One NaNoWriMo year I had a great idea for a novel. It was set in Northern Wisconsin, closely tied to my family history research. I started writing, so excited about the story, then realized I knew nothing about the geographic area, the time, the society, nothing beyond the basics of my genealogy research. I thought I could make it up but realized that the lack of information was getting in my way as every day of writing progressed. Frustrated, I whined to my husband and he gave me this wise advice that I’m sure you’ve never heard before: Write what you know.
What did I know? Or better yet, where did I know? I knew Seattle. I lead photo tours through Seattle for over a decade. I grew up there. I’ve researched the history, architecture, politics, and culture of the city on Elliott Bay. I’m fascinated with the wild west, logging and fishing world my family helped create once they left Wisconsin. As much as I wanted to tell the story closer to the truth, once I shifted the story to Seattle, it blossomed. I couldn’t stop writing. I was on fire. Memories were unlocked I hadn’t considered for more than thirty years about the place I call my home even though I haven’t lived there for twenty years.
I’d like to change the writing clique to better suit the advice from author Neil Gaiman:
Start telling the stories only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better doing this or doing that – but you are the only you.
Put aside all the teaching, workshops, books, and myths you’ve heard about writing. Set aside your own preconceived notions about what you think you should write.
As you plow through NaNoWriMo, remember that you are the only you, and only you can tell the story your way, uniquely yours.