Write What You Know… Or Not

A few weeks ago, I was part of the Tucson Festival of Books and one of the panels I was assigned to was “Write What You Know”. We don’t actually pick our topics, so I laughed when I saw it because it’s so far from how I feel about writing. This is what I said during my part of the panel:

I’ve never understood the whole concept of write what you know. If I did that I’d write about hanging out with my cats all day (Michael said I should have added and watching Maury, which would have been funny, but I didn’t say it). It would be a pretty boring story. Clearly, I don’t believe in this concept. But this is what I do believe:

1. You should write what you feel. Emotions are universal. We’ve all been angry, hurt, sad, happy, excited, etc. Giving your characters real, understandable emotions and reactions will make you book ‘real’ to your readers.

2. Write what you believe. Or at least what you like.  If you think romance novels are dumb, fantasy novels are dumb… please don’t write them. Same with any story or genre. You may think some genres are ‘easy’, but writing isn’t easy, publishing certainly isn’t easy. It’s a lot easier when you write stories you love, whatever they are.

3. Write what you can imagine. Married With Zombies is about a couple saving their marriage through a zombie apocalypse. Club Monstrosity is about real monsters sharing a therapy group in a church basement in New York City. These are not things I know. But I can imagine those things, all those stories.

All of those things are far more interesting to me than what I ‘know’.

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