It’s not about writing what you know

One of the silliest adages spouted at writers: Write what you know.

If I did that I’d be writing about living in the country, doing community theater, and being a mom. Since I don’t like literary fiction…

But seriously, I write about werewolves and witches, and I don’t mean pagans. So writing what I ‘know’ is just right out.

Why am I bathering about this today? Because it occurred to me the advice shouldn’t be ‘write what you know’ or much as ‘use who you know.’

How did I come by this revelation?

I’m working on the sequel to Hedge Doctor, and I have a character who is in school to become a vet. Now I could look up the best veterinary schools in the country and compare their academic programs.

Or I could shoot an email over to my cousin who’s a vet, and have her read anything technical I write.

I did the same thing when I wrote about a rock band in the 1980’s. I sent bits and pieces to my friends who played instruments, and had someone who actually toured in a band in the 80’s read the manuscript.

No, I don’t know Dee Snyder, but I do get a giggle imaging Blaine dressed like this!

When I had a character receiving a guitar lesson, I sent that scene to a friend who teaches guitar.

If I stuck to writing what I personally knew… I’d be bored to tears. The world is so much bigger than the things that I know. Frankly, if all my characters were confined to just what I know, that would make a very, very boring story. Like most literary fiction.

I’m not saying that all fiction needs magic and monsters to be interesting, just that keeping your writing confined misses the point of writing. Which is to explore, to make connections, and to step outside of yourself.

Don’t write what you know, use who you know to expand your writing.

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One thought on “It’s not about writing what you know

  1. Megan Sutherland says:

    Interesting take on “write what you know.” Writers do hear it all the time. I figure, if you don’t know, ask someone or do some research.
    On actually writing what you know, it would be fun to write about being a mom, or aspects of living in the country (I’m with you on both)…just weave it into your story. Fantasy characters still have family and children, and daily lives.
    Thanks for the insight! Good luck with your novels.

    Like

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