Back when I was young and fearless and lacking in knowledge in nearly every conceivable aspect of my life, I received from great advice from my aunt Maxine.
I was getting ready to head off to college and she threw a little going away party for me. My own parents were quite certain the 9-hour trip to the college I was going to attend was the last stop before the end of the earth. Due to that fact, the family rallied around I think as much to console my mother as to send me off.
Knowing my love of reading and writing, my aunt told me to “write what you know” and you can’t go wrong.
Studying communications/journalism at college, I decided to go into newspaper writing. I enrolled in one killer writing class with a tough-as-nails teacher that wasn’t particularly fond of me. She gave us writing assignments and would always find some horrendous thing wrong with mine.
I remember one assignment in particular, she asked us to write a human feature story and fill it with details, to capture the heart of the characters. I poured my all into that assignment and the paper came back with a “B-” and a note that I would never make it as a journalist but I might have a chance at writing romance novels.
Her comments stuck with me, as well as the advice from my aunt to “write what you know.” I did go on to spend 10 years working as a newspaper journalist before switching gears into marketing, but it was during that time I discovered I didn’t know enough to have a good writing voice.
Now, many years and an abundance of experience later, I finally feel ready to “write what you know.” There is a never ending supply of facts and information I don’t know, but I’m okay with that. That’s where research comes into play.
If you are thinking of writing a book, a short story, an essay, even a letter, think about what you do know, what you’ve experienced, what personal knowledge you can pull from and go from there.