The standard advice to new writers is to “write what you know.” But what do you do when the story you want to tell wanders into areas that you don’t know. How do you handle that?
You do some research, of course.
My novel-in-progress, The Thread, required the two main protagonists, Ben and Krystal, to be stranded in the Montana wilderness, high up in the mountains, deep inside Flathead National Forest and the only way out is to hike out.
I’ve done a lot of hiking over the years but most of it has been in the Appalachian mountains or in desert-like areas of Southern California. Once, when I was fifteen (a long time ago), I hiked in the Rocky Mountains above Salt Lake City. However, I had never been to Montana, let alone Flathead National Forest.
I’ve completed the first draft of The Thread and I’m getting ready to start my first re-write (after NaNoWriMo). All along I’ve been worried that I hadn’t properly captured the uniqueness of the Big Sky Country wilderness, especially the way it would be during the month of October (which is when the story takes place).
When one of the air carriers sent me an email with a sweetheart deal to Kalispell, I jumped at the chance. I’m in Montana right now!
I spent the day yesterday riding around in a Jeep Wrangler deep as deep in the forest as I could get. Today, I drove to a remote area and spent a few hours hiking into the forest.
I found it difficult to write down my research notes while hiking when the temperature is in the low thirties. I began to wonder if I could use my cell phone as a tape recorder, when I realized I could easily dictate while capturing video. The process worked great.
Here is an example:
Here is another tip. I use Evernote to capture notes whenever I think of something I want to add to my story. What’s great about Evernote is that my notes are available whenever I need them, even on my smartphone. (Yes, there’s an app for that!) The notes can be just about any format from pictures to web pages to rich text, etc. If you take a picture with words in the picture, Evernote indexes them so you can search and find them later.
The best part about Evernote is that it’s free.
This is what works for me. What works for you?
Overcome Writer’s Block By Sharpening Your Vision
When I find myself sitting staring at the display, or pressing the backspace key in equal proportion to other keys, I’ve often found my block is due to the lack of clarity in the scene I am attempting to describe – or, sometimes it’s because my gut is telling me my approach to the scene isn’t right.
Here is how to break through.
Writing Assistance? Even the FBI Will Help!
Being a newbie author, I needed all types of special assistance. To my surprise, I found nearly everyone I asked willing to help, even the FBI.
Join a Critique Group
My brother recommended joining a critique group. It turned out to be the best writing tip I’ve ever received, not only did I finally receive quality feedback. I found friends who shared common goals.
Till, ‘Til, Til or Until? Which is right?
I was sure that till meant breaking up dirt; that until meant “up to the time of”; and, when people shortened until in speech, you wrote it as ’til – or maybe just til. But, after a little research, I learned I had it wrong.