"Write What You Know" v. Writing to Know


Write what you know, is a writing aphorism that is hard to escape, but what does it really mean? It’s always made me uncomfortable because far too often it is taken literally, but if you don’t take it literally then it becomes a bit of a puzzler. Once you move away from technical manuals and autobiography, what we know doesn’t amount to much. I mean how does this advice help the novelist writing a space opera, a short story writer writing surreal animal stories, a poet?

Writing what you know isn’t about limiting yourself to a narrow area of expertise or a specific collection of experiences. Maybe it would be better so say “Write what you know in your heart,” or maybe simply, “know your heart.” Be present in the moment; build rich memories, live a vivid imaginative life as well. It’s your memories, your imagination, what you feel and what you believe that are your cache of “what you know,” and they provide infinite possibilities for discovering truth in the world.

I highly recommend this one
“The key is to move steadily from what you know, be it ever so little.”
– Stephen Koch

The truth of the story isn’t always apparent right away. Writing is an act of discovery. Begin by creating a world – a small one in a kitchen or suburban home, or a vast one spanning galaxies; populate it with some characters, and set them in motion around a small collection of things you know. Be brave and honest and go where the story takes you. Who knows what you’ll discover.

“I write to find out what I didn’t know I knew.”
– Robert Frost

My story, “Fairview 619,” is available to read over at the Metaphysical Circus Press. If you like that, consider picking up the entire issue, See the Elephant Magazine, issue two: Love & War in the Slipstream.

See The Elephant Cover Reveal

My story, Fairview 619, is going to be in the fabulous See The Elephant magazine later this month. Check out this fantastic cover and peruse the table of contents here

Also, I’m delighted to announce that I have a brand new story, Hands of Burnished Bronze, that will be available for your listening pleasure later this year from PodCastle! This is one of the podcasts that I listen to regularly. I have heard so many wonderful stories here that I’m really over the moon about having one of my own join the ranks.

Just time for a quick update today. I’m mulling, outlining, and making some big changes to the novel. While doing that, I’m also revising a couple broken short stories that have been laying about too long. Time to get those puppies out the door. My submissions queue has gotten dangerously low. I’m getting lonely as I’m hardly receiving even one rejection per week.