April 29, 2017

Best Advice I Was Given As A Writer

Image result for write what you knowThe best advice I have ever been given as a writer is to write about my personal experiences. "Write about what you know," they said, and I listened. At the time I was mulling over a fantasy novel with sword fighting, military battles, ghoulish figures, etc. The type of things you would find in a Tolkien novel, or better yet Robert Jordan, my favorite author of all time. However, it was taking forever to develop the story, and I didn't know much about any of the stuff that I had written about. Robert Jordan wrote about war, because he LIVED war. I had lived none of it.

So, when another writer came to me and told me to "write about what I know"-- I took it to heart. And, that is when I wrote my first suspense novel-- a novel about a woman trying to save a young boy from an abusive family. What many don't know is that the novel in many ways was cathartic. I put myself into the novel-- the feelings of helplessness that I endured while trying to save my brothers from foster-care, the abuse that I had experienced. No, my home life was never to the extent of Andrew's, it was never that dark-- but it had very dark moments. It's easy to write about abuse, when you are a product of it.

It's easy to write about abuse, when you are a product of it.

Then, I wrote The Shades of Devotion-- a romance. The novel was awesome, because it was based on me. It was based on a real situation of my life, but fictionalized: the loss of a parent, the ordeals of foster care, the help of a good friend, etc. In fact, I pulled very heavily from my life, even to go so far as to include real conversations between the social workers and I. The characters seemed real because in many ways they were real-- real people that I met along the way-- real friends, real family, real losses and real gains. Although, I never had a guy like Nisay. Although, I was propositioned to marry a foreign guy-- I never did. I never had a Nisay-- the entire relationship with him and Bryson was fictionalized, but Nisay was the guy I wish I had. He was the one I wanted.

The characters seemed real because in many ways they were real[...]
In Brains Not Included, I ventured into using relationships from guys I had been with in the past. I patterned my love interest from reality. Although, I have never been to Africa-- I have dated a Ghanaian, and although I have never been in a sexless relationship, I have been confronted with the scandal of a down low male. Thus, I merged seamlessly the realities and complexities of my life with the salacious drama of a romance novel. However, I will say the marriage contained more fiction than reality. However, people so far have loved it. They have loved the realness of the characters, the drama, and the romance.

And, as I think about my futures novels: Black Magic, A Child's Place, Monsters Within II, Girl Code-- I am constantly pulling from reality to weave my tales. And, this way has honestly been the most successful and lucrative. I am literally seeing the results in it all. However, writing what you know is not just profitable, it is cathartic. Writing about your real trials and tribulations under the protective guise of fictional characters, helps you to vent and even heal the wounds that you carry around in you for years. You get to confront your own layers of emotions and without guilt or shame-- and put them in a public space. Your novels, your characters, literally become your therapist.  You get to make the choices you "would have made" and live out the dreams "you could have had" and delve into the roles and passions that brewed within.

You get to confront your own layers of emotions and without guilt or shame-- and put them in a public space.

I have literally been able to deposit my fears, my anxiety, and my grief on paper in a way that is healing me. In Monsters Within, I got to tackle my conflicted feelings about putting yourself at risk for someone else. In my character, you see her bravery, but also her fear. Walter becomes the embodiment of her worry-- he tells her to run-- but she wants to stay and help. He is her constant reality check-- which is something I dealt with when pursuing my brothers. I constantly doubted and questioned what I was doing. I was literally putting myself in the fire, to dodge a wound, and fictionalizing it in Imani-- which means faith-- helped me deal with the mental scars both figuratively and literally.

Then, The Shade of Devotion, I tackled loss; loss of family, loss of children, loss of a love and eventually a loss of faith. These were things I was dealing with at the time I wrote the novel. During the course of writing The Shade of Devotion-- I discovered I was pregnant. Then, I lost the baby at 20 weeks, during the editing process. It is during this time that I went back through the novel and created Nisay's tragedy. I literally put my feelings-- all of them-- into the voices of my characters. Much of the dialogue, it's patterned off of real things I said to my friends during the grieving process. Through writing the novel, I was able to heal. It is not a coincidence that it is my highest grossing novel to date. That novel was the most real, because it was my raw emotion.

Then, finally during Brains Not Included-- I was involved with an egotist. A man that was constantly emasculated by my success. In Zipporah, I placed my hope for reconciliation, my dreams of the future, my success, and finally, my hope of finding true love.

No one can tell your story like you do[...]

Yes, writing what you know is absolutely the best advice I have ever been given as a writer, and it is quite simply the best advice that I would give others. Look around you, look at the puzzle of your life and piece by piece fit it together to weave a story like no other. No one can tell your story like you do, and if it's real-- then it will be absolutely unique. Write what you know.

What's the best advice you have ever been given?

Dawnell Jacobs is the author of The Shade of Devotion, Brains Not Included, Black Magic, and The Monsters of Within: Heart of Darkness. She has also published a self-help book Your Story Matters: Leaning How To Be The Author of Your Destiny. You can find all of her books on Amazon, Kindle, Nook, and Barnes And Noble. She is also a motivational speaker to young audiences. She uses her personal journey to inspire hope and change. All pictures and entries in this blog are subject to copyright laws. ©Dawnell Jacobs 2017. 

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  1. WOW! Your story is absolutely amazing! You are a beautiful and phenomenal woman who embodies strength and perseverance. I am about to publish a profile story about you on TheBlackHomeSchool.com, an education website that is part of the Your Black World Network. I am a writer as well. I will be buying your book as well. Let's keep in touch! God bless.

    1. Thank you so much, Victor for leaving this compliment. I would love to keep in contact with you in the future. You can email your contact information to dawnelljacobs@hotmail.com. Also, be sure to take a picture of yourself with my novel. I will give you a shout out on my website. Thanks again!


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