Rule W: Write what you know and write only the stories you can write
Linda’s Rules of Writing
We’re onto the letter W in Linda’s Rules of Writing of the A to Z Challenge, with the infamous “Write what you know.”
I think “write what you know” is one of the most interpreted pieces of writing advice out there. Writers take it too literally, as a member of one of my critique groups did. He was a human resources manager, so he figured that to “write what you know,” he had to make his character a human resources manager, even though there was no logical reason why such a job would have been involved in the actual story.
Allen Wold (Alien World if it helps to remember his name) said at one of the cons I was at defined”write what you know” as:
- What you’ve experienced
- What you’ve heard from friends and relatives and acquaintance
- What you’ve learned from research
But I also ran across one more, which was from Write Faster, Write Better from David Fryxell. It’s a book on freelancing, but Fryxell notes “Write only the stories you can write.”
I could research medicine for a medical thriller, but I know so little about the topic that I would have to spend enormous amounts of time on the research to more or less get it right. Probably more time than even writing the story. On the other hand, since I was in the army, I could probably write about a medic without having to spend as much time researching.
How do you use the infamous “write what you know” in your writing?
Watch for photos of tulips in Washington, DC on May 3. They are truly spectacular flowers!