Is there a piece of conventional writing advice you take serious exception to?
by Meredith Cole
But I do take exception to one rule: Write what you know. People throw this one around quite liberally and I think it's mostly bunk. Writer's lives are often quite mundane. We hunch over a computer most of the day until someone tells us we really must eat or go outside. We read books. We walk around muttering to ourselves. Of course, we might have had more interesting lives before we became writers--but maybe not. You need to be pretty disciplined to write. Unstable people don't often finish novels (there are of course many exceptions to this rule. But maybe they weren't as undisciplined or unstable as we thought?). And disciplined and consistent people can be, sadly, a little dull.
If I took the write what you know literally, I would have to ask why should I try to write mysteries. I've never killed anyone. I've never found a body. So how do I know what to do?
A better interpretation of this rule, and one I can live with, is to write your truth about the world. Don't copy anyone else. Experience life fully and write what you feel and know. Describe everything as accurately and specifically and develop your own voice. And when you need to write about killing someone, do some research and talk to professionals who know all about it. Please do not try it at home.
I'm off to Bouchercon this weekend in Raleigh, and I'm looking forward to seeing all the Criminal Minds (past and present) who are coming this year! I'm a panel called "Does the character's profession shape the sleuthing?" on Sunday at 8:30 AM in State AB with Rosemary Harris, Sasscer Hill, and Sandra Brannan. Simon Wood will be our moderator. Hope to see you there!