Pencil to Paper

The Daily Life of a Compulsive Writer

What You Don’t Know… March 31, 2011

Filed under: Writing — katblogger @ 4:06 PM

Everyone says, “Write what you know.” I swear, I see this advice popping up everywhere. And at first, it sounds nice. Write what you know. It’s comfortable. You won’t mess up. Good, right? There’s just one small problem.

I seriously doubt JK Rowling went to a school for teenage wizards. I don’t think Suzanne Collins competed in a fight to the death with twenty three blood-thirsty teenagers. And Stephen King was probably not hunted by a demonic clown. Face it – popular authors don’t write what they know. Why?

Because what we know is boring. Most of us do not have grand, novel-worthy adventures. It’s true. If I stuck with what I knew, it would be dull high school life. Over. And over. And over. I wouldn’t read that. Writing is, mostly, making stuff up. We write what we don’t know, or what we want to find out more about. We write our wishes, hopes, and dreams – what we want to happen, or what we hope never will.

But we definitely don’t write what we know.


4 Responses to “What You Don’t Know…”

  1. To some extent, I completely agree with you. However, when I think of my highschool years I think of all the books and worlds that they took me to during that time. So what I knew during that time was fantasy worlds with magic much like the Harry Potter world. But I do think you need to write about what you love and have passions for rather than what you know.

  2. Kristin Says:

    I think some books are metaphors for things authors have experienced. Think back to middle school…doesn’t it seem kind of Hunger Gamesy? Lemony Snicket must’ve had a miserable life. Scott Westerfeld…HE must be having a bizarre life!

  3. Though abandoned when I first heard it I only realize now through experience that it is an invaluable and pertinent piece of advice for writer s of all genres..If I were to only ever write what I knew and stick to that exclusively I wouldn t have much material to work with. I m sure that s a long shot from what sailor s would have experienced during the 1700 s or even the 1900 s but the point is that I have an experience. All I need from there is a little exaggeration..To use another example I don t know what it s like to live in a forest during the dead of winter but I do know what it s like to camp and I know what it s like to live in a camper when it s so cold the interior of the fridge feels warm in comparison.

  4. …………….Im sure many of you writers have heard the old adage Write what you know. I have over and over but Ive always wondered what about us speculative fiction types?

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