Sunday, August 19, 2012

Write Right: Don't Write What You Know

This is the first post in a new feature I'm starting, which I will post weekly on either Saturday or Sunday. In this feature I'll be sharing writing tips I've learned to make your writing journey a little easier. Huzzah for you! If you read this and would be so kind as to leave feedback below, it would be appreciated ^.^

Don't Write What You Know

The first step in writing a story is deciding what on earth you're going to talk about for 200+ pages. If you're a writer, at one point or another you've probably come across this little tidbit of writing advice: Write what you know. Sure, it makes sense to write about something you're knowledgeable about--it's comfortable and you'll undoubtedly have something to say. It's a good place to start for beginners. So why am I telling you not to write what you know? Because the problem is, it's restricting.

What if you want to write a story about something you don't know? Please toss "write what you know" out the window! Now, instead replace it with this new advice: write what you like. Or better yet, write what you want to read.

 Let me give you an example. I love Japanese mythology, history, and culture. Let's say I want to write a YA fantasy combining these elements. But the problem is, I know little to nothing about any of them! Should I ditch my awesome story idea because it doesn't fall into the "write what you know" category? Nay!

Don't be afraid to write about something because you're not knowledgeable about it! Learn more through research before you start your story. Research will open up a whole world of possibilities--you will no longer be restricted to writing what you know because you can learn about anything you want to write about. Not only will you gain confidence about the topic but you'll most likely get some cool ideas along the way.

Let's get back to our original example. Let's say I decided to set my story in feudal Japan and I've done all the historical research. But I want it to be a story about vampire ninjas. How exactly does one write a story about vampire ninjas when it is not possible to know anything about vampire ninjas?

If, like me, you write in the fantasy/paranormal genres, just go ahead and blow "write what you know" to smithereens right now. How exactly does one know what it is like to be bitten by a vampire? To transform into a werewolf? To have psychic abilities? The answer is, no one does. This is where your most powerful writing tool comes into play: your imagination. With your imagination, you can write about anything--even the impossible.

When I was starting out my very first story back when I was a wee budding writer, I was frustrated by "write what you know." It was daunting and frustrating to me, and I felt limited to what I could write about. This is why I think much better advice is to write what you like. What interests you? What do you love? What do you think would make an awesome story? If you don't know about it, don't sweat! Don't let knowledge that can easily be attained stand between you and that next great story you're dying to write.

Happy writing! 


  1. Lovely post. Writing what I know would be impossible, seeing how little I know about being anything other than human. (My story's MC is a fairy. Or possibly a mage. Or a cat. It's kind of confusing - I'm still in the outlining stage.) :)

  2. Thanks, glad you liked it ^.^ Haha, well it sounds interesting, good luck with the outlining! That part always kicks my butt lol.

  3. Great post. I personally subscribe to the 'write what you would enjoy reading' philosophy (that way, at least one person will like my book!). Writing any sizable piece of work is going to involve some research. I'm currently working on a YA sci-fi story set in Egypt, and I have put in hours trying to learning more about the setting and researching possible technology so that it rings true.

    Returning your follow :) Thanks for stopping by my blog!


I love comments :D

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...