Write what you know?

In the past, solid writing advice would be to write what you know.  The implication was, if you worked as an A & E nurse, write about hospital life.  You fought in a major war? Write about it.  But….. is this advice now obsolete?

John Grisham was a lawyer so has excellent credentials for writing court room dramas but does experience matter?

I don’t think so.

Stephen King has probably never encountered a murdering clown or vampires.

J.K Rowling has never been to a school specifically for witches and wizards.

J.R.R Tolkien has never lived as a hobbit.

But……..millions of people have bought and enjoyed their books.

Technology has made it easy for us to gain knowledge in a few clicks. Anyone can obtain knowledge about any subject now without any real life experience and write a believable story about it. I understand the need to be factual if something has to be real – matters of law, for example – but otherwise I think it’s time to say goodbye to the old, stuffy advice to write what you know.

It has probably always been obsolete advice, doled out by self-obsessed authors who thought they belonged to an elite group. 

These days, anyone can join the party. Bring your imagination and something to write with and you’re in.  If I read enough about it, I’ll bet I can convince you I’m an astronaut.

Di 🙂


Inspiration to write

I bulk read the last few editions of Writing Magazine recently and it has charged my enthusiasm for writing.  I have singled out a few bits and bobs that I thought I would share.  After all, who doesn’t need a little more inspiration?

Ideas – Top Tips (Adrian Magson)

  • Don’t try forcing an idea into something it’s not.  Allow it to emerge at its own pace
  • Make notes, no matter how vague.  This is the beginning of writing a story

Sometimes the simplest advice is the best.  I think I have been guilty of the first one in the past.  With regards to notes, I know I don’t make enough.  I have placed a notebook in my handbag and I vow to write something, even just one observation every day.  No more ostrich impressions from me.

No time to write?

James McCreet says he hears lots of excuses from his students about why they have no time to write – “Not enough time”, “got to pick kids up from school”, “it was my birthday” etc.

I must admit, I have used the general “not enough time” excuse on more than one occasion.  I have since realised, I just have to get better at managing my time.  I have started planning for my writing using a calendar to schedule my time.  However, when unexpected things pop up and the calendar can’t be strictly adhered to, what then?

James gave the following examples of famous authors who found the time to write, because they had to write.

  • Elmore Leonard got up at 5 a.m and wrote for 2 hours before going to work.
  • George Orwell wrote in hospital until the nurses put his arm in a cast to stop him
  • The Marquis de Sade wrote in prison on a huge piece of toilet roll that he left behind a loose stone.

As I don’t plan on going to prison or hospital any time soon, I think Elmore could become my new role model.

Lastly, my new favourite acronym:


Michael Allen mentions Scott William Carter’s WIBBOW test in his column, Grumpy Old Bookman.  WIBBOW encourages the writer to ask the question – Would I Be Better Off Writing?

Will I benefit from watching this TV programme or WIBBOW?

Should I have some alcohol or WIBBOW?

I’m guessing on most occasions from now on, the answer will be yes.

Should I sleep or WIBBOW like Elmore Leonard between 5 a.m and 7 a.m?

Time will tell!

The magic formula for short stories

I was looking for some short story writing advice when I came across a quote from John Steinbeck:

“I have written a great many stories and I still don’t know how to go about it except to write it and take my chances.”

It struck me how true this is.  No more searching for magic formulas.  The key is to just do it.

You can see the rest of the article here.