Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tiara Talk: Write What You Know

If I had a nickel for every time I heard and/or read this particular little nugget of writing advice I'd be out partying with Hilton and the girls. 

Okay. Blatant lie. I'd be buying out all the local bookstores, shipping presents like a mad woman, and skipping around Gamestop like a kid in a candy store. Okay, so I already do that on occasion...but this time I would be prancing up to the cash register with armfuls of goodies...goodies I'd be BUYING. So yeah. But you get the picture.

Its popular advice. Some of the most bogus too.

Say whut?!

Yeah, I said it. Don't write what you know. Just don't do it, mmkay? I promise there is some method to my madness. There usually is anyway.

What it comes down to is this: most writers are readers. Insane, right? I mean who would have thought it, people that love to read books tend to either want to or just plain write them. Madness!

Why do readers read? Well, obviously we love it. But why do we love it? Because its an escape. We read because we want to step out of our own shoes for awhile and into someone elses'. We want to be someone else. We want to fall head over heels for Prince Charming, or the bad boy, or the uber geek next door with the crazy inventions. We want to have heroic adventures and epic quests. Simmer it down and it's simple: We read to escape what we know, otherwise known as reality.

My writing advice? Write what you love to read. Write what you want to escape in. Write where you want to be, who you want to be, and with whom you dream of. What better time to let the dreams and fantasies out than in your writing? There isn't one...unless you get lucky enough to give your reality a make-over.

And this is why nine times out of ten if you hear about me writing its in the realm of fantasy, occasional dips into the science-fiction pool, and when I'm feeling really crazy I dip my toe into contempories in the vein of goddesses like Sarah Dessen, Stephanie Perkins, Simone Elkeles and many more. I write the books that I would pluck off the shelf, gather to my chest, and waltz merrily through the store with.

As Toni Morrison once said, "If there's a book you really want to read but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it".


  1. I absolutely LOVE this post. I've often thought the "write what you know" advice was BS. Even if you're writing a completely contemporary novel, if everything you write is something you "know," than isn't it just an autobiography?! Chances are, even the stuff we think we know, we really don't know all that much about. You are so right...we should write about the things that excite us, that move us, that deepen our passion and love for reading and writing. Those are things worth writing about anyway.

  2. Thank you so much! You've pretty much made my morning. And if you can't tell, I agree with you completely. Just because we "know" something doesn't mean it inspires passion in us, and our own writing doesn't inspire passion in us then what would make us think it would inspire passion in others? :]

  3. Amen! I often wish people would stop handing out that advice. It stops way too many writers in their tracks. I've watched someone mentally scramble to figure out how to write fantasy from what what she knows. Um there's a little thing called research for the very sake that people don't WANT to only write what they know. Back when books were few & far between, writing what you know was probably the best darn tootin advice ever. But not anymore! We'd never have all those juicy dystopians I love!

    There is something to be said, though, for writing what you know when you use that rule of thumb for how people behave & how physics works in the real world. Then, definitely write what you know!

  4. That was one of the reasons I dropped a creative writing class awhile back. I mean, how stifling to only write what I know. I'm a twenty-three year old, there isn't much that I DO know. Anyway, where would the CREATIVE part of the writing come in if I only wrote that way?

    And I agree. Thank heavens that dystopian and fantasy authors grew wise to that advice. We would have missed out on tons of great reads simply because you can't "know" these things.

    I agree in that case however. In certain things it does pay to feed a little of what you know into your writing, it does add a hint of realism. Maybe people should tack that on when they hand out that advice.