Friday, October 21, 2016

Use What You Know

Author Sharon Dobson spoke about National Novel Writing Month and writing about what you know at the October meeting of the Carroll County Chapter of Maryland Writers’ Association.
Sharon used Hershey kisses to illustrate how writers can take a thought and a brief sentence and build on it to create a story.

She gave us a six word sentence. Then used information about how Milton Hershey built his business and about his world-famous candy kisses (which she distributed to entice us more into the story. Yum) and increased it to 130 words and enhanced her story.
Added information helps draw readers into your story, she said. You want to give them something more than quick details.

Using methods like this can help those writers who participate in Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) which is in November. Writers try to write an average of 1,667 words a day to reach 50,000 by the end of the month.

Writers can prepare for Nanowrimo ahead of time by deciding on their story, making an outline and a timeline, but shouldn’t start writing. Actual writing of the novel has to start on November 1 and end by November 30.

Sharon said she would encourage writers to participate in Nanowrimo and recommended using methods such as above to expand sentences. Think of connections, she said. When you are painting a picture with words, you need more.
Use day to day experiences. Tell your reader about the blade of grass that you know and feel it under their feet. Have them eat with you. Smell and taste the food.

Develop a personality for your characters. Search for the human aspect of each story and scene. Write in people you know, but first ask them if you can use them.
Don’t edit while you write during Nanowrimo, she said. Just get the words down. The first draft is always bad. Editing comes later, but writing so quickly during November will give you a good start to your novel.

Do the best that you can and have a critique group of someone else read your story, comment on it and then make any last minute changes you feel are necessary before publishing.
“When you push that button to print, you open yourself up to criticism,” she said. “Don’t sweat it.”

Sharon was raised between Monkton, Maryland and Chincoteague, Virginia. She uses details from those locations in her books. Each book addresses a social problem, she said.
Her first novel was Murder at Swan Cove. The fictional murders in this book revolved around child sexual abuse.

The idea for another book, Witness to War, was based on stories her great grandmother used to tell. “I am sorry we caused the Civil War,” Sharon remembered her great grandmother saying.
Years later she discovered that was at least partially true. It started when an escaped slave fled north to Pennsylvania in 1881.That action led to Pennsylvania’s Fugitive Slave Act.
You will have to read her book or do some research to learn more. The social problem in Witness to War is mental illness.

Her newest book, Middle Plantation, will be coming out soon. The social problem in this book is connectiveness and the difficulty of getting unconnected.
You can find more information about Sharon’s books through Goodreads and Facebook. Also, if you are interested in National Novel Writing Month, check out

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