There is a piece of advice many of us have heard from an early age; write what you know. What does this advice conjure up? A terrible childhood or a lost love one? These are good topics that will bring a strong emotional reaction to a reader if it is well written; and appropriate if one is writing creative non-fiction. But what about those who want to write fiction? Is this advice still useful? For very young writers and writers who have not amassed a lot of life experience, it is a good place to start; however, for those of us who have been around the block more than 100 times, it is obsolete advice.
What do you really know?
We are all experts in ourselves; but most of us, do not have a life that will be of interest to anyone. There may have been a few interesting events, but to write an entire book about it, might not work out as we had hoped.
But, you know more than you think you know. Another piece of advice that goes around the aspiring writer circles is; READ. Read widely and read deeply. There are genres I am not a fan of; however, I have read at least one book from that genre. I did this because it is beneficial to read how other genres are written. One can passively learn information they may think will never be useful in their writing, only to find that later down the line, that information that seemed irrelevant at the time is just the thing that is needed for your current story. This is not plagiarism. The information is retrieved and used in a different way.
Connect the dots. Not with what you know you know, but with what you don’t know you know. What you truly don’t know, you will be able to research.
Write what you care about
If you do not have an interest in what you are writing, it will be drudgery and the likelihood of finishing is small. If you do finish, it may be technically well written but will lack passion.
Just because it is something that you may have experienced firsthand (such as abuse, an arrest, drug addiction, etc.) doesn’t mean the story has to be a detailed chronological account of these experiences. These type of stories often help others; and people tend to think if it is not a true story about a real person, it is not going to have the same impact.
I’ve read many books that were inspired by true events and still had an impact on me. If a story is good, it isn’t going to matter if you are actually talking about a real person or a composite. If you have a message, and you have the passion to tell others, it will get through to the people who need it.
Just keep writing
Write your story one way, and then write it another. Write the story from a different angle, a different point of view. Write it sad, happy or funny. Write what you know you know as a fantasy; write what you don’t know you know as a fact.
Combine pieces of one story with pieces of another story. Keep writing until you find your voice.