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Question
Should a writer choose topics which are personal
for nonfiction? Because of my personal life experiences, I would like to write and share some of those experiences with others. Regarding fiction, should a writer choose topics which are
of particular interst; for example, I really enjoy horror and science fiction. I am a teacher at the secondary level and have students who love to write stories. I tell them to just write and keep writing without stopping initially. OK advice? Thank You.

Answer
Dear Vickie,
Thank you for your letter. That's fantastic you are encouraging your kids to write. The exercise you describe sounds like "timed writing," where you set a timer and write continuously without letting the pen stop. It's a good way to loosen up and practice. There are a lot of good writing books available that might offer more ideas for working with kids. My website has a page of good writing books available through Amazon.com. See:
http://steamboats.com/writing.html.
re. topics. Most writers write about something that is of personal interest. For example, someone might study a particular part of history because they had an ancestor from that era, or they have some other personal connection. Common advice to writers is: write about what you know. It's therapeutic because it helps you figure out things about yourself in the process. Also, it's too hard to make something up that you've never personally experienced. It's possible, but you have to do a lot of research and interviews. Better to start with something you already have a feel for.
re. writing fiction. It sounds like what you want to do is turn parts of your autobiography into fiction. That's a great idea. I did that in my first book. It started out as a 500 page memoir, where i just wrote "about" what happened to me. Later, i turned it into a story, that is more like a novel. If you want to learn more about how to do this, check the Fiction Writer's Workshop posted to my web page.  If you want to write your true story, make sure everything is as honest and true as you can remember it. Also, be sure to include the difficult parts, because a good story needs conflict. We all have a lot, it sometimes takes courage to portray it in an honest way.
re. horror and science fiction. You're talking about genre fiction. That's the best place for new writers to start, since mainstream fiction must be more complex with more subplots and complex themes.
Genre fiction includes mystery, adventure, sci-fi, fantasy, romance, young adult, and so on. If you want to write genre fiction, i encourage you to read a book on how to write that genre. There are specific rules associated with each style. You can break the rules, but you have to know what they are first! There are some good genre fiction writing books at my site.
I hope this helps!
Sincerely,
Nori

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