007: The "Write What You Know" Loophole

The "Write What You Know" Loophole

Should you follow the most common writing advice?

July 8, 2016

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How do I know if the rejections I'm getting are because of my manuscript or my query?

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Write It Right: The "Write What You Know" Loophole

One piece of writing advice you hear often is “write what you know.” Writing inspired by things you’ve experienced or by things you know can be very effective. One super young adult author says she writes out of her inner “basement” – the place all the deepest feelings are connected to memories. She says she always knows when the writing isn’t working because she’s not writing from her basement. And she writes some pretty intense things. Writing “what you know” emotionally can definitely result in powerful work.

But “write what you know” can get you in trouble too, because it inspires many, many new writers to record experiences from their darling, adorable (or exhausting, demanding) children’s (or grandchildren’s) lives. And this virtually never works. Why not?

First, the experiences of your children and grandchildren probably don’t have a plot. Imagine you’ve faithfully recorded a sweet moment with your son or your granddaughter. That writing can become something to hold on to and share it with the child later in life. But it almost certainly won’t be a story. It almost certainly won’t have a plot and it isn’t very likely to interest children beyond your family. Plus, those kinds of personal experience based “stories” tend to be very much from an adult’s viewpoint.

So, can you revise it? Listen to the episode to learn more and/or ...

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