Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Write What You Know--or Not?

One piece of advice I'm sure every writer has heard--and possibly followed--is "write what you know." I always thought it made sense until I recently read a different take on the subject in "The Writer's Idea Book" by Jack Heffron. Mr. Heffron tells the story of a good friend who was determined to become a writer upon retiring from a big-city police force. His 30+ years on the beat had given him the edge to write crime stories--or so he thought. His stories, while filled with technical jargon and the ins and outs of police work, were dull and lacking in plot and character. Upon seeking advice from Mr. Heffron on how to bring more life into his work, the conversation somehow drifted to a collection of beer memorabilia that littered his home. Noticing the light in his eyes and the passion with which he discussed those items, Mr. Heffron advised him to stop with the crime stories and start with the beer(writing about it, that is!) It became obvious that, while he knew a ton about being a cop, it was something he no longer enjoyed or held a passion for. Once he began to write about a subject that held an interest for him, he went on to publish with several prestigious trade magazines.

The point of the story is this, as Mr. Heffron puts it: "Too often we choose to write about what we think others will like, or what's hot in the marketplace. If writing about something feels like a guilty pleasure, you're on the right track." He goes on to say that we should forget about writing strictly about what we know, and write about what we like. (and if what you know and what you like are one in the same, even better!) The more I thought about it, the more I agreed. When you're excited and interested in what you are writing about, it will show on the page. Your passion will come through in the scenes and breathe life into your characters. Not only will you produce a work you can be proud of, but you'll also produce a work that your readers will love. Happy writing!

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