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Approach the Writing Process

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Section 2: Approach the Writing Process

All writing is exploration.

One writing maxim is often to “write what you know.” For fiction, I find that boring and like to explore. Historical writer Erik Larson said in the notes section following a book that he will sometimes walk through a library looking for topics that interest him. He'll find one and do a deep dive into research. He does it so well the books read like fiction.

No matter what your interests and life experiences are, they can inform your writing. Just don't let them get in the way.

Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, it’s important to be informed about the topics you cover. Readers care.  For example, a farmer in Iowa generally raises corn, not wheat (that’s Kansas). If you talk about wheat fields in Iowa in your novel, a reviewer will point that out.

Who you write to matters. For nonfiction, you could target experts who know a lot about the topic or subscribers to a community newspaper. For fiction, you may want readers who like gory murder mysteries versus those who prefer small-town stories. The prospective audience makes all the difference in aspects such as vocabulary, sentence length, and level of autopsy details. If you promote your book as a romance and the next-door neighbor is a zombie, you lose those looking for love and miss those who like scary creatures.

The lessons in this section explore writing fiction and nonfiction, getting feedback on your work, and enhancing quality through editing. You will not learn all you need to know in one online class, so each lesson suggests resources to hone your skills.

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