At one time or another, every writer has been given the advice, “Write what you know,” which is not bad advice when first putting pen to paper. A personal experience automatically gives you point of view, realistic dialogue, a good sense of time and place, and colorful descriptions of the event, even if the event is only about the time Aunt Tilly accidentally dumped a bowl of potato salad into Uncle Billy’s lap at the family reunion picnic (although I always laugh when I think about it).
“Write what you know” is not limited to personal experiences and can be expanded to “areas of expertise.” Take a look at the success of John Grisham, a lawyer, who used his knowledge to write a series of successful novels. Did he personally experience every case he wrote about? Nope, but he certainly knew about court procedure, language, the setting (he’s from the south), and the law. Same thing with Michael Crichton, a doctor, who was comfortable in the science genre, and came up with a broad range of stories, from Coma to Jurrasic Park, with a technical underlying theme.
How do you pick your subject if you have no area of “expertise?” First of all, I believe everybody has some area of expertise–cooking, camping, sports, etc. But if you don’t think so, then I have one word of advice, research. Want to write a sci-fi space novel? Read up, there is a ton of material in the newspaper, library or online.
There is a whole wonderful world of stories out there waiting for you based on your experience, areas of expertise, and willingness to research.
About the Author – Richard A Jones (@richallan)
Richard Allan Jones (pen name Rich Allan) is a published author – DRAFTED & IDENTITY CHECK, communications executive, actor, musician, singer, and songwriter. He is listed in Who’s Who in Entertainment and accredited by the Public Relations Society of America, holding an M.A. in Journalism and B.A. in Communications from the Ohio State University.