The Most Misunderstood Writing Advice: Write What You Know

A Writer's Path


by John Briggs

Write what you know is good advice, if you do it correctly.

We’ve all heard it a thousand times: “Write what you know, write what you know…” It’s practically a mantra in some writing circles.

So, should a lawyer only write legal thrillers?

A doctor only write medical dramas?

A plumber write a novel about a plumber?

No! That’s not what it means at all.

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4 thoughts on “The Most Misunderstood Writing Advice: Write What You Know

  1. Another good one! I really like the tie in to genre and setting. I use settings I know frequently in my writing (though they are often fictionalized). I used an actual setting in A THOUSAND YESTERYEARS, the first book in my Mothman series, after visiting the location during two trips. The authenticity really made a difference (according to reviews).

    On the flip side, I’ve been in the same profession for over 25 years (real estate) and have never written a book that plays off that industry.


    Liked by 1 person

    • I have written about actual places, using real town names, but I’ve also written settings about real places that I fictionalized and used a fictitious name. For instance Lana, in my paranormal mystery series, is from Charleston, SC and my first book SUSPICIOUS MINDS is set in Boston, Massachusetts. I’ve never been to Boston, so it required a lot of research about the area, and luckily, one of my critique partners had lived most of her life there. I’ve been to Charleston but there were little things I didn’t know. Like, in Haunted Heart, where would one go to get a death certificate? When I first wrote it I had assumed it was the Courthouse but it’s not. So that’s something I had to change.

      I do prefer to write about fictitious settings based on real towns. The book I’m working on now, the main character leaves a city in New Jersey and visits a small mountain town. I based it on a small town I know, but fictionalized it. Lots of differences. The city in New Jersey is totally fictitious.

      I do write about what I genres I read, but I read a lot of different genres.

      I’ve never written about any of the professions I’ve been in and I’ve had a varying array of jobs over the years, but pretty much the same type for the last twenty years. One book I plan to write, the lady started out in previous book in a profession close to mine, but by the time I get to her book, she will be changed jobs.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I prefer fictitious settings based on real towns, too. It gives me wiggle room for error and to bend the facts if I need to 🙂
        And like you I read in a lot of different genres.
        Interesting that you’re changing your character’s profession. My guess is the character had something to say about that, because they always do, and they always get their way, LOL.

        Liked by 1 person

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