Heather Graham – Write What You Know

by | September 17, 2019 |

Heather Graham is a highly successful New York Times bestselling author of over 200 novels and novellas. Her work crosses many genres: romance, thriller, mystery, horror, paranormal. She lives in Miami and was the guest speaker at the Florida Romance Writers monthly meeting this past Saturday. She spoke from a wealth of experience.

Her topic was: Write What You Know

Heather Graham: Top Writing Tips

One. Write about a place you love.

You want to be able to bring a particular setting alive and make your reader experience it the way you do. If you know and love a place, you will be able to describe how it looks, tastes, feels, smells.

Two. If you don’t know, find someone who does.

Meet experts in the areas you’re writing about.

If you’re a mystery or thriller writer, for instance, you should attend a conference of the Writers’ Police Academy.  As they say at their website, MurderCon “is a rare opportunity for writers to participate in hands-on ‘for law enforcement eyes only’ training, using modern testing and evidence collection tools and equipment, in workshops taught by some of the world’s leading homicide investigation experts.”

There’s a conference every weekend somewhere in the U.S. relevant to creative writers of all types. Get involved. Do your research.

Three. Watch out for what you think you know but don’t.

Heather told a great story. She acknowledged that she’s a diver and knows a lot about diving. At one point she wrote a story where a diver died in Lake Michigan. The problem was, she wrote that he had salt water in his body, and neither she nor any one else in the editorial process caught her mistake. However, readers did not hesitate to point out to her that Lake Michigan is fresh water.

So, you can know a lot about something and still mess up.

Four. Every life experience can inform your fiction.

No matter where you go, there’s something. Life is stranger than anything you’ll ever write. So just keep your eyes and ears open to the stories around you.

Five. Write what you love. 

Don’t write for the next trend unless you love it. First, your writing will reflect the fact that you don’t love it. Second, the trend may no longer be there when you’re ready to bring your book to market.

You’ve got to write what excites you.

Heather Graham: Top Tips About Being a Writer

One. Right now is the best time in publishing

In the past too many good books didn’t find a publishing outlet because they didn’t fit with a big publisher’s program. Now good books can find their audience through many different publishing platforms.

Furthermore, in the past category boundaries were fixed: romance was romance, mystery was mystery. Now writers can cross borders.

Two. Always put your best foot forward.

It is too easy in this publishing environment to bring a book out that is not as professional as it could be.

Remember the adage: If they love you, they’ll let you get away with one bad book but not two.

Make sure you have the best editor, the best copy editor, the best graphic designer, and the best book you can write before you put it on the market.

Three. The very best editors work with you.

The best editors want to improve your work. They know when and where something can be improved.

(JTA: For a terrific editor, try Selina McLemore.)

Four. The process is different for everybody.

The way one author works is not like another. You might want to write your story then find a publisher. Or you might want to study the market, check out guidelines, position your story for a particular editor or publishing line then write it. No way is right. Neither way is wrong.

Five. As a writer you need to read.

Heather rejects the writer’s complaint, “I don’t read anymore. I don’t have time.”

No, no, just no.

(JTA: this last one is my favorite. I say it all the time: Writers need to read.)

For more: see Heather Graham

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This post was written by Julie Tetel Andresen

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