Jill Steeples talks about drawing from your own experiences as a writer.
As a newbie writer, there’s lots of writing tips out there and one little nugget that crops up time and time again is the one that says ‘write what you know.’
I’ve often wondered about this particular line of advice, but I suppose it comes from the idea that, as a writer, you have a natural source of material to draw from in your own life experiences. If you’ve spent twenty years working in the police force then you’re in the ideal position to write a police procedural story. Or maybe if your background is as a doctor or nurse then writing a hospital drama would be a lot easier for you than it might be for me.
Thinking about it though, if authors only adhered to writing about topics they’d experienced for themselves, then surely we would miss out on a whole host of marvelous stories. I’m sure J.K. Rowling didn’t have any first hand experience of wizards or magic before creating her magical stories, nor did Thomas Harris have experience of murdering people when he created his chilling serial killer, Hannibal Lecter.
With the wealth of information available now on the internet, writers have access to information and research material that makes writing about subjects, time periods or places that they might never have come across before, that much easier. In The Tenderness of Wolves, the best-selling, Costa Award-winning novel, author Stef Penney portrayed the wilderness of the Northern Frontier in Canada to great critical acclaim, without ever having visited that part of the world prior to writing her book.
So I think the ‘write what you know’ rule, like a lot of writing advice, and life advice in general, should be taken with a pinch of salt and considered, but definitely not stuck to religiously. Nor should it hold you back in deciding what it is you want to write about.
It is the author’s job is to create a fictional world that we can believe in, to create characters that we can understand and relate to, and to take us on a journey that has us turning the pages wanting to find out more.
In the second of my Dog & Duck books, Summer at the Dog & Duck, I return to the country pub of The Dog and Duck, set in the idyllic English village of Little Leyton. Now, pubs are something I’ve definitely had a lot of experience of! My family originate from the East End of London where the pub, along with the church, was at the hub of the community. As a child I can clearly remember accompanying the adults to the pub, but this was at a time when children weren’t permitted inside licensed establishments so I was made to wait outside with a bottle of pop and a packet of crisps to keep me occupied. Not that I can remember being upset about this arrangement. I waited eagerly for the adults to emerge, desperate to hear their stories of what had been happening inside and to hear about all the characters they’d met there. Because for me the most important aspect to any story is the characters. We want to go on the journey with them, experience their hopes and expectations, feel their joy and pain, and be with them every step of the way to the very last page of the book. That’s what I set out to do in Summer at The Dog and Duck.
With two more books to write in the Dog and Duck series, I will definitely be sticking to what I know best – pubs, small town or village situations and characters that I would like to know that little bit better. That’s not to say, in the future, I won’t be conjuring up something else entirely. Who knows, maybe next time around, I’ll try writing a vampire novel or a thriller set in deepest Siberia because after all rules are there to be broken! So watch this space…
Continuing the light hearted, uplifting dramas around the The Dog & Duck pub and the life of its landlady Ellie Browne.
Ellie Browne has found happiness running The Dog and Duck pub in the idyllic village of Little Leyton, and her blossoming romance with tall, handsome property developer, Max Golding, is going swimmingly. With her new best friend, Digby, the black Labrador at her side, life just couldn’t be sweeter.
But their peace is shattered when Max’s younger sister, Katy, turns up unannounced with a whole heap of attitude. And Max’s loyalties are stretched further when his glamorous ex, Sasha, re-appears with her own burgeoning secret.
With the master of the manor preoccupied with the demands of his ‘other women’, Ellie’s forced to consider if she has any role to play in Max’s life or in the village of Little Leyton.
Can Ellie get her life and relationship back on track in time for the summer charity ball at Braithwaite Manor?
Jill Steeples lives in a small market town in Bedfordshire with her husband and two children. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, walking, baking cakes, eating them and drinking wine.