Write What You Know?

Sage Advice or Hogwash?

Excerpt from Writing Your Novel:

Long before I began writing and editing fiction manuscripts, I sat in many writing classes, starting in the late 1980s and continuing to today. I’m always learning. And in most classes, two phrases have stood the test of time:

1) “Show, don’t tell,” and, 2) “Write what you know.”

Sage advice? I agree with the first one, but I think the second is hogwash.

According to my online dictionary, Sage is defined as:

noun – Somebody who is regarded as knowledgeable, wise, and experienced, especially someone of advanced years revered for his/her wisdom and good judgment

adjective – having or showing great wisdom, especially that gained from long experience of life

I’ve loved books as far back as I can remember. Fond memories of my grandfather include the stories he read about magical castles and brave knights defending their fair ladies in days of olde. I never tired of the stories, so I was eager to learn to read, and I grew up with piles of books in my home.

When my husband and I owned a bookstore in the 1980s in Denver, I met several authors, and, since I’d previously been a proofreader in the aerospace industry, several asked me to proof their manuscripts. Some were well-written while others were obviously penned by beginners. But that turned out to be a wonderful, enlightening experience, because I’d always thought writing with hopes of publication was something I dared not try. WRITERS were those who had been born to literary families with Nobel Prize winners and who’d been educated in top universities. I, as a normal housewife and mother who’d never finished college, thought I could never attain that magical status.

Oh sure, writing had been a dream for years and, armed with the latest how-to book, I’d even begun a chapter or two of my own creation. But to me it was only a dream, something that I could never achieve, so I didn’t try very hard…

…until . . .

Writing Your Novel

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