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View Full Version : What's your strangest write-what-you-DON'T-know story?



KCathy
01-30-2007, 11:52 PM
Have you ever seriously broken the "write what you know" rule and been successful? Or do you know a fun story about someone who has? I know this is a dangerous question because you generally do better (and find writing much easier) with familiar subjects. So please understand that I'm not arguing with the rule, just curious about some fun exceptions.

Mine was writing for the "How to" section of a motorcycle magazine when I had literally never touched a motorcycle. I had already submitted queries to every magazine covering topics I knew, it was too early to send them anything else, and I needed to meet my 3-query-a-day quota. I flipped through Writer's Market in search of inspiration and saw the magazine in question.

"Hm," I thought, "my uncle has a Harley and takes his kids with him on long road-trips. Maybe I could..." So I queried about rules and tips for taking kids on the road and happened to get an editor who had been wondering about taking his young daughter on a trip for the first time. Dumb luck at its sheerest! I interviewed my uncle, submitted pics of him and his kids on the bike, and achieved a truly amazing feat: getting my grandmother to buy a motorcycle magazine at the supermarket.

Lest you think I'm bragging, I'll throw in the fact that I mis-labeled a photo of my uncle and little cousin meeting the director of a region of the HOG club. Ahem. The photo appeared, claiming to be a shot of the VP of Harley Davidson my uncle had mentioned during his interview. Sheeeeeeesh. Luckily both of the men involved thought it was funny, and so the editor accepted my apology instead of mailing me a letter bomb.

I'd love to hear your stories--please share!

Freckles
01-31-2007, 12:28 AM
Ask Joanne about this one. I just finished the February freelance assignment thanks to her gentle encouragement!

WildScribe
01-31-2007, 12:29 AM
I wrote an erotica story before I had had a single sexual experience. I re read it later and found that I had been pretty accurate. I have no idea where it went, alas, but it worked...

Tiger
01-31-2007, 01:31 AM
Have you ever seriously broken the "write what you know" rule and been successful?

Well, I did graduate from college so.... :D

weatherfield
01-31-2007, 01:36 AM
I once wrote a short story about Halal butchering in vaguely post-Victorian London.(!) As far as research goes, I did my best, but sound information was pretty scarce. If there are any egregious inaccuracies, no one has said anything thusfar. Honestly, I think I got by on the happy chance that most other people don't know much about it either.;)

Shadow_Ferret
01-31-2007, 01:39 AM
Everything I write is about something I don't know.

If I was confined to writing about what I know I'd have very little to write about.

That's what imaginations and Google are for.

Dixie
01-31-2007, 01:40 AM
Yeah - I had to do a freelance article back in college about high school rodeo. That was a hard one for me to do. I was thankfully able to get a hold of some local rodeo people, and these kids were earning big bucks and scholarships. It was printed about 6 months after I finished it.

This was hard because I was the farthest thing from rodeo, lol. I was more concerned about getting another Paul Oakenfold CD rather than who was winning the nationals in Denver. But I got through it and I think I got extremely lucky on that one only because I went the extra mile and really stepped outside my boundaries to get a good article.

thethinker42
01-31-2007, 06:14 AM
I wrote an erotica story before I had had a single sexual experience. I re read it later and found that I had been pretty accurate. I have no idea where it went, alas, but it worked...

I've done this as well; it was a specific experience that I won't go into detail about, but it was almost 2 years later that I actually tried it myself. Turns out, I was right on the money! LOL It's been consistently well-rated on Literotica for almost 2 solid years, and I still get e-mails about it. :)

Lyra Jean
01-31-2007, 06:57 AM
I've been chicken. But I think maybe I'll try something non-fiction. I haven't written anything non-fiction and I'm not an expert in anything.

Maprilynne
01-31-2007, 08:53 AM
Actually, my whole novel is that. I wrote a classic, high fantasy. I don't read fantasy. Well, Robert Jordan, sort off and two of Terry Goodkind's books, but I don't read hardly any fantasy and much of it totally bores me.

On the other hand, almost every hardcore fantasy beta I've had couldn't put it down and my agent loves it and is completely confident that it will sell and sell well.

I guess I done somethin' right.:)

But it does feel like unfamiliar territory at many times and that's a little disconcerting.

Maprilynne

Yami Dragon
01-31-2007, 04:36 PM
Well, considering I'm NOT a gay man, I'd have to say I always write about what I don't know. *snicker*

Kate Thornton
01-31-2007, 07:02 PM
Well, considering I'm NOT a gay man, I'd have to say I always write about what I don't know. *snicker*

A couple of my most successful short stories have featured gay men protagonists written in first person, and I am neither. I also write as an African American teenager sometimes, and I am neither.

I spoke at a panel discussion once and had a somewhat peeved guy tell me I had no business "decieving" him about being a gay man...! Sorry!

victoriastrauss
01-31-2007, 07:48 PM
I don't think "write what you know" means "write what you personally have actually experienced." If that were the case, no one could write a historical novel, and all novels would have to have the author as the protagonist. I think it means "write what you know about." Research is a writer's best friend.

- Victoria

Yami Dragon
01-31-2007, 08:05 PM
A couple of my most successful short stories have featured gay men protagonists written in first person, and I am neither. I also write as an African American teenager sometimes, and I am neither.

I spoke at a panel discussion once and had a somewhat peeved guy tell me I had no business "decieving" him about being a gay man...! Sorry!

Well, bully for him. *grin*

I read somewhere once that the majority of gay fiction is written by women. Being in the yaoi/fanfiction genre for a while has taught me that that's pretty accurate.

veinglory
01-31-2007, 08:10 PM
Gay men was easy, an ex-Irish Catholic preist as a bit of a stretch...

Pagey's_Girl
01-31-2007, 10:10 PM
Well, I have a WIP set in a mining town in south Wales. It's taking a LOT of research, since all I know about coal mining is that it involves digging a very big hole in the ground.

As for the strangest thing I've written about without ever having experienced - I'd have to say accidentally summoning the Great God Chtulhu while attempting to cast what the character in question thought (because he had no idea what he was doing and wouldn't listen to his cousin, who told him not to mess with the Necronomicon) was a spell to make his girlfriend - well, you can guess... :)

Edit - that one may never see the light of day, but it was a lot of fun to write.

virtue_summer
01-31-2007, 10:26 PM
My whole WIP is this way. The main character is a thirty-something widowed father. I'm 23, single, and childless. The story also contains witches, magic, and an underground society. Really, I think write what you know is highly overrated, at least the way it's usually interpreted.

Yami Dragon
01-31-2007, 10:27 PM
pagey - that sounds interesting. run with it! run, run, I say!

Kudra
01-31-2007, 10:41 PM
At least 95% of the things I've written about in my career have been things that I had no knowledge about when I first heard of them. But with thorough research, by the time I'm finished with the piece, I'm a walking-talking encyclopedia on the subject.