Where Do You Get Content For Your Novel?
Today, we’ll talk about #1 on the list in more detail — Content.
What Content Is
Let’s remember what Content is. Content is more than just the facts you know. Facts are facts. Content is the spin you put on those facts. It’s how you interpret those facts. It’s your vision for life. It’s what you’ve learned in life that helps you deal with the cold, hard facts.
In a very real sense, Content is you! It’s the magic “stuff” you bring to a book that nobody else in the world can bring. That’s very cool. It’s also a little scary, because … what if nobody likes your Content?
That’s simple — get more Content! You do that in a variety of ways, but they boil down to two. You get more Content by:
- Living life and learning from it
- Learning from others
Should You Write What You Know?
If anyone has advised you to “write what you know,” they’re telling you to take your Content from the life you yourself have lived. That’s good sound advice. After all, if you’ve lived the life of a cop or a drug addict or a witch doctor or a politician or a small town undertaker, then you can write about those things with an authenticity that other people can’t touch.
But usually, writing what you know isn’t enough. What if your novel is about life on Mars? Or 17th century China? Or modern-day Antarctica? Or the planet Zwxrtp? Sometimes you want to write about something that NOBODY has ever lived or that HARDLY ANYBODY is living now. And that means research. That means reading. That means work in the library or on the web. Maybe it means interviewing people who’ve been there or fieldwork on an archaeological dig. Maybe riding along with a cop or hanging out in an inner-city mission. Whatever it means for you, DO IT. You need to commit to doing what it takes to understand the world of your story.
At the end of the day, whether you “write what you know,” or just “research what you want to write,” or some combination of the two, you’re still going to have to filter it all through your own brain, your body, your emotions, your SOUL. That takes time, but it’s worth it. Because when you’re done, you’ll have great heaping mounds of Content that you can pour into your novel. You’ll have something that NOBODY else could have written.
And that’s the first thing you’ll need in order to get your book published.
That ends today’s lesson. Are you still excited about writing your novel and getting it published? Are you already boiling over with Content from a life well-lived? Remember, there are still 2 more things you need to get your novel published. You still need Craft. And you still need Connections.
Watch for tomorrow’s lesson, when we’ll talk about the next thing on our list: How Do You Develop the Craft You Need To Get Published?
Randy Ingermanson, PhD