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Writing Books/Where do I start?

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Question
I would like to write a book and have a few ideas that I think would be great subjects.  Where do I start?  Where can I learn how to write?  And finally...If the subject matter is from real life experiences, what recourse would other individuals who are part of the story have?  Could they sue me for including them or writing about them?  Do I need to get their permission? And, what happens if I don't get their permission?

Thank You!
Vicki

Answer
Dear Vicki,
Thank you for your questions. The best way to learn to write is to start doing it. You can also read books on writing and get into a writer's group or class. It helps to have other writers around you. Having a deadline is good too, so if you ever get a chance to work as a reporter, i encourage you to try it.
If you want to write fiction, check out the Fiction Writer's Workshop at my site:
http://steamboats.com/writing.html
There are also many good books on writing fiction that you can tap into.
If you want to write non-fiction, here are three books i recommend:
Writing the Natural Way, by Gabriele Lusser Rico, On Writing Well, by William Zinsser, and The Elements of Style, by William Strunk, Jr. & E.B. White.
Those books are all linked to my "good writing books" link at my writer's page.
re. legal questions. Most authors do draw from people they know when they make up their characters. However, only take one or two traits from someone real. Fictional characters are best when they have a life of their own. If you build your characters wisely they will take on a life of their own and nobody will say, "Oh, that's Mr. So and so. I know who she's writing about." As long as you just borrow a little bit of a real person, it's okay. They might remind you of someone a little bit.
Some authors make up characters that their friends hate. Don't be one of those authors. If your friends see something of themselves, it should be a compliment. Also, they shouldn't be able to know for sure. Make them think the character is like some distant relative of theirs, but not them specifically. Your friends will see through what you're writing. You can't fool a friend into thinking that they're not in your character. Keep that in mind. Authors are pretty transparent among their friends.
On the other hand, if you want to write someone's life story, then you should try to learn everything about the person. If you do someone's life story, it's best if you have the person's cooperation and permission. Some authors do "unauthorized" biographies, but usually these are not very well accepted because most readers want to read something where the author and subject worked together.
If not, it cheapens it, makes it look like the author is taking a pot shot at the subject.
I hope this gives you some insight and helps you get started.
By the way, read The Elements of Style whether you write fiction or non-fiction. It's the most important book that every writer should read once a year, especially the last section. You'll see what i mean.
Sincerely,
Nori  

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