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#atozchallenge: W is for Write what you know #fiction #writing #quotes

Theme: Quotes from Authors and Bookish People about Writing

This challenge was my third co-hosting, and the fourth time participating, and each time I’m nervous before it begins, frantic when it is going on, and sad when it ends. So this week, I’ve got the blues. Do you feel sad when a thing that took over your life for a while comes to an end?

Without further ado, I introduce one of the tips novice writers are often given, “Write what You Know“. Opinions vary on the subject, and here a few quotes from different authors: 

“Write about what you know and care deeply about. When one puts one’s
self on paper — that is what is called good writing.”
— Joel Chandler

 “Don’t write what you know—what you know may bore you, and thus bore
your readers. Write about what interests you—and interests you
deeply—and your readers will catch fire at your words.”
— Valerie Sherwood

“Write what is important to you, regardless of fashion or marketability
or anything like that – all those things are so far out of your control
that you may as well not think about them. Of course, this may mean
you’ll never be published but that’s a risk we all take every single
time we set hands to keyboard or pen to paper. For me, if I can sit back
at the end of a project and say, ‘yes, I stayed honest, I said what I
wanted to say, and I made it sing to the best of my ability’, then I’m
happy enough. Of course, if anyone wants to buy the damned thing off me
when I’m done, that’s jam I won’t refuse.”
— Celine Kiernan

Do You write what you know? Or do you glory in the research and writing of what you don’t?

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her next literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and was published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • Anonymous says:

    I'm empathetic. I write from what I discover, more so when the discovery illuminates a truth or challenge within myself. To make nonfiction relevant there has to be information that is exchanged.

  • sulekkha says:

    I write what I feel, I can't plan and write. Maybe that's why I am an unknown writer 🙂 but am a satisfied one.

  • Nice quotes..Interesting how the first and second quotes are contradictory and yet emphasize the same point.

  • Once I met this guy who had just written a movie and he said that all you can really do is write as yourself, but I've always thought that the process can be an exploration of so much more, a chance at achieving real empathy towards your subject.

  • Anita says:

    Very nice quotes.
    Quotes 1 & 2 contradict one another, but have the same goal – reader's interests 🙂

  • Hmm… I think perhaps a combination of both? It is fun to learn something new, but I try not to venture too far into unfamiliar territory.

  • Most of the time I write what I feel, what I think and what my heart knows to write. But when there's real research to be done, that's almost as much fun as the writing. Kind of like getting all the ingredients out for chocolate chip cookies because you know how good they're going to be when done!

  • I don't write what I know!

  • klahanie says:

    Hi Damyanti,

    I do understand your sadness about the A to Z coming to an end for another year. I respect that. Personally, I will be glad to see it end. I've spent way too much time, to the point of exhaustion, interacting with folks doing this challenge. Rather ironic.

    My dear friend, I write about anything. If I'm unsure, I make sure my research is accurate. The last thing somebody needs to read is an error in my writing research. They can then get fixated with the error and it takes away my credibility.

    Enjoy your Sunday off for good behaviour! 🙂


  • Nice advice. I mostly prefer writing about things I like and know rather than writing on a totally new topic! 🙂

  • Beloo Mehra says:

    Great advice…and even if some of it sounds a bit contradictory to each other, it somehow feels true to me. Maybe because it comes from a place of honesty.

  • I agree that we should write about what interests us and interests us deeply and writing from our heart and not trying to copy other writers.

  • Click says:

    I think to write something well you need to know it. But if you're doing research then you're becoming familiar with it so it becomes something you know. If you research it well then hopefully you'll know it well enough to write it well.

  • I pick up topics that interest me, research a bit on them and then lend my opinions on them.But yes a passionless topic does fall flat. I particularly loved the quote by Valerie Sherwood. Thanks for the share 🙂

  • Romi C says:

    I prefer writing what I know, because I can write about them in my own words.

    In the Way Everlasting

  • All good quotes. I try to write on topics that deeply interest me, or I won't feel the passion of the words I write. There are occasions, however, when I'm obliged to write articles for others and have to force myself to get in the mood due to the content. But I let my let my muse run wild when writing for myself.

  • ragingfluff says:

    e annie proulx has a great line: 'writing what you know doesn't mean writing about your boring life.'

  • I have to admit that I write a mixture of what I know and what I dig deep to find out about. My first novel for example had a lot of personal issues filtering through the story, but at the same time a lot of the detail of location (Panama), was through my friendship with a fellow writer (a scientist) who lives there. It is a work of fiction but I have been asked twice if there is any truth in it, which as you can imagine made my day.

  • cleemckenzie says:

    Like Michael, I've never found the two pieces of advice exclusive. Both are equally exciting. I love to try capturing my view of a thing on paper, but I also love learning new stuff.

  • For me it's a combination of both… What I know and my passion for what interests me… it's a great combo… But Passion DOES rule…. It will show in your writing if there is heart…

  • Trisha F says:

    I've thought about this before, in my writing – like, should I write about a pizza delivery chick 'cause I've been there? hehe.

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