You Know Nothing

This post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. The first Wednesday of every month is Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. The awesome co-hosts for the January 4 posting of the IWSG will be Eva @ Lillicasplace, Crystal Collier, Sheena-kay Graham, Chemist Ken, LG Keltner, and Heather Gardner!

January 4 Question: What writing rule do you wish you’d never heard?

This is a funny question because I tend to take the teachings of my editors way too far. Once they show me a new rule or show me how something should be done, I then religiously use what I’ve learned to the point of forsaking style and rhythm. Only when I go back and find things feel clunky or awkward because of whatever rule I’m strictly following, I learn the real truth: sometimes, rules are meant to be broken, or at least bent. Preserving readability is more important than adhering strictly and unwaveringly to technicality. Style is just as important as structure.

That being said, what writing rule do I wish I’d never heard? Well, it’s more like one I wish writers would stop telling each other: write what you know.

This is a silly rule taken at face value. If people only wrote what they know, we’d have far less books about detectives, doctors, murderers, medieval kings, and time travelers. There would be no stories about spaceships and werewolves and superheroes. What we don’t know, we can research, especially in this age of technology. Sure, if you’re writing about something you don’t personally take part in, it’s good if you have a fascination or interest in it at least; however, it’s not hard to learn the details of most places, professions, and eras, or to make up rules for aliens and paranormal creatures.

Write what you know should mean to write about how you know people behave in certain situations, how humanity interacts with each other, and what drives us as people. It’s about knowing what it’s like to be a human being who struggles, wants, suffers, and needs. That’s what you know, that’s what all people know. That should be where ‘write what you know’ ends. It doesn’t apply to knowing what it’s like to be a Roman Emperor or a talking cat.

To hell with writing what you know. Write what you like!

Author: Megan Morgan

Paranormal and contemporary romance author.

33 thoughts

  1. I remember that time I had superpowers in a dream…it was a dream. Anyway that rule is one I won’t even give a side eye to. There are inventors who were inspired to create things that were in fiction and never thought to be able to be made in reality. I want to live in a world where we right beyond what we know. Research what we can and make up the damn rest. Pretty sure the author of Alice in Wonderland didn’t have a magical cat. At least least as far as I know. Nice IWSG post and you are co-host approved.

    2017 IWSG January Co-Host


  2. Absolutely! Style is just as important as structure. I agree that some people take write what you know too literal. No joke–a friend of mine read One By One, my debut novel back in 2013. Afterwards, she gave me a hug and asked why I hadn’t told her all the bad things that happened. I was confused at first, then she mentioned my “camping trip in Virginia.” I blurted out, “That was just my imagination. Fiction. If that happened to me in real life, I’d be dead!” We just busted out laughing.

    Keep smiling,


  3. Writing what we know about behavior is doable. We’ve observed people our whole lives – we just need to apply that to our story.
    I went overboard on a manuscript and removed every single LY word. My critique partners begged me to put some back in. Yeah, it read awkward without them.
    Happy 2017! And adding you to my blogroll so I remember to come by more often.


  4. During the production of my last book my publisher had me working with an editor in the Philippines. It was SO frustrating because he kept stating rules and I kept saying people do not speak that way. Rules are for a reason but absolutely they are meant to bend if needed.
    Happy New Year to you!


    1. I’m a total stickler for not having my dialog edited. People do not speak in grammatically correct ways out loud. I’ve often fought with editors over leaving dialog alone.


  5. Write what you like! I agree. To me, it coincides with what I know, since I like sharing my adventures and experiences of a life less ordinary! Lucky me, right? 🙂


  6. Some of the worst mistakes I made were trying to follow the “rules.” Write what you love whether you know anything about it or not. 🙂 Found this blog hop on Twitter and I signed up. I love the idea!!!


  7. I have definitely done the same where I learn a new rule and apply it to death all over my manuscript. I think with time you read more and more advice to get a more healthy blend. Early on, every snippet is LIFE OR DEATH FOR THE STORY! haha

    My IWSG post this month is about how to set realistic writing goals. The post is here on my StephanieScott website.


  8. I think “Write what you know” is more like “Write what you’re willing to know.” As in, if you’re willing to put in the effort to learn it, then sure, go ahead and write about it. Anyone who takes that suggestion too literally will end up writing in the dizzying loop of death–because if we’re not constantly growing, we’re shrinking.


  9. Yes. I’ve never quite understood the meaning behind that ‘rule’. As you said research is key. If people only wrote what they personally ‘knew’ then there goes a whole lot of genres. Fiction is there to be explored and made up to a certain extent. Yes some things are based in ‘real world’ but it’s all fantasy when you get right down to it and we each know our fantasy like no one else. Happy new year. 🙂


    1. Exactly! Of course there are a few people who ‘know’ what they’re writing about, like former doctors and lawyers writing medical and law mysteries, but that doesn’t mean other people can’t do it if they put in the research. That’s where the creativity comes in.

      Thanks for stopping by!


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