Last week we started a series about writing fiction and briefly looked at where to begin. While the creative process is different for everyone, there are many basics when it comes to storytelling and writing fiction. And there are a few camps on where one should start, be those who think you should just start writing while others think a little (or a lot of) planning is in order. Also, there’s another adage that often pops up that new writers may hear.
The old “write what you know” is something that it often repeated to writers who may not have an idea of what they’re doing when it comes to creating a novel. Again, there’s no tried and true, must-be-done, one-way or the highway method for creating a novel but there is something to be said about writing what you know.
I believe Stephen King said, in his book On Writing, that you shouldn’t look to imitate or even copy someone like John Grisham, for example, since Mr. Grisham knows quiet well that area in which he writes. In essence, a former lawyer that was raised in the South might know a lot more about these types of stories than someone who just happens to be a fan…obviously. So while you may enjoy a certain author, it’s important that you not try to copy a style or niche but tell your own story in your own voice.
Even if you don’t have an exciting law career on which to draw or experience traversing jungles or an adventure-filled diary, you know things and you think a certain way and you have a unique voice, so use them. While, again, some may be unable to write what they know if their setting is on a fictional planet or a made up place here on earth, the writer still needs to put character quirks, scenes, events, etc. that are specific to them, not something taken from another author and tweaked a bit.
Storytelling can be difficult and scary but writing a lot and reading a lot always helps you understand and see the differences in your work from others and one writer from another. Be a student of literature but don’t look to duplicate. Pave your own path from your own worldview and you’ll find that whole “writing what you know” bit of advice makes sense.