Friday, January 18, 2013

Write What You Know...or Not by Cheryl St.John and Debra Ullrick


Two Authors, one great book Colorado Courtship. Cheryl St.John and Debra Ullrick tell us how they see the age old advice to writers...
Write What You Know


Cheryl St.John


Write what you know? Where did that advice come from anyway? I tried to find an origin, and even Wikipedia doesn’t know, so there can’t be much merit to the old adage. *g* I did find an Ernest Hemingway quote: “From all things that you know and all those you cannot know, you make something through your invention that is not a representation but a whole new thing truer than anything true and alive.”


True enough, John Grisham is an attorney and writes legal thrillers and Robin Cook is a doctor and writes medical thrillers, oh and forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs wrote the series of books from which the television show Bones was created. But is that the norm? Here’s a snip from my book Writing With Emotion, Tension & Conflict that will be out from Writers Digest this fall: “One of the most irritating questions we can be asked is if we write from personal experience. Well, of course we write from personal experience. But do we do all the things and feel all the things that our characters experience and feel? Hardly. My answer is always, ‘My life is way too boring to write from personal experience.’

“I doubt anyone has asked Stephanie Meyer if she created a family of vampires from personal experience. Do they think Stephen King had a supernatural encounter in a deserted hotel or that he cut off his arm to see what phantom sensations were like? Seriously, people. We’re writing fiction from our individual worldviews.

“We become these story people, and we imagine what they would feel like—how they would behave, given their background and experiences and the things that are happening to them, because we’re creative and sensitive. We write from our deep creative wells of imagination, and we have lived and felt enough to be able to imagine how someone would feel in a given situation.”

I call it method writing. Becoming the character. “You don’t have to have experienced something to imagine how it would feel. No one who sees an Amber Alert has to question how the parents are feeling. That’s a universal trigger.

One of the many things I do that drives my husband crazy is obsessively watching all the behind-the-scenes clips for movies. I know you’ve seen interviews with actors where they are talking about their character as though it’s a real person. To them it is. They become that person to take on the persona of the role.

It’s method acting. It’s how actors dredge up tears and show drama. They put themselves in that person’s place and experience the scene as though it’s happening to them. You have to know your character inside and out to write like this. Superficial writing will never convey deep emotion.”

On Ted(dot)com Andrew Stanton has a video in which he says, “Stories are affirmations that our lives have meaning.” I loved that. He goes on to say stories are, “confirming some truth that deepens our understanding of who we are as human beings.”

We’re not so different from people who lived a couple of hundred years ago or those who live in other lands. Because our basic needs and desires and dreams are universal, it’s not so strange to think we can know what it would be like for an alien trapped on this planet or how a Hobbit feels.

Writing what we know is writing characters with depth, it’s emotional connections, relationships, love stories, losses, trials and victories. So maybe Hemingway had it right.




Debra Ullrick
What is the real motive behind the saying, Write what you know? What are the people who stress this trying to say? Is it one of those things where someone started it, like those old slice-the-ends-off-of-the-ham thingy? You know the one where the mother sliced the ends off of her ham before she put it in the pan, so the daughter did it for years too until someone asked her why. When she couldn't answer them, she called her mother, and her mother said it was because the pan she had used was too small, so she had to cut the ends off of the ham to make it fit. Is that what ‘writing what you know’ is all about? Did someone write what they didn't know and it didn't work, so they advised someone else not to do because it didn't work for them?

Or is it because someone picked up a book and they knew more about the subject than the author did? If so, what would you say to that author? Would you bash them like some reviewers do when they inform the author that they didn't get all their facts straight?

There will always be naysayers and critics. There has to be balance. We should do research if we’re talking about a specific place, or a specific disease or time period etc. For example, in The Bride Wore Coveralls, I set my story in Alabama. I've never been there, but I love the south, so I wanted to visit it in my story. I called friends who lived there, called the chambers, read stuff online and even had a lady who was born and raised in that area read it over several times to make sure I had it right. Guess what? I still had someone inform me that I didn't get it right.

I say, write what you don’t know, learn what you don’t know, write what you do know, but most importantly listen to that still small voice inside of you and let Him guide you. Let Him tell you whether or not you should listen to what others are saying. Sometimes the answer is no, and sometimes it’s yes.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Leave a comment to get your name in the drawing 
for one of TWO copies of Colorado Courtship
Winter of Dreams by Cheryl St.John
If Violet Kristofferson had known that her new employer was the town undertaker, she might never have come to Carson Springs as his cook. Yet she needs a fresh start away from scandal. And Ben Charles's unflinching faith could be her path to something truly precious—a new family.
Find Cheryl online at:
The Rancher's Sweetheart by Debra Ullrick
The cowboys on her uncle's ranch show Sunny Weston no respect—except for foreman Jed Cooper. A riding and roping contest is Sunny's chance to prove herself. But now that she's falling for Jed, will she find courage to take the biggest risk of all, and trust her heart?
Find Debra online at:

115 comments:

Melissa Jagears said...

Are both ladies' articles supposed to be the same??

Marianne Barkman said...

i thought it was a trick on me...maybe they actually did it to see if we read the posts! i wondered how someone got here first. i'll stop by a lot later to read the comments.

Melissa Jagears said...

Marianne, I was confused there for a bit too. I was thinking, "Maybe I am staying up waaaaayyyyy tooo late."

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

Maybe Cheryl St. John IS Debra Ulrick and she's finally coming out to the world about it.

Pen names can be so tricky.

Jenny Blake said...

Oh good it isn't the fact I am so tired I cant think straight.

but it was interesting Love the part about the daughter cutting the ham but not knowing why and finding out it was cos the mothers tin was small.

Debra E. Marvin said...

I don't know but I'm thinking a slice of ham for breakfast sounds good right about now...

Cindy W. said...

I loved this post and the fact that it repeated itself. My guess is it could stand to be repeated for emphasis. :)

Thank you ladies!

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Good morning ladies, I just saw it, and after I DIED LAUGHING BECAUSE CONNEALY DID IT, I e-mailed her to check it because although these women work well together, my guess is they are not SWITCHED AT BIRTH

But I could be wrong!!!!

I like Virginia's theory that they are one and the same, in which case I WANT THEIR/HER ROYALTY CHECK.

I'm just sayin'.... :)

Mary Curry said...

I'm just thinking of all those years of wasted ham.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I love that ham story!!! That always makes me laugh, the common sense of the situation!

I can totally see me doing that.

DUH.

But then I'd have to keep doing it once I knew better, just because it's that funny.

Hey, ham for breakfast. With scrambled eggs and bagels from the Jewish bakery in Manhattan, Arnie's Bagels....

Oh. Yum.

I'm leaving the fresh onion off mine.

I'm just sayin'....

Annie Rains said...

Haha, I love the analogy of the slicing the ends off the ham!

Thank you for a wonderful post.

Happy Friday, Seekerville!

Edwina said...

Well, I thought the confusion was lack of caffeine on my part -the gray cells have not been stimulated yet.
That slice of ham would be mighty tasty on a made-from-scratch biscuit. Yum.

pol said...

I love to read both of these authors, sweet ladies.
I like your beginning saying of "Write what you know or not", great idea if you know it you will be able to write much and if you dont know you can research-research-research. I so want to read this new book that you wrote together, thanks for being here at seekerville today....enjoyed the comment on the Ham, isnt that the way we just keep doing things our family did and sometimes don't know why??

Paula O

Jeanne T said...

Fun post. :) Apparently I missed the "Twin"effect of both women saying the same thing. :)

I like the idea of stretching myself to learn new things to include in a story, but also writing what I do know. I'm thinking about my new story, and seeing how I can stretch myself in some of what happens in the story, but I can share some of the life lessons I've learned through my characters' journeys.

Ham, eggs, bagels, coffee (must have coffee)--sounds like it's shaping up to be a yummy breakfast!

Misty Russon said...

This has always been a worry of mine. After much thought I realized I don't really know much...lol. I've been to many different states, and even lived in a few, but I don't know much about them. I do know how to do research and Thanks to the internet I can talk to people all over and interview them for what I need. Great Post!!

kaybee said...

I found this interesting. If we all "wrote what we knew" there wouldn't be any historicals, because I for one do not know how to get back to 1846 to research the Oregon Trail in person. If the Lord lays a particular place or time period on your heart, that means you can do it. Research is key. A person who wants to write about their hometown or profession has a home-field advantage, but it would be pretty dull if we all did it. I'm a journalist for a small-town weekly, YAWN. I may use it some day, but it doesn't fit into my Oregon Trail scenario. What I think we can't research? The incredible journey of the human heart. Live better, write better.
Kathy Bailey
Unpubbed in New Hampshire

Julie Hilton Steele said...

I loved both of these stories. No need to put me in for a drawing.

I also need to put in a plug for Cheryl's writing classes. If you get a chance to take one. sign up immediately!

Peace, Julie

Janet Dean said...

Great to see Cheryl and Debra's smiling faces in Seekerville! Ladies, the cover of
Colorado Courtship is gorgeous!

Research is fun and interesting, especially research into the past, at least for me. Maybe if we really knew something inside and out, we might tell too much and make our readers yawn.

To write an emotional book, we need to know more than the facts. We need to understand how our characters are feeling. We may not have been in the same situation, but we've been in other tough spots that help us know how to express those feelings on the page.

Thanks for the reminder to listen for God's wisdom and leading so we can tell the story He wants told.

Janet

karenk said...

thanks for the chance to read this novel ;)

karenk
kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Marianne Barkman said...

Kaybee...i've been wondering where in NH you live? i have dear friends in Merrimack.
i've heard the ham story before, except when i heard it the was 3rd generation, and her mother had to ask the grandmother. What am i doing that my grandma did because of necessity? Any ways, i would love the novel

Cara Lynn James said...

LOL!

I'm so much more comfortable writing about a place that I know -- although even then it's easy to get details wrong. I bite my tongue every time I find incorrect details in other authors books and hope they'll do the same for me.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Darn I missed the fun too. I almost checked in last night. That Melissa Jagears knows when to show up.

Good morning Seekerville!!!!!

And Julie Hilton Steele is right.

Whenever possible take a Cheryl St. John class!!!

Mary Connealy said...

Well, I'm doing great today aren't I?
Guess what? I went to see if I saved Cheryl's blog post, WHICH SHE SENT TO ME EARLY, IN A TIDY, POLISHED SHAPE.
And I've got Debra's saved TWICE and Cheryl's not at all.
I emailed Cheryl, who is as professional as you'd ever want, and if she is near her computer, she'll probably send it again and I'll get it up.

Sincerely,
Mary "Relentlessly Dorky" Connealy

Mary Connealy said...

So, for now, let's talk about what Debra said...about Write What You Know.

Honestly, if I only did 'write what you know' my books would all be called Ode to Roast Beef

Tina Radcliffe said...

Well I totally forgot about that hilarious ham story.

Good one, Debra.

Mary Connealy said...

We sure wouldn't have any vampire books. (not all bad!)

Bridgett Henson said...

I read an author's note once that went something like this:

Dear Reader,
Yes, I am aware the thingy used in chapter twenty wasn't invented until four years after the timeline of this novel. However, the placement of this item is crucial to the plot. Thank you for allowing me to insert a little bit of fiction into this story.

I Love This Author. j/s

I research my contemporary settings thoroughly, but I will admit to placing a bank on a street where they was none, simply because it needed to be there. And who’s to say that there won’t be one there eventually.

kaybee said...

Kathy to Marianne: I live in Raymond and work for a newspaper covering Derry.
Kathy to Janet Dean: That's what I wanted to say! You said it better!
Kathy to Mary: Maybe you should write a cookbook.
Kathy Bailey

Debra Ullrick said...


A GINORMOUS THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO HAS TAKEN THE TIME TO STOP BY TODAY!!!!

God bless you all!!

Debra


Melissa, yes they are both supposed to be the same. We were both writing what we felt about Writing What You Know. I felt Cheryl's had a lot of research facts, whereas mine didn't. So, it was just showing our individual way of show we saw that topic. Guess we shoulda made them different. *smiling*

And No, Marianne, it wasn't a trick! But hey, if it worked, that's awesome! Tee hee

Debra Ullrick said...

Virginia, poor Cheryl if she was me! hehe

Mary Connealy said...

So, Write What You Know....

I suppose if you have some profound knowledge in an area, it makes sense that you'd set your books there.

But that is so limiting.

Still, how fun if Buzz Aldren wrote a murder mystery about a moon landing.

Or if Derek Jeter wrote a book set in and around a baseball game.

Of if Laura Bush started writing about a crime fighting First Lady.

Debra Ullrick said...

Jenny, I've always loved that story about the ham too. I had a similar experience only mine was about tin foil. The first turkey I ever baked, I went to put it in the oven and realized I didn't have any tin foil. No stores were open in my small town and I panicked. I called my mom and without even saying hello blurted, "Mom, I don't have any foil!" She said, "Deb, is that you?" I didn't even respond I only blurted the same thing again. Finally she asked me what I needed foil for. I told her that she always covered her turkey with foil and I didn't have any and what was I going to do. She asked if my lid fit, and I said yes. She said, "Well use it." Boy, did I feel stupid.

Mary Connealy said...

Hi Deb. I had doubled everything, had it down twice. So we deleted half of it, but...well, just forget it.

Let's just all put it down to Mary's tendency to do things twice. Not a total disaster in a blog post but it stings when I buy two airplane tickets.

Debra Ullrick said...

Hey Ruth....I like your thinking. Yes, I am Cheryl St. John. Now, Cheryl, hand over those royalty checks!!! Oh, in my dreams!!!

And, yes, this is Debra and not Cheryl. Sigh. hehe

Debra Ullrick said...

Mary, I like the way you think. I'm surprised I didn't think of all the years of wasted ham. But, knowing how frugal people were back then, I can bet it didn't go to waste. The dog probably got it. hehehe

Debra Ullrick said...

Annie, you are welcome! Everyone must have come on here hungry because everyone is talking about the ham and not about writing what you know. Too funny!!!

Debra Ullrick said...

Thank you for your sweet comments, Pol. It does make you wonder how many things we do because our mothers did and we don't even know why. Scary, huh? *smiling* Hmmm what did I teach my daughter. Gulp. *g*

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Edwina, I did the same thing. I scrolled up....

Then down....

Then up again, looking for some SUBTLE THING I MISSED!!!!

:)

HAHAHAHA, nothing subtle about it. Cheryl's part of the post was MIA...

Very military.

And we just love Cheryl here, she's one of my faves and she's just got so much savvy going on when it comes to writing... workshops... marketing.... networking....

I'm sure her original post was WONDERFUL but I kinda like mine, singing her praises.

Really???? We know she's good so we'll just buy the book and see!!!

And Deb, I brought some chili along for lunch. And homemade bread. Nothin' like homemade chili and bread to make a gal who loves/wears/writes about coveralls happy!

And I LOVE coveralls.

Yes, I do, do NOT SMIRK. It's true.

Debra Ullrick said...

Misty, I felt the same way. When I first heard write what you know, I thought about hanging up my puter, cuz I didn't know much. I've lived a rather dull life. Not dull to me, but dull to write about anyway. So, I like to write about who I'd wanna be, what I'd like my life to be like. And the funnest thing about it all is...So many people's lives and outcomes are in my hands, so watch our you characters out there, or I just may have to get violent. Oh wait, I'll save that for my suspense stories.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

You know Bridgett, I was researching Christmas and hopped onto a Miracle on 34th Street trivia site....

Mr. Macy DIED decades before the movie was made, they made him (or exhumed the poor mate!) for the movie...

And Santa Claus answered the question about the vice president incorrectly. How that one got by everyone is a mystery, but his answer is wrong....

So if Hollywood can do it....

I think occasionally we can nip and tuck a little bit. And if it's a fictional street in a real town, no one can fault you. So if "Carsonville" has a Maple Street, you can use South Maple Ave and do your thing with no reprisal...

I think research is great, but occasionally license to lie ensues!

Debra Ullrick said...

Janet, you are so welcome. I have to remind myself to listen to God, because all those outside voices of "do this", "do that", can become quite confusing and often contradicting after awhile.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Mary, I would love to see Laura Bush (who loves reading, writing and libraries!) write a book like that!

Maybe now that there's going to be a grandbaby Bush she'll do a children's novel. I bet she'd be great.

So if we write what we know, Stephen King should be NO ONE'S NEIGHBOR....

BUT....

If you write what you LIKE and use what you know, that can be a win/win.

Mary Connealy said...

Maybe Write What You Know was sort of true before people could research on the Internet. Maybe the weakness of writing about something you couldn't really know about was bad for a book.

But these days ... an American author writing about Regency England, well, theres just so MUCH out there. Not to mention so many books with all those rich details.

OTOH, Laura Ingalls Wilder, bring her life as a pioneer girl to a book is so rich. So special because she had lived it.

Mary Connealy said...

I keep thinking about Frankenstein. Did Mary Shelly know that?
Of course she set it in a time she knew well.

Pam Hillman said...

Man, I missed the fun, too! lol

And I love the pics of Cheryl and Debra. Looking good, ladies!

Debra, love your thoughts on writing what you know.

Instead of writing what I know, I probably need to write who I am.

I'm not sure writing House scripts would suit me... or Cheers, and definitely not Seinfeld.

But Little House on the Prairie; Gunsmoke, and Walker, Texas Ranger...those would be more who I am, even though they're not necessarily what I know.

As long as I write who I am, I can find out what I don't know. :)

Cheryl St.John said...

I am laughing this morning.

I am laughing this morning.

lol
I was up until 3 am with technical difficulties over my first ever indie books uploading, so this is such a minor glitch it doesn't even register on the radar.

Thanks for the filler, Mary. I think I might get a big head now and no longer be the normal person you mentioned. I'm not all that sure about normal anyway--but you weren't talking about that kind of normal...

Off to wait for the update.
Off to wait for the update.

:::snort:::

Cheryl St.John said...

And I tried to get to the source of write what you know, too. I may have a Hemmingway quote in my post.

I guess we'll see.

Debra Ullrick said...

Cara, when I find incorrect details in a story, even though at times it can be cumbersome, I remind myself it's fiction, and that the author did the best they could. Some don't, granted. But if the stories good, I really don't care. I read a review one time where the author got slammed about something really simple. I'd read that book and that same thing didn't even phase me. That reviewer went on to criticize the author about her lack of research and knowledge and then proceeded to show her how much she knew by giving that author the facts. My first thought when I read that review was, well, I've eaten dill pickles and potato chips together for over forty years. Then about ten years ago, they came out with dill pickle potato chips. So, because it was never recorded that I ate them didn't mean it didn't exist? I do think we need to strive to get our facts straight, but sometimes even with our best efforts we fail. We can only hope our readers show us mercy and grace. *smiling*

Debra Ullrick said...

Dear "Relentlessly Dorky". I am happy to know that I am not alone and that I have a relative out there with the same name. Thank you for that.

HI MARY CONNEALY!!!!

Signed,
Relentlessy Dorky the second. Notice how nice I was that I put you first. *smiling*

Cheryl St.John said...

Well, I'll just tell you now since several of you girlfriends have mentioned my classes: I sold a how-to book to Writers Digest and it will be in their fall '13 catalog. It's called Writing With Emotion, Tension & Conflict.

I'm pretty stoked, though the deadlines are fierce and I barely come up for breath lately. It's a dream come true, really, and I feel so blessed to have sold it to the publisher I targeted, which is the first place we sent it.

I use a lot of movies for examples, just like I've always done in my classes. Hey, watching movies is good work if you can get it. :-)

Debra Ullrick said...

Brigette, exactly. Who's to say there won't be a bank there someday. Just look at the movies Back to the Future, we're already seeing a lot of that fictional stuff coming into existance today.

I've done that too. In my upcoming June release, The Unexpected Bride, I set it in Hot Sulphur Springs, but I gave it a fictional town name to take liberties with it. I know because I did give it a fictional name that that is a bit different, but same principal. I also did that with my new release, FOREWARNED. It is set in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

Debra Ullrick said...

Laura Bush a crime fighting lady, huh? Too funny, Mary!

Debra Ullrick said...

HI CHERYL! PUT ME DOWN FOR A COPY OF YOUR WRITER'S DIGEST BOOK!

Debra Ullrick said...

No smirking here, Ruth. I love coveralls too. And chili. Yum! Hey, all this talk about ham and chili is making me hungry!!!

Mary Connealy said...

I keep looking and it keeps being RIGHT!

Sorry for the mix up ladies. Thank you both for being here.

I suppose forty comments in is a little late to welcome you both to Seekerville.

Mary Connealy said...

Cheryl you need to come back when the book is releasing and give us a chance to talk about it. (If your spirit isn't broken by my technical skillz)

Mary Connealy said...

Or the lack there of......

Myra Johnson said...

Debra & Cheryl, thanks for your perspectives on this old writer's adage. (I mean old adage, not old writers!!!)

My personal philosophy? Write what you know and/or can research enough about to make it believable, and apologize in the acknowledgments if you messed anything up!

As for doing stuff twice, maybe I hung out with Mary too long at the ACFW conference a couple of years ago, because there was one workshop in particular I really wanted the recording of. So a few weeks later I purchased and downloaded it, and then a few months later bought it again because I forgot I already had it!

Sherri Shackelford said...

I think we gravitate toward *themes* we know: I tend to write about people making unconventional families (which is interesting, because I grew up with--and created--very conventional families.)

I read a lot of Cheryl St.John and she tends to write about secrets...secret babies, secret identities...secret pasts.

Oooh, Cheryl. Is there something you want to tell us :)

Debra Ullrick said...

Amen, Myra.

Mary, did you get that? Apologize for anything you messed up. Oh wait, you did that. Okay, lady, you're off the hook than. By the way, what was it like dangling from a hook? Did you feel like a worm? Did you see a large mouth bass and panic? Boo hiss...that was SO bad. I think I'll leave the humor to you, Mary. Tee hee

Debra Ullrick said...

You're so right, Sherri, about writing themes we know. We may not all know about the Alamo, but we know what it's like to feel pain, rejection at one time or another, or the loss of a loved one whether through death or moving out of town, etc.

Mary Connealy said...

Sherri, you know I've heard that, we have a fundamental message we write about over and over, mostly subconsciously.
Something about a Fire Circle.
I think it was an article in the RWR magazine, that there are these layers to your writing and there is this foundational FIRE CIRCLE that all your books are about. Then there is a second level, third, fourth, fifth. And by the fifth level you're writing widely, in different settings that an author couldn't possible 'know'. Not all of the settings.
But that basic Fire Circle is what you really believe and really want to express and that is hard core 'Write What You Know'.

Mary Connealy said...

Debra I am a compulsive, chronic apologizers....and I'm really sorry about that.

Debra Ullrick said...

Did I mention that I love it here on Seekerville? If not, I'm saying it now. I LOVE IT HERE ON SEEKERVILLE! Ah, that feels much better. sigh.

You all are such a wonderful, fun group of ladies! Love it!

Mary Connealy said...

It was an exercise in humility, Deb. God must have detected a glimmer of pride and immediately set out to CRUSH IT TO DEATH.

(yeah, like any part of this is God's fault!)

Mary Connealy said...

Cheryl you really couldn't find the source of that Write What You Know quote?
I find that fascinating--something so widely known and discussed has no clear source.
Do you think it evolved from Hemingway?

Bridgett Henson said...

Ruthy, that's some very interesting trivia. Hollywood does everything first.

Thank you for giving me a license to lie. I'll off to use this gift in my WIP. :)

Myra Johnson said...

Fire circle--very interesting concept, Mary! I need to look up that RWR article. Any idea when it was?

Sherri Shackelford said...

Ooooh, Fire Circle. I like that!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Cheryl!!! Congratulations on the NF book to WD. Of course you'll come back when it's scheduled for release!!!!!!

Jan Drexler said...

Good morning, Cheryl and Deb - and yes, I was too late to catch the Doublemint gum act.

I've always thought "write what you know" had two aspects to it.

There are the details - does it ever snow in Texas? When was Ft. Laramie established? - the stuff you can research. And then there are the "put the reader there" details, that only someone who has actually been to a place can know - what spring feels like in northern Indiana, the smell of a used book store, the sound of a waterfall.

But the second aspect is completely different. We know the Truth about history, about God, about why the world works the way it does. We know the hope that only Christ can give. When we write what we know, we're giving our readers that same assurance and hope - and possibly opening the door for the Spirit to work in an unbeliever's heart.

When you look at it that way, we all write what we know...

...but that doesn't mean we don't do our research. In my book coming out in May, I include a building that wasn't built until two years after my story takes place. Now I wish I had mentioned it in my reader letter!

Julie Lessman said...

GREAT POST, CHERYL AND DEB ... and EXCELLENT points!!

DEB SAID: "I call it method writing. Becoming the character. “You don’t have to have experienced something to imagine how it would feel. No one who sees an Amber Alert has to question how the parents are feeling. That’s a universal trigger."

WOW, this is SO true and totally supports the premise that you do NOT have to write what you know, so THANK YOU!!

DEB ... laughed out loud over the ham story, girl -- so fun and down to earth, just like you!!

RUTHY SAID: "I think research is great, but occasionally license to lie ensues!"

LOL ... AMEN to that ... it's called "fiction," after all, which is just license to lie in a creative way. :)

FUN POST, ladies!!

Hugs,
Julie

Missy Tippens said...

Great post, Cheryl and Debra! I think it is sometimes easier to write what we know. But how many books can we do that for? One or two? Then we have to really get creative! :)

Thanks for being with us today!

Missy Tippens said...

LOL!! I see I missed all the fun this morning. I LOVE it! Mary goofed. And Ruthy will get to tease her about it endlessly. What's new in Seekerville, huh?

hahaha

Missy Tippens said...

Misty, I agree! I don't know much. And like Cheryl said, my life is pretty boring! :)

Missy Tippens said...

Bridgett, that's a great quote! LOL

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Thanks for the filler Mary....


MARY??????


MARY???????????

Oh mylanta, CHERYL!!!! (waves hand frantically, needy person that she is!!!!!!)

The Connealy had nothing to do with it....

Nada.

ZIP.

ZILCH.

Did I mention NOTHING?????

While she was sleeping, you and I were working....

No need to worry about cash for the KIND WORDS THE RUTHINATOR POSTED....

Your check is good with me, honey!

:)

Glad you're "Up" and I'm with you on a scale of 1-to-10....

This was just plain fun.

And you are gracious.

AND smart.

Mostly.

Missy Tippens said...

Deb, what a cute story about your turkey foil!!

And Mary, I can't believe you did something else twice! I'm on pins and needles, waiting for you to tell us you registered twice for RWA. ;)

Debra Ullrick said...

HI JULIE!!!!! Aren't you sweet. And you said a mouthful, girl. It is fiction!!! Did you know that there are some who actually believe that our stories are lying? I couldn't believe that when I read it on the Internet. One pastor in particular really slam dunked authors. Poor legalistic man. He needs a touch from Jesus. *smiling*

Mary Connealy said...

I can't remember which RWR it was. Last summer I think...could I be any more VAGUE???
And I don't think the article used the word Fire Circle in the title, plus I might have the term Fire Circle wrong, in which case I have just INVENTED A TERM!!!!

Mary Connealy's renounced literary theory about Fire Circles took the world by storm.

Debra Ullrick said...

Hi Missy!!!! Glad you enjoyed my turkey foil story. Now that my mother is with the Lord, it means even more. Such a special memory on Thanksgiving Day. A sweet connection to my little mummy. No, that's not a misspelling. I used to call my mom little mummy all the time. When I did that, she would look at a stranger and say, "She calls me little mummy." And she'd grin.

Debra Ullrick said...

No Mary, it should read...Mary Connealy takes the world by storm. Quick everyone duck! Whew that bolt of lightning hit really close. Watch it, Mary! You're going to turn us all into crispy critters.

Mary Connealy said...

FIRE CIRCLE ARTICLE--Playing with a Full Deck by Claudia Welch in (I believe) the Jun 2012 RWR

About themes, I found this from someone talking about it:
>>>>>>>
if you look at your work as a whole—you'll find in each of them, a theme that comes from the very heart of who you are. It shows up in all your books in one form or another

Mary Connealy said...

At this level we all write what we know, apparently!!!

Crystal Benedict said...

I just wanted to say that all you authors have great imaginations so you keep up the good work & I'll keep reading them. So you all just write what you write best :)

MinDaf @ Aol.com

Debra Ullrick said...

Aren't you sweet, Crystal.

Peggy Wright said...

I'd say most of my favorite authors became better writers with each new book. Honing their craft. If that is editors, good for readers and authors alike. The story itself is where each author shines. I forgive everything for a heartwarming story. Embellish as much as you like, that's what will drag me into the story. Shallows I might stick my toes in, but give me depth and I'll happily wade right in over my head. Lol

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Bridgett!!! I do what I can, honey.

Humbly, of course! :)

Deb, I'm such a country chick, I love country garb. Which means I stand out if I venture into the city.

Like... a lot.

I'm going to confess I dissed an author once in a contest I was judging. Her facts were wrong and I told her. I still cringe to this day because I should have just shut up. But NO, I had to explain why it didn't, wouldn't and couldn't work and I figured she'd probably STOP WRITING because I was a jerk.

I think she's a bestseller now, so I learned my lesson.

Sometimes it's not WHAT you know, but how you spin it and impressing others with our brilliance doesn't grab readers...

Romance does.

A lesson learned...

The hard way.

DebH said...

Laughing at all the comments today. Saw the glowing commentary of Cheryl from Ruthy (not the Connealy) and came back later for Cheryl's actual wisdom. I got the best of both worlds.

First thought on if we write what we know... what does that mean about Mary and guns? Does she break one out to liven things up in real life when needed? (weak attempt at humor...)

anyhow, i am thrilled to have more clarification on the write what you know concept. i also love the book being offered up as a give away is about Colorado (colorado native here - best state ever! unfortunately, life has me living on the East Coast right now)

it's always a joy to visit Seekerville - for writing wisdom and entertaining commentary in the comment section.

oh, and i love the pictures of Cheryl and Debra.

DebH said...

oh, i forgot - when i read something that isn't quite "right" i chalk it up to the writer's creative license. especially if the book is fiction.

from wikipedia: Suspension of disbelief or willing suspension of disbelief is a term coined in 1817 by the poet and aesthetic philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who suggested that if a writer could infuse a "human interest and a semblance of truth" into a fantastic tale, the reader would suspend judgment concerning the implausibility of the narrative.

save the exact fact stuff for dictionaries and textbooks.

Jenny Blake said...

Debra, your story of the foil reminds me of trying to cook a roast lamb i knew mum always put water in it only I couldn't remember how much and put in to much and it was more boiled lamb than roasted. I now know it doesn't have to have mutton fat or water to roast.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Deb H, thank you for acknowledging my amazing and humble (!!!!) contributions.

Hey, I love that definition. God bless Coleridge because that's exactly how it should be, right? If you make all the edges fit the puzzle piece, who's to say it's the wrong piece?

Wonderful, Deb!

Mary Cline said...

Last night I read that post. (those posts?) about three times looking for differences or nuances of phrase or meaning. I couldn't believe there would be a mistake in Seekerville. I finally gave up and low and behold in the morning there was something new!
Thank you both Cheryl, and Debra for teaching me again, something I didn't know. When I get old, which could happen soon I fear, I will be able to write so much more because I will know so much more.

Jenny Blake said...

wow you all had fun while I slept (very early night lights out by 9pm and then drempt of finding a hotel in the city which I still haven't found). another story that!

Thanks for waking me up needed the laugh. (although one more hour sleep would have been appreciated!)

Debra Ullrick said...

Ruth, I'm a country chick too. I remember the days that there were only a handfull of us cowgirls in school. We had Tony Llama wing-tipped boots and belts with our names on them. We definitely stood out. Oh, how I miss them. I wish they would both come back.

Jenny, that is too cute about the mutton. You said "mum". Are you from Australia?

Debra Ullrick said...

Ruth, I so understand about telling someone about their facts. I got cured when I critiqued someone's story and hurt her feelings. That day, I asked myself when I had started to become so critical of stories. Before I became a writer, I just read them, afterwards, I critiqued them. And now, I'm just enjoying them again. If something is wrong, I just chuckle and go on. I try to remember that I am reading Fiction, not non-fiction and that helps.

Amy Campbell said...

Thank you, Ladies. Nice post.
Congrats, Ladies, on your new release.
Amy C

Cheryl St.John said...

Mary Cline, you are so sweet. Let's not speak of getting old.

DebH, yes I've seen MaryC pull her gun when she doesn't get her way. It isn't pretty.

Ruthy, I always ask writers to accept my critique in the spirit it's given, one of helpfulness and true concern. I told a person once that her facts were wrong. She shelved the book for a while, but then corrected her facts and sold the book, so most likely you played a part in helping that person on her journey.

Cheryl St.John said...

Tina, as soon as I have my release info for the fall, I will schedule a Seekerville date! Hopefully it will be during your birthday party.

Smooches!

Cheryl St.John said...

Sorry, I can't think Fire Circle without seeing people dancing near the flames in the moonlight. Not quite what you were thinking, eh?

Cheryl St.John said...

<< I read a lot of Cheryl St.John and she tends to write about secrets...secret babies, secret identities...secret pasts.

Oooh, Cheryl. Is there something you want to tell us :) >>

Sherri, that would be something I DON'T want to tell you! lol I'm not who you think I am.

(Which is pretty funny because I'm so honest it hurts.)

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Debra and Cheryl, Thanks for joining us in Seekerville today.

Great stuff too. I think who we are and what we know creeps into whatever we write. But I love researching what I don't know also.

That's what keeps writing interesting. smile

Thanks again. Enjoy your day.

Myra Johnson said...

"Playing with a Full Deck"--found it! Still have the June 2012 RWR in my stash. Thanks, Mary!

CatMom said...

Great post, ladies---Thank you for visiting us today! (and Cheryl, I had the pleasure of meeting you in person at the St. Louis ACFW, and you were SO nice I liked you immediately). Wonderful advice worth re-reading. Blessings from Georgia, Patti Jo
p.s. Just baked a Pecan Pie (with Georgia pecans, of course!) still warm from the oven--Enjoy!

Walt Mussell said...

In writing what I know, I write about Japan. However, I've come to realize that there will always be people who know more than I do.

And it offers a chance to learn.

Debra Ullrick said...

Walt, how do you know so much about Japan? Inquiring minds want to know. Okay, THIS inquiring mind wants to know. *smiling*

Debra

Susan Anne Mason said...

Wonderful post! Must get a copy of Cheryl's book. Sounds very informative.

Cheers,
Sue

Cheryl Hart said...

Seeing double can be fun sometimes. ;) lol

Both The Winter of Dreams and The Rancher's Sweetheart sound good! :)

Natalie Monk said...

Great observations on the adage, ladies. I've wondered a lot about that. thanks for giving me a fresh look at the facts.

Love that book cover. :)

Mary Preston said...

A great read is a great read & I never let few facts get in the way of that.

Sherri Shackelford said...

Cheryl, I'm a little disappointed you're not a spy.

Sarah said...

I would love to win,Enter me!!!
Thanks for the giveaway and God Bless!!!
Sarah Richmond
sarahrichmond.12@gmail.com

Veronica Sternberg said...

These both sound really good! I love historical romance.

Melissa said...

Both articles bring up excellent points, its interesting to learn how authors write stories.

I love Historical romances!

Thanks for the chance to win.

KayM said...

Very interesting post. It's great reading the different perspectives--both in the post and the comments.