So in your opinion no one should ever try to branch out, or do something different? If they get an idea for a book unlike any they've written before, they should shrug and ignore it?
I've heard of virgins who write great erotic scenes.
"Write what you know" is not so narrow as that, and we respect our fellow writers here, which means not telling them their decisions about what to write are not "smart," and implying that their work will invariably be bad. (And "knowing" about what you write doesn't guarantee your writing will be any good, btw.)
Since you're new, I'm going to suggest you go read the Newbie Guide again.
'Write what you know' always struck me as ridiculous advice. Write what you want to read. That's the variation that's stuck with me most through the years. Write the book you're ticked off you can never find on the shelves, or can never find done the way you want to see it done. If it requires learning something about being a cop, or flying a plane, of having sweaty happy sex in handcuffs and chains, then you research.
Virgins who have never had sex are more than capable of reading up on the mechanics of sex, reading a hundred sex scenes written by others, and writing an excellent version of it themselves. They're even capable (gasp) of adding to it, imagining their own take, their character's take, and giving you something deep and meaningful. Same for romance and relationships. I've never been married, and that has nothing to do with whether or not I'd be able to write convincingly about a marriage.
There is no excuse, especially in this age of Google and YouTube, to claim that someone has to write what they know. There is nothing in this world that you can't research well enough to write it convincingly.
'Write what you know' is lazy.
(Apparently this is a hot button topic for me, sorry. Back to your conversation.)
I always took "Write what you know" to mean "as a starting point." If you want to write your very first story, ever, but aren't sure what to write about, then "write what you know." If you get stuck on a scene, then "write what you know" to bring out the rest of the story. If you don't know what a character is supposed to say, "write what you know" he or she should say despite how surprising it is.
It's an empowering phrase, not a limiting one: Let it happen. Write what you know should come out of your fingers.
I believe in "write what you know," but to me, "write what you know" means emotionally; write the truth as you know it. People the way you see/know them, life the way you know it (not in the mundane "careers" sort of way--although there's nothing wrong with that either--but relationships and humanity and what's challenging and what's simple and what isn't).
But that doesn't mean you have to only write what you've experienced, because the truth as you know it also includes the way you want things to be, your fantasies and dreams. It's not "wrong" to, as a virgin who's never been in a relationship, write a romantic relationship the way you hope and dream it will be, because that dream is also What You Know.
If only people who've experienced a thing personally could write about it, we wouldn't have any fantasy or much sci-fi, and nobody could write paranormal romance. As Samantha Lane says above, "Write what you know" isn't supposed to limit you. It's supposed to free you, because as long as you're writing the truth, you can write that truth about any situation. It's supposed to remind you that it doesn't matter who your characters are or what situations they're in, you can write them as long as you understand them.
JMO. But like I said, I don't believe WWYK is so narrow, or so literal.
I'm so sorry to have ruffled everyone's feathers so drastically here. But I must say, you've taken my comment completely the wrong way!
I in no way meant to imply that anyone was stupid, and I didn't mean to say that writing a sex scene when you have little or no experience in that area was wrong. And when I mentioned "writing what you know" I certainly did not mean it in the context you have implied.
My question/confusion was why someone would want to write a book in a genre they neither read, nor enjoy. And as I said, I was just curious as to the answer.
I'm in total agreement with JL Hall "write what you enjoy reading yourself" and that is what I was referring to.
I would never attempt to write a non-fiction because I have no desire to read it myself. Besides, I doubt I would know how to even begin. And I would never attempt to write a fantasy, because again, not my thing. I don't enjoy reading it, and wouldn't know the first thing about how to begin. To do the research necessary to write a fantasy, I would have to read numerous books in the genre, but since I have no desire to do that, I have no plans or desires to attempt it.
I enjoy romance, mysteries, thrillers. That's what I read, and what I write. Not just because it's what I know, but because it's what I enjoy.
I did say that good advice had been given above. I myself had to do extensive research - as I would expect most of us do from time to time - before writing the book I'm currently working on, as my knowledge of mental disease was limited. That didn't stop me from incorporating it into my story. I did the research until I had the information I needed to move forward.
If I decided to give a main character a professional that I know nothing about, like scuba diving for instance, it doesn't mean I can't incorporate that into my story, nor should it stop anyone else from doing the same.
I certainly hope this explains what I was trying to say, but if not, let me reiterate. The author of this post admitted that he did not enjoy reading romance novels. I can certainly understand him wanting to put a sex scene, or a romantic scene if you will, in his stories, but the fact that he was choosing to write a book that he would consider to be a "romance", just struck me as odd.
Perhaps it was my mistake, and I misunderstood what he was saying.
At any rate, please accept my apologies for obviously saying the wrong thing.
Last edited by gcsalamon; 02-04-2013 at 10:25 AM.
You didn't "drastically" ruffle feathers. It was just a friendly reminder. No worries.
@Job and Stacia Kane Thank you soooooo much. Your advice and blog links are so helpful. I am currently writing my first romance and you can believe I will be referencing back to what both of you have said.
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Wow...lots to respond to.
First, I'll definitely check out that blog.
Second, I'm giving romance writing a go because one of the stories seemed to be missing a vital component..Romance. Perhaps trying to write it as a romance-genre novel is not right. I just am looking for advice on adding some romance to the novel. (Sorry for the confusion.)
I've not read much romance simply because It has never interested me. I've recently read a few stories in the romance genre, as well as in the erotica genre to try and get a feel for how to make the romance content flow with the rest of the story.
Third...on the highlighter topic, I had a set of 4 different colors for a while, but just before I posted my comment, I found that all but the yellow had dried up (lack of use)...and the yellow is about spent.
Greatly appreciate all of the feedback, and such.
Sort of an idea of the rough synopsis of the story in question...
The main character, Drew, gets a call from a girl he used to hang out with. (He spent most of his time with her back then in the "Friend Zone".)
She calls for help after being beaten pretty badly by her boyfriend.
Drew comes to the rescue, and nurses her back to life.
In the process, they fall in love.
There's the problem there. Trying to capture the chemistry and romance is difficult for me. Its not the "How to write sex" that's giving me issues. it's the "How to make it seem natural and beautiful rather than forced, crude, and juvenile." area.
So, this is where 'write what you know' comes into play. Have you ever been in love? How did it feel? Did it happen all at once? Over a period of time. How did you think about the person you were in love with? What special things did you notice about them? How were your thoughts/actions different around them than around other people?
Put yourself in your character's place and imagine what he feels as he interacts with this person. What attracts him to her? Don't worry about forcing out scenes that are specifically capturing the 'romance' - instead sprinkle the emotions into the scenes you are already writing.
If you've never been in love, you'll have to stretch a little more. What do you imagine being in love feels like? What attracts you to that state enough that you want to add it to your book?
I think the problem most non-romance readers face when trying to add romance to their writing is that they see it as a huge 'extra' thing they have to add. There must be flowery words! There must be sex! Manhoods must throb! (eep!) Stop worrying about all that and let your characters develop these feelings naturally.
Also, I'm going to suggest you think about some non-romance books you've read where there was a romantic or emotional element. This might be more in your comfort zone. There are tons of books in every genre where there is a love interest, so I bet you can find one. If you can think of a favorite, go back and re-read it a few times with your writer hat on (And maybe a few of JOBs highlighters).
You seem like a smart guy. You want to add another level to your characters. You can do this!