One of the oldest and favorite adages of “experts” in the writing field is to write what you know. To me, that’s just silly. Why would anybody want to read what I know?
Let’s see. I know about taking care of a house, kids, dogs, and a husband. I know how to can tomatoes and freeze corn. How to lay a tile floor and rip it up. How to cook a steak, bake a potato, and call for pizza. I know how to sew, mow the lawn, take out the garbage… and bore you to tears.
When I started writing the first book in The Fredrickson Winery series, I knew absolutely nothing about wine, vineyards, wineries, or winemaking. I researched, visited wineries, asked questions, and read books on the topic. I wrote down so many facts that I began to feel overwhelmed. There was just so much to learn and I never did like school. How could I squeeze all of this knowledge into my story??
Here’s the deal. An older, more experienced writer told me that I needed to know the facts so that I didn’t sound ignorant, but my readers only needed to know enough to help them visualize the setting. That took a big weight off my shoulders. I no longer felt like I needed to explain every little thing. Those three books are still my best selling novels. People pick up Entangled regardless of the setting and/or because of the setting, but the characters and their story make them care enough to read Crushed and Savor as well.
A story isn’t just about facts. It’s about people and the adventure they are on. Whether they are falling in love, jumping through time, solving a mystery, or doing all three at the same time, your story can’t be bogged down by facts. It has to flow over those rocks of truth like a fast moving stream. People don’t want to read a bunch of facts in the middle of a good story as though their history teacher just came into the room to interrupt the fun. They don’t mind learning something new, but give it to them so subtly that they never realize they’ve been schooled. Integrating the right amount of “how-to” or setting tidbits into the flow of the story takes know-how from both common sense and experience. If you aren’t sure how much is too much, then get some beta readers. They will clue you in real quick.
We all make mistakes and/or get the “facts” wrong sometimes. And in this day and age it’s not uncommon for someone to call you on it. When that 1 star review pops up to set you straight, don’t get all bent out of shape. If they’re correct and you’re wrong, don’t argue it; just fix it. A digital download is easy to manage. Your writing reputation is not. You want readers to come away thinking about that great story they just read, not the glaring mistakes that stuck out like a beaver dam in the middle of your flowing stream.
Leave a comment and let me know I’m not just talking to myself!