Writing What You Don’t Know

As a budding writer, I was utterly dismayed by one of the first pieces of advice I received: write what you know.

Write what I know? Where’s the fun in that?

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I wanted to write about England, which I’ve never been to but I’m in love with.

I wanted to write about portals to other worlds, like Narnia. Visions conjured from clouds and wind. Erupting, sentient volcanoes with agendas, and evil wizards disguised as noble leaders. None of which I knew.

Here’s what Roz Morris, author of Nail Your Novel, has to say:

“You don’t have to write what you know — you only have to write what you can GET to know. The chances are, if you’re interested in a subject, a place or an era, you can find out enough to convince a reader. “

That was good news. Research was important if I was going to write about a place I’d never visited and a time I’d never lived in. As for fantasy elements, I’d need to flesh out my settings with sensory details and backstory.

“Writers do this all the time…If you should stick only to what you know, we should worry about the thousands of authors who write about murder.”

Indeed.

3 thoughts on “Writing What You Don’t Know”

  1. Yes! My thoughts exactly, but confirmation is always welcome. That oft used phrase always annoyed me, especially when I was younger, because then I thought I didn’t know anything (and now I know I dont)!
    That’s why I think it’s the worst thing to say to a young or beginning writer. It can be very discouraging.
    Great post!

    1. Yes, for young or beginning writers with limited experiences, it is discouraging. And it implies they should limit their imaginations. That’s not good! Thanks for reading and commenting.

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