Write What You Know

“Write what you know” is a piece of advice that just about every aspiring writer has heard. At first glance, it sounds really wise and profound. Until we try to apply it. If we adhered to this maxim, very little would get written that would be worth reading. Because, when we get right down to it, we don’t know very much.

A much better way to put it is to know what you write, but even this doesn’t go far enough.

What I’ve learned over my writing career is to write what I’m passionate about. Write what I’m curious about.

My dream job since I was a kid was to be a professional baseball player. What’s yours? Write a novel or short story where your main character has that dream job or where it’s the job they want but can’t get.

We can incorporate items from our bucket lists into our stories. Maybe it’s something our heroine has never done before, but now she must if she is to save the day. Or it could be a skill she already possesses, but she is reluctant to use it. Why? That’s a plot line worth exploring.

My bucket list includes skiing and scuba diving. I’ve never done either. Yet. If I give them to my main character, I’ll have to learn more about it.

Skydiving, rock climbing, and mountain climbing are other possibilities.

Is there a part of the world you find fascinating? When we set our stories in such places, we need to learn about them to make the story world realistic and believable.

All this requires research. A lot of the information is available on line and in books. Go beyond this. Talk to experts and to people who have done it. Do some walking research—visit the site or take a class. In one of my yet-to-be published works, my characters use a bow and arrow. I took classes. I not only wanted to get it right in my book, I wanted to experience the emotion of actually doing it.

What are you passionate about but have hesitated to write about?

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