Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Write What You Know?

Age old writing advice. Write what you know.

How boring is that. I mean, what do most people know: school, work, traffic, grocery stores. Ho Hum. I can see you yawning already.

Is writing only to be the domain of people who live exciting lives?

Must my characters be doomed to never travel the world simply because I can't afford air fare to any exotic places?


Because I say turn that saying on it's head. Don't think of it as "Write what you know." But instead as "Know what you write about."

You want to write about Paris in the Spring but have never been there? Check what time the sun rises and sets, check which flowers are in bloom, check what time the different attractions open, and if there is a fee for them.

You want to have your characters play Scrabble or chess or even checkers. Make sure to look at the game board and the directions. You may think it's not a big deal if you make up the points a certain word earns, or the move a chess player makes, but chances are someone, somewhere, who reads your story will know if you're making your characters do something that's not possible, and will lose faith in your story because of it.

If you can actually do the thing or go to the place, even better. But sometimes that's not possible, so the next best thing is research. And the internet is a wonderful source of all kinds of information.

So, you don't have to limit yourself to only writing about what you know, but if you are going to write about something, be sure you learn about it first!


  1. Christine,

    What an appropriate posting for me at the right time. I was just talking to my editor about the novel I'm working on and told her she could do some research for me but she balked at it, saying that she wasn't the researcher, I was and she was like, "I thought you were looking forward to getting into the story." I am really just I don't know where to start and what direction to go in - I have a basis or foundation but knowing what I'm writing about, especially something totally different from anything I've ever written, is hard to get going when you don't know where to start. But, it's all in the name of research. So onward and upward we go - thanks for the inspiration, just when I needed it - E :)

    Elysabeth Eldering
    Author of Finally Home, a YA paranormal (ghost) mystery
    "The Proposal" (an April Fools Day story), a humorous romance ebook
    "The Tulip Kiss", a paranormal (ghost) romance ebook
    "Bride-and-Seek", a paranormal (ghost) romance ebook

  2. I agree. Part of the fun of writing for me is exploring new places and time periods and people. We don't have to know everything with research so readily available in books, magazines, newspapers and the Internet. Good article.

  3. Elysabeth, I'm glad you found it inspiring! Good luck with your research.
    And Beverly, thanks for your comments. I think what it comes down to is that we don't have to write only what we already know about, but we should know about it by the time we write about it.

  4. So true, so true. A best-selling author(who shall remain nameless) once lost me as a loyal reader because she confused terms from two different martial arts. A small detail, but a biggie to a young reader. Good to know you're the kind of writer who goes to the trouble for her readers!

  5. I do tons of research for my books. I can't go to all the places I write about. Well, not yet that is. Still working on going to Paris to help with research on my one sequel.