Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Writing About What One Knows

This afternoon I read an e-mail on one of my lists from a budding writer of children's books. She mentioned that she had always heard that one should write about what one knows. I've always heard that, too, but is the idea a good one?

It depends.

For some people, it's probably not a bad idea, especially if one is just getting started. But personally, I feel it's limited and limiting. My first book was about Nigeria. Frankly, I didn't know much about Nigeria when I started. By the time I finished, I knew enough about the country that I do fairly well when Nigeria turns up as a subject on Jeopardy. If I had turned down the assignment because I didn't know anything about Nigeria, I'd likely never had the opportunity to become an author.

Perhaps it's different when it comes to fiction. I've only written a small amount of fiction, and I must admit that it dealt with a subject I'm familiar with--weight issues. I've just started a novel for tweens (female), and again something I'm very well versed in--knitting--plays a part in the storyline.

Does that mean I can only write fiction about things I know? Sheez, I hope not. And what about people who write science fiction or horror stories? Is it necessary to be an alien (or at least abducted by one) or to have encountered a ghost or vampire to write about them?

As I said before, writing about what you know may be a good idea for beginning writers. But for the author who wants to spread her wings--and who is willing to do some research--throw out the rule. Fly little bird fly!!!

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