Sunday, April 29, 2012

Write What You Know


This is crap advice. Don’t do this.

Because what if you want to write about wombats who live in marshmallow towers on Jupiter? Chances are you won’t have a lot of practical experience in the area of marsupial-marshmallow space colonisation. That’s a specialist field.

Wombats. Taking over the universe after nap time.
Source 

And here’s the other thing: you know more than you think. Because some themes are universal. There’s that whole common humanity thing, that whole questioning-our-existence-and-looking-for-our-place thing. There are questions that people have asked since the beginning of sentient existence. We asked them when we were figuring out how to make fire, and we’re still asking them today. And, five hundred years from now as we gaze on the pink and white marshmallow towers of Jupiter and listen to the plaintive mating calls of the space wombats echoing in the night, we’ll still be asking those exact same questions.

Don’t write what you know. Or, don’t write just what you know.

Take risks. Use your imagination. Write what the hell you want to write.

***

What writing advice do you think we should ignore? 

19 comments:

  1. There are questions that people have asked since the beginning of sentient existence. We asked them when we were figuring out how to make fire, and we’re still asking them today: "How's that wombat?"

    But really, glad to see the guy's just taking a nap.

    And yes, a better adage than "write what you know" is "write what you care about." Doesn't matter if it's punk possums, bombarded bunkers, or intergalactic wombat combat - the story will have a life to it that no "write what you know" story can muster.

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    1. "Move aside, citizens, by order of Intergalactic Combat Control!"
      I wish I could draw!

      I love wombats because they absolutely commit to laziness. When they move they're like angry little bulldozers, but they're an animal that knows how to sleep. I feel like I can relate to wombats!

      Delete
  2. I don't think I've ever seen a wombat before.

    And I don't think I know enough about writing yet to ignore any advice, but probably it's best to just write the story you want to tell and not worry about it pleasing anyone else...yet.

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    1. That's a great point, LG! Just write it, get it written, and stop counting your chickens before you cross them...or something like that...

      Delete
  3. Worst advice I have ever been given is to always sit down, plan out your whole novel and then start writing from one end to the next. Some people, me included, are just not wired that way. My imagination would die if I had to always force myself to write in order!
    Best advice I was given. If you want to write, you need to read. Read anything you can get your hands on, even if it is something you would normally frown upon, you never know where your next idea is coming from.

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    1. LOL, Cassandra! I've been there and tried that, but I'm just not a plotter. I wish I had half the discipline required, but I just can't operate like that. It sucks all the fund out of it.

      And READ! Yes, always, always read! Anything and everything!

      Delete
  4. A piece we should ignore - write at the same time each day. What? How many of us have those predictable lives? I never do! That's crap! Write when you can!

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    1. I work all sorts of weird shifts, so this wouldn't work for me either. Also, I hate routine. I write like I do everything else in my life -- whenever I can fit it in, whether it's seven in the morning (unlikely) or three in the morning (yep, I'm probably still up!)

      Delete
  5. Blending what you do know with what you don't know equals awesomeness.

    Writing the synopsis before you write the book. That does not work for me. By the time I finish the synopsis, I'm bored and never write the story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so glad I'm not the only one who feels like this. I've decided I'm not a pantser though - I'm actually the ultimate plotter in disguise. That's not a first draft, that's a fabulously detailed synopsis. It's got EVERYTHING!

      Delete
    2. ...Gosh, I think that's me too!

      Delete
  6. I've always said this piece of advise is the worst! I don't want to write only what I know...I live it and it ain't that exciting.lol

    But you can always incorporate what you know with what you learn or imagine.

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    1. Absolutely! If everybody only wrote what they knew, everything would be kind of just the same as real life. And we already have that. Dammit, we want more!

      Delete
  7. That's a super cool picture of a wombat - I think if I come back as an animal it will be a wombat.

    I'm not going to answer your question, I'm just going to ignore it :P

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hell yes, coming back as a wombat!

      And you're ignoring my advice? You have learned the lesson well, grasshopper!

      Delete
  8. Yes, I was so zinged off when I was given this advice recently at a Novel workshop. So old news. I know what they mean, though. Your writing will ring truer if you know your subject thoroughly. But I work to the adage, Write About What You Don't Know But Want to Find Out. I love research!

    Pleased to meet you. I'm following you.

    Denise

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  9. I think better advice would be "Start from what you know...and go anywhere you want!"

    I also love research. I love getting sidetracked and discovering fascinating detours. It's the history nerd in me, I think.

    Thanks for the follow!

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  10. My husband always tells me i can have an opinion about anything - no matter how little I know or care about the subject. He says this like it's a bad thing, but I call it imagination. Same goes true for writing. It's not what you know, but what you can imagine. And there's no limit to that.

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  11. Imagination is the greatest thing ever. And having an opinion about everything is no bad thing either. The secret is to keep asking questions, always.

    ReplyDelete

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