Writing a novel – a writer’s journal part 6
Where am I?
Over the years I have often read in books about writing: ‘Write what you know.’ Sound advice, something I’ve done on frequent occasions.
Drawing on your own life experiences can be a very powerful tool to enhance one’s writing. Sharing the familiar can ensure the integrity of your writing. It is, in a way, being true to yourself.
Drawing on what you know is an important consideration when writing a novel, for it will often determine the setting of your story. I usually set my stories and novels in Australia, and specifically South Australia. This is the part of the world I know best. It is the setting with which I feel most comfortable because I know it so well.
The importance of setting
What if you decide to write a story set in another country? Or another period of time? Or on another planet?
That was the dilemma facing me when I started out writing my current WIP, a novel for children set in Nepal. Sure, I had some knowledge of the country, but visiting as a tourist for four weeks is a far cry from being born and living all your life there. It can be even quite divorced from the impressions and experiences of someone who has lived and worked in that country for some years.
As a result of my problem, it was crucial that I either abandon the project or set to and do some thorough research. The concept of a young boy caught in the midst of a civil war would not go away. Stories have a habit of doing that. Layered upon that idea was the friendship he develops with an Australian expatriot boy whose father is working in Nepal.
I have no idea what it is like to live in another country. I have had to draw deep on being resourceful. I am rapidly devouring a series of books written by expatriate Australians, Canadians and Americans (among others) who have lived a significant portion of their lives in Nepal, and especially rural parts of the country. This has been a revelation to me, and I am fearful that the research will take over and prove more enjoyable than the writing of the novel.
It’s something I must guard against.
It’s a fascinating journey on which I’ve embarked.