Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Small Town Writers Can Succeed, Too

Occasionally someone in a class I teach as UCLA or at a writer's convention brings up the idea that they must write about what they know. And that worries them. After all, it seems so many books are set in the big, exotic cities of the world. But think! Think of the body of work that has come out of the South in the US. And the number of  really great authors who hale from small towns.  As guest blogger Pepper Givens  assures us, a small town point of view can work for us. In fact, it can work for authors based in metropolises, too! 
 
Being a Writer from a Small Town: How to Use Your Roots to Enhance Your Writing


By Pepper Givens

Being a writer is never easy. Many of us sit day and after day staring at empty pages. Inspiration strikes and we write for hours, only to hate what we've just written and scrap it all. We wonder whether our perspectives are enough. Should we have travelled more? Should we have gone for a second degree? Why isn't our book getting published? These doubts and more can plague any writer from time to time. And, if you're a writer who hails from a small town, the potential for self-doubt can be even worse. We often feel that a youth spent in a major center of it all is more rewarding, provides more perspective, and engenders more creativity than one spent cooped up in a small, rural town. But, I'm here to tell you that great writers can be formed anywhere. And, whether you know it or not, there are many aspects of being from a small town that can even work to enhance your writing. Here are just a few ways to re-think your roots:



1. Know that every place is like a small town.

It doesn't matter where you go on this Earth; every place can end up feeling like a small town. People who live in New York City often complain that they are always seeing the same people at the same events, and that it's difficult to meet someone new. The truth is, the city changes, maybe the amount of opportunities grow, the chances to expand your horizons increase, but, socially, we all tend to interact as if we live in a small town. Most people have their set of friends and co-workers whom they see regularly. There are social power struggles, friendships made and broken, new people who move in and completely change a group dynamic, you name it. It happens the same way in a large city as it does in a small one. What you can take away from this as a writer is the fact that, being from a small town offers you a peek into a tiny microcosm of social interactions. Because most everyone knows everyone else's business in a small town, you will have viewed the social realities of life from the front row. Don't assume that human relationships will function all too differently in a different location. In fact, you have much more understanding of social situations than you may know.



2. Remember those crazy characters.

Every town has a few crazy characters. Whether it's the two old men constantly yelling at the children to stay off the lawn, the town drunk, the two-faced socialite, or the Spanish teacher who is missing a bulb, you are sure to come across some quirky customers living in a small town. While you will meet many more characters the more you travel the world, there is nothing like reaching back to those you know all too well for some great character inspiration. The beauty of a small town is that you can't really get away from the people in it. You probably know way more information than you would like about your small town's population, but it's that viewpoint that will make your writing that much more detailed and interesting. Being able to draw from experiences interacting with some of the strangest people you've met, rather than simply passing them by on a crowded street, makes the difference between a good character development and one that is so rich it just jumps off the pages.



3. Tap in to the inner struggles of your past.

Heaven knows, if you're from a small town and had any kind of ambitions outside of working at a local store or marrying young and settling down, then you probably spent your childhood and teenage years in a state of silent desperation. Everyone who hails from a small town has been desperate to get out. And, unfortunately, when that town is all you really know, the bigger world out there can seem very far away. Couple that with never truly feeling like you fit in, and disliking the people who do, and childhood spent in a small town can be depressing to say the least. But, once you get going as an adult, grow up, and begin to look back on your past as you turn to your current creative ambitions, there is no better struggle to draw from. How boring would your stories be if you were born in a mansion and then handed a pen and pad when you were 18 because you said you wanted to be a writer? That struggle that you grew up with is actually the perfect experience to draw from when it comes to penning anger, anxiety, sadness, melancholy, desperation, hope and drive.


Pepper Givens is a lifestyle, writing, and education blogger for www.Onlinecolleges.net. She offers advice on all things career and education, and strives to provide information on the perfect online schools for prospective students and parents. She welcomes comments via email at pepper.givens@gmail.com and on this blog.

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and how to books for writers including the award-winning second edition of, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisher; The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success; and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers . The Great First Impression Book Proposal is her newest booklet for writers. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. Some of her other blogs are TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor . If your followers at Twitter would benefit from this blog post, please use the little Green widget to let them know about this blog:

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