research

What You Know vs. Branching Out

When I was first starting out as a writer, people constantly told me to “write what you know.” That makes a lot of sense. Writing what you know gives your story a solid basis in reality, accurate reality.

What do I mean by accurate reality? You can create any reality you want as a writer. A world where dogs live on the moon, where people are born with hands as their ears–any world you want. But it has to make sense, it has to be believable. Connection to the reader matters.

One of the reasons people love books, is the idea that it represents someone or something they can connect with in addition to reading for enjoyment. Even though your manuscript falls into the fiction category, it doesn’t mean the entire book is made up. Relationships, people, emotions: they are based in reality.

I came across this conundrum during a class in my master’s program at Lindenwood University. We read the book, Rose Metal Press Guide to Writing Flash Fiction: Tips from Editors, Teachers and Writers in the field. It talked about truths and making sure that when you are writing about certain types of people that you get them accurate. (A great source for writers – in addition to the Writing Flash Non-Fiction edition as well!)

If you aren’t someone who is intimate with the particular group of people you are writing about, than you need to be careful about writing about them. You don’t want to misrepresent their culture just because you felt like writing about them one morning. This goes for any group or culture–misrepresentation does two things: offends the group you are misrepresenting and provides inaccurate information to people who are not familiar with said group/culture.

The basis of belief for Quakers, is that God exists in every person, and therefore should be treated in accordance with that belief. LGBTQ have their own slang, different parts of the U.S. have different accents, it is impolite in some countries to wear your shoes into the house–these facts may seem inconsequential to someone who is on the outside of these groups, but is essential in the representation of the culture.

So, if you are looking to write about the Aboriginals – do your research, make sure you understand their way of life. If you can, submerge yourself in the culture, talk to some of the people. Experience is the strongest learning tool.

Make sure you understand them and their way of life before you write. In essence,  the notion of “write what you know” is 100 percent accurate. You may want to write something new, but make sure you do the research and write the truth!

Happy writing, and happier researching!

 

Connect with me @AndersonCorinne on Twitter!

Corinne is an editor at Ink Smith Publishing, with an MFA in Writing from Lindenwood University. Since her first trip to the library when she was a toddler, Corinne has been collecting books, recommending her favorites and providing commentary on the less-than-stellar. Her belief is that if you have a problem, it’s nothing that a good book can’t solve. She is currently pursuing her MPS in Publishing at George Washington University, editing for Ink Smith Publishing, and hoping that her blog posts here will help writers improve and publish their work.

Before You Submit: Research The Publisher

Submitting your manuscript to a publisher is scary. Will they like it? Will this be it? Will I finally be a published author? Many times authors find themselves submitting over and over again but never receiving anything more than a rejection letter.

But Why?

Before You Submit is a small series of things you should do before sending off your hard work to a publisher. It may save a lot of heartache.

Research the Publisher or Publishers:

One critical thing to understand is that no to publishing companies or houses are the same. The editors, the people behind the submission reading, all go through the same thing. Submission after submission that did not follow their guidelines. Many editors and companies do not respond to those stories that they reject, which can be very hard to take. Others are kind enough to let you know that they will not be moving forward with your story. This at least lets you know you can move on and try another company.

But before you do, you should stop yourself and ask “Why was I rejected?”

Many times authors do not realize that not adhering to publishers guidelines will result in automatic rejection. There are websites that make it great for authors to find publishers by compiling them in a list with some information about the publisher. Many times these websites include both the submissions email and the website.

Don’t submit right away.

Research.

  • What does the publisher request?
  • How many pages does the publisher request? First three chapters? 50 pages?
  • Verify the acceptable list of genres by the publisher.
  • Research about what the company is about. (try to include a little bit about that in your cover letter)
  • Find the submission reader’s name. Address your email to them.
  • If the publisher asks for no attachments, DO NOT ATTACH ANYTHING. (This is many times the reason of a rejection)

From the publisher’s point of view:

If the author can’t follow directions when submitting, then why would I want to work with them any further?

Submission guidelines are not there just to be ignored.

Before You Submit: Understanding What It Takes