Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Write what you know

A writer is a leach.
 I want to soak all the humor and trauma right out of people and laugh and cry over what was never mine to begin with.
Emotional vampire.
However you label it, you have a story and I want it!
Last week I was working on my current manuscript while the Artist was on his computer. I interrupted three times. "Do cars use metric wrenches?"
The Artist: "The foreign ones do."
five minutes later. "Would you replace a radiator or a water pump first?"
The Artist "huh?"
five minutes later. "Do you park a Cessna in a hangar or outside?"
The Artist: "Depends. Outside is fine."
"What sort of drills do they do for soccer teams?"
The Artist: "Honey, what are you doing?"
"I'm working on my book and I have to know how to fix cars, fly planes and play soccer."
Long, long pause.
The Artist: "That's good. Write what you  know."

Which is fabulous advice (even when your sarcastic husband says it in his deadpan voice and makes you laugh so hard you delete a page of dialogue) but there is a beautiful tool for finding out what we don't know-research.
Research. Sounds so dry and boring. I like to call it story time.
Something amazing happened after the success of On Little Wings. I got to add a little tag to my life. Now when I have questions I call total strangers in my apologetic voice and say, "So sorry to bother you, but I am an author and I would like to interview you for my next book." And then I sit down and people pour their stories into me!

Last night I spent several hours interviewing an Air Force Crew Chief and a retired fighter pilot.
I sat at a kitchen table between the two of them while they taught me yaw and pitch and pressure and flight controls and visual flight rules.
They told me about the Gs in a F16 and G measles that pop the blood vessels in your legs and how your heart goes into your stomach cavity. Literally.
I took the pretend yoke in  my hand and he made me pull a plane out of a stall to make sure I understood the details.
"Not too fast!" he insisted as I pushed the stick in to level the nose.
I learned maneuvers, nicknames, soaked up a culture that fascinates me.
Next week I meet with a commander of the Civil Air Patrol and after that, I have a meeting with a car mechanic to learn how to change a radiator (I researched it for hours on youtube, but I want every detail to be accurate.)

So yes, write what you know. And learn what you don't.
Be a leach. Be a listener.
And then be a donor- give it all back. Give it all back and more.
Make it fly.


  1. Love this! Isn't it amazing the stuff that we need to know to write these stories. That's one of the things I love about reading--the info I learn while I'm enjoying the story.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Rachelle. Knowledge is delicious, isn't it? Keep those stories flowing!

  2. Awesome post. One of the things I love about writing is that I get to 'be' other people. Sounds a little creepy, but it's fun to be a skier, a photographer, and a pilot from the sounds of things. Way to take it to the next level. I'm excited for your new book, whenever it comes out. :)

    1. Thanks, Rebecca! It is amazing to have the support of bright, talented, respected peers. I never take it for granted. And I like that our schizophrenia is totally acceptable in the world of writing. :)

  3. I like to give myself excuses for doing things I wouldn't normally do. It forces me to branch out and it counts as research. Your WIP sounds interesting. Mechanics? Planes? Soccer? Ooo, this getting exciting.