FAQ – Should I Really “Write What I Know?”

writeYou see this advice everywhere. New authors asking how to write, or what to write, and other authors telling them “Write what you know.”

This is a quote from Mark Twain. It is fantastic, amazing advice, and yet people constantly miss understand it.

“How do I write about dragons? I’ve never seen one.”

“How do I write about love? I’ve never been in love.”

I hope to all that’s good that VC Andrews did not know about incest and child abuse first hand. Or that¬†Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov had first hand knowledge of what is in Lolita. Stephen King probably hasn’t met a giant spider that makes children hallucinate evil clowns. Yet, they exist. And they are some of the most read books out there.

There are many things that I, personally do not know about. I have never experienced the death of a loved one, but I know what it’s like to loose someone. I don’t know the thrill of climbing Mount Everest, but I know the joy of accomplishing something I’ve never been able to do before.

We all have loves, tragedies, heart felt moments, days when we want to pull our hair out, and days when we think we’ve never felt happier. The trick isn’t to “write what you know” but to draw on the experiences, the hopes, the dreams, and the very essence of life, and create a realistic narrative.

If you don’t “know” something, then go learn something! Watch people. See how they react. Take a class. Live and love, and learn and exist in this great big world we call home. And then write about living.