by Deren Hansen
"But," you object, "we wouldn't have hobbits and Narnia if we only wrote what we know."
That might be true, if you take the advice literally.
the gossip game, where players relay whispered messages and then laugh
at the garbled version that comes out of the end of the chain, I suspect
we've received only a degenerate version of the advice.
We should say, "Write what you know, not what you think you know."
M. Montgomery's Anne thought she knew the style in which she should
write. Contemporary writers often think they should write in a
particular genre (sparkly vampires) or to a particular audience (YA)
because they know those are hot.
what you know and what you think you know is often difficult because
most of what we know is actually what we think we know.
it would be less confusing to say that writing what you know isn't
about the facts and information at your command, or even about your
experiences. Writing what you know is fundamentally about what you
The advice to "write what you know" should
also be understood as advice to, "Write what you love." Sometimes your
heart knows what you know better than your reason.
That's why, if you love a world no one else has seen yet, you can honestly say you're writing what you know.
Deren blogs daily at The Laws of Making.