Writing from non-experience

A & A eating Easter candy

I’ve been thinking about my kids a lot lately. I miss them. It’s the longest we’ve been apart, and I’m ready for them to be back home from their summer away. But in a very strange way, the separation is a good thing for my writing.

The last critique I received from a publishing professional was that she didn’t feel connected enough with my main character, who is a motherless child. And I realize that the strain I feel right now from the separation of my family is something that didn’t come through in my writing before, because I was reaching for something I had never really felt.

Of course people have written about things that they’ve never experienced before, and have done so  successfully. My first novel, about a girl who is searching for her real father, is an experience that I never had, but one that was so convincing that several people have asked me if the story was autobiographical. So it’s possible. But in the case of my current novel, I wasn’t able to approximate the feelings of a motherless child enough to be convincing. Fortunately (also, unfortunately) I now have an experience that I can use to better convey the emotional strain of going through life while missing someone significant.

So it’s good that the kids are gone, right? At least, that’s what I’m telling myself to get through today.

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3 thoughts on “Writing from non-experience

  1. Karen says:

    I always thought it was interesting when JK Rowling talked about how the death of her mother affected how she wrote — shaping and deepening the impact of characters dying. I guess that’s taking the bad and using it in positive ways?

  2. Tracey says:

    Maybe we have to for catharsis. When I started writing that teenage vampire bodice-ripper story, I used the experiences with my grandmother’s death to lend a little credence to the non-teenage vampire bodice-ripping parts. Um, so I wouldn’t go totally into a shame spiral from writing that damn thing in the first place.

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