Monday, January 2, 2012

Write What You Know?

            So everyone’s heard the old writing adage - Write What You Know.  But does this Comp 101 advice help or hobble the aspiring writer? 
            Probably neither when you get down to it, but it could affect one’s penchant for garlic.  Example: If I aspire to be the next Stephenie Meyer and write about vampires, does that mean I have to go find one?  And if on the off-chance I do nab myself one of these fetching blood-sucking gents, must I really have them munch on my neck?  I seriously doubt Ms. Meyer, Morman mother of three, spent copious time with vampires and yet, she’s the creator of the teenage lust truffle – Edward. 
            Which brings me back to my original question – do you have to write what you know? 
            I’m thinking not so much.  
            It’s like that time in the fourth grade when I had to write a research report about koala bears.  Nothing against these eucalyptus enthusiasts, but I had no vested interest in my subject matter and as a result, the report was dry, lacked voice, and earned me a paltry C+.  Yet when I delivered my dissertation on the Bee Gees clad in my disco jacket that same year, I oozed nothing less than fervent enthusiasm for the satiny, chest-bearing, crooning triad.  (Hence, it’s no surprise that Barry, Robin, and Maurice earned me an whopping A+.) 
            So as far as writing adages, it might be more productive to say write what you have passion for.  Through genuine passion one naturally writes with authenticity, which in the end is what all writers seek through their truth wielding pens – or laptops as the case may be.  So whether it be vampires, faux fur, or ambrosia Jell-o molds - think about what you really love or really hate, get your passion on, and write, baby!  


  1. I totally agree with your post. We should write what we're passionate about. Period. Thank you for brining this to my attention. I've been hearing "write what you know" for a long, long time and in reality, it IS more about write what we love to death and want to write about.

  2. Boy do I agree with your post to write what you are passionate about versus write what you know. I do think you should write what you know, but ONLY if you are passionate about it. I have found that if I write about something, just to write about it, then it just turns out to be a flop anyway.

  3. Amen, sister! Great thoughts, and I agree with Allyn. My flops usually stem from apathy toward the subject. Looking forward to more from your blog!


  4. ‘Write what you know’ has very little to do with an author’s literal fiction writing, Kimberly. It has everything to do with the author’s real life ear for dialogue and real life interactions with people, places, and locales they can build into their stories. ‘Write what you know’ doesn’t limit the fictional content of an author’s work, but enhances the flavor of reality, which in turn helps a reader to suspend disbelief. For example, an interaction with a rude traveler on an airliner in reality can become an intense confrontation on a starship set in another galaxy. The dialogue on the fictional starship is enhanced with real emotions and interactions drawn from a real life encounter. ‘Write what you know’ is a very broad landscape of a tip... and a good one. :)

  5. And there is such a thing as research. If you are interested in it, and passionate about it, you can do the research to "know" more about it. Fiction relies not just on personal experience, but also imagination, determination, writing ability/knowledge, and the ability to research and know what to include in the novel to give it authenticity.

    Great first post, Kimberly!

  6. Kimberly, I agree that anythig we do with passion often shows the effort behind it. I've written children's books through the dog's point of view, and although I LOVE MY canine kids, I haven't really spoken to them so can't say exactly what they are thinking, but I write believable stories that children enjoy because of the passion I have for these pets that warm our hearts. I also wrote a historical fiction novel that takes place in the 1870s. I did research and love that time period mostly because the 20th century and Hollywood got most of it wrong! :)
    Wishing you continued succeess and welcome to WILD CHILD PUBLISHING:)