simpsons – get it in and get it down before you starve.

Instead of going with what I know, I looked at what I love. Drop me in the middle of any historic site and I will find something fascinating. Science museums and technology lure me in. I love figuring out how things work. My sister, she who knows better than to discuss mascara with me, claims that I’m a walking trivia game.

Then there’s my sense of humor. If it will make a tween or teen boy laugh, I’m most likely laughing right along with them. I also play Xbox, watch The Walking Dead, and chose the latest Marvel movie for Mother’s Day.  My father Mother's Day gift?  My very own break-down long bow and that was pre-Katniss.

No, I couldn't write for women but my work started to sell when I settled on my current market – irreverent fact-loving kids.

If you are struggling with your writing, take a look at what you love. Are you writing about your passions? I don’t mean the things that other people expect you to like. I’m talking about the things that you gravitate towards even when no one is looking. These may not be what you know, but they are what you love. How can you touch on them in your writing?


Sue Bradford Edwards is the author of Ancient Maya (Abdo, 2015). She teaches our course, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next section starts on March 2nd.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Sue--You are so right. When a writer's passion runs through it--like a thread that won't unravel--the writing sings. Good luck with the classes you're teaching and the writing you're engaged in.

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