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  • Writer's pictureMaria P Frino

Write What You Know - Part II

Updated: May 29, 2020

In my last blog, "Write What You Know Part I", I discussed knowing your subject matter. In other words, write about something you know well. Make sure your facts are correct because readers can spot mistakes instantly. They also have a habit of letting writers know when they have stuffed up!

One of my friends, who actually started our writers' group, Write On Water, is an expert in sailing and building boats. Many of the stories he has written and published have a sailing or boating theme. Ross Venner knows what he's talking about when it comes to this subject matter.

Here's an example of one of his sailing stories -

Crossed Wakes

© Ross Venner "What did Simon want, mate?" Martin's head tossed, a gesture I knew too well. "Just chatting." The sail bags were awkward getting along the marina and I let the moment pass. Skip was impatient. "Leave the trolley, guys. We'll miss the start." Bad form leaving the trolley, should put it away. Anyway, we got the sails up as we motored to the melee of boats circulating behind the starting line with fifteen minutes in hand. They say that watching a yacht race is more exciting than watching grass grow, just. They haven't been on the start of a championship race and certainly not in a fresh breeze. The noise of flapping sails and shouting as a mass of boats are all trying to get the best position on the line in those last precious seconds, "three, two, one - we're clear." "Weight on the rail, guys. Come on." Skip was tense today, hands tight on the tiller, too. Result, poor boat speed. "Come on guys." Martin looked at me, I thought he was about to say something, but changed his mind. I raised an eyebrow and he shook his head almost imperceptibly. At that moment Skip let out a yell, "Starboard, starboard Simon." Having shouted his claim for right of way, he waited a second and barked at us, "tacking guys. Bastard's not giving way." He had pushed the helm right over making the boat heel and thus hard for me to scramble over the deck to throw off the headsail sheet. I could feel the boat losing speed as Martin pulled in the new sheet and the ratchet of the winch screamed. "Protest," this was yelled at Simon's smirking face four meters away and sliding out of reach. "Protest flag, Martin." Martin scrabbles in the locker where the red protest flag should have been. "Damn, not here." "What? Look again." "Sorry, Skip. Not here." "Damn, no flag, no protest. Simon’s going to get away with it." "Sorry, Skip." Simon's boat was clear ahead now. I saw one of his crew look back then say something. Simon turned, looked at us and raised a single finger. "Skipper, relax. We won't catch the bastard if you don't calm down." For a moment, I thought he would explode, then he took a deep breath, smirked and muttered, "right, let's get him." After that Skip sailed the race of his life. We would have nailed Simon on the finishing line if Martin hadn't fouled up the very last tack. Two seconds, two measly seconds! We were putting the sails in the racks. Martin was reaching up and standing on tiptoe when a small red wrap fell from his pocket. "Martin!" He met my accusatory glare calmly. "Simon's offered me a place." "Skip?" "His missus has given him a choice, her or the boat." "You…" Skip found us. "Simon was WSL. Wrong side of line, disqualified, we got him!" Serendipity. His wife blinked. Skip got a bigger boat. Martin did not return.


What I like about this short story, is even if you know nothing about sailing, you still understand the story. That of rivalry in a sailing competition. The reader doesn't need to know the complexities of how to sail or race, but the writer does. In this story, it is obvious the writer knows his subject matter well.

Research is there for anyone who wants to write about a subject they know a little about. I did research on space exploration when I wrote my science fiction short story, Xenure Station: A Billion Light Years. NASA was a great help, there is a lot of information on the internet from this space institution. I also found sites that showed how to make or fix space equipment. When you do any research, make sure you use more than one site or reference material. The more you research the better your writing will be, your knowledge of the subject will shine through.

I researched on NASA sites. There was heaps of information on space exploration. I even learned how to fix space equipment. 

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