“Write what you know.” Is this good advice?


Writers are often told, “write what you know.” Is this good advice?

Absolutely! It’s great advice… if you understand what it means.

You can’t take it literally to mean something like, “Only write about things for which you have specialized knowledge.” Nobody has specialized knowledge of fairies or monsters or vampires, and most people don’t have firsthand knowledge of murders and evil plots and detective work… but plenty of people write great books about them. So what does it mean?

Write what you know means write from a deep place. Be honest. Don’t write from the surface. Be real. Be passionate. Write what you truly believe. Fiction or non-fiction, it’s important to write from the depth of who you are.

Don’t reflect what you know from other people or from movies or TV shows… write what you know from your own inner life. Write your truth.

When writing a novel, the plot and the research can come from your head, but the deeper truths of a great story come from a different place. Some might say the heart. I say, wherever you find the most “real” part of you.

You can take your characters into all kinds of worlds, real or imaginary. You can write about different kinds of people, families, relationships, occupations, time periods. Maybe you haven’t personally experienced any of those, so some might say you don’t “know” them. But when you write what YOU know to be true in terms of real motivations, real conflicts, real depth, real emotions… you are writing what you know, and you will connect with readers. Your story will feel authentic.

So, write what YOU know. This is where your originality and uniqueness will come from. Your experience of life is different from anyone else’s.

And, write what you KNOW. Not what you think, or what you’ve heard. Write what your gut tells you is the truth.

If you should decide to invest in some personalized counsel, I offer coaching for unpublished authors here: My Coaching Services


Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!