Friday, April 11, 2008

Writing What You Know

Write what you know. Time and again we hear this advice from editors and published authors. Makes sense because the more you know about a subject/experience the more specific you can be about its ins and outs and little quirks, providing details that create a rich and authentic story for your reader.

As a writer mom who's been playing nursemaid for far too long, I've had plenty of time to think about the relevance of this advice for a project I've had simmering for quite some time. One of the undercurrents of the proposed work-in-progress is the fact that the MC's sibling is chronically ill. Since I love and care for a child with special needs, makes sense to draw from my experience in order to breath life into my story.

Here's a sampling of what I know about being a writer mom to three active girls, one with significant special needs who insisted on getting sick again this week:

*Setting the alarm to keep track of giving the next med has become second nature to me.

*I can tell by the sound and type of cough when E's running a fever.

*I know the phone numbers of the bus company and school attendance office by heart.

*The truancy officer doesn't call anymore to ask why our daughter has missed so much of the school year.

*I know by the sound of the breathing treatment when it's complete. (A very useful skill when doing one in the middle of the night.)

*The gatekeepers at the doctor's office know us so well now that they put me right through to the physician after they hear E's name.

*Though I would never walk away from our situation, I can sympathize with those people in the world who don't have enough resources, family or friends to draw on in order to take care of themselves and their loved ones, and who, after months without hope of ever feeling "normal" again, might consider leaving rather than muscling through another day.

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