Write What You Know is one of the traditional truisms of fiction. When it’s announced in an echo chamber by The Man Behind The Curtain, I’ve known it to intimidate some would-be novelists so much about the imperfection in their knowledge, that they never do write the stories they’ve carried around inside their heads for years.
Write What You Know does not mean that if you were raised in a bedroom community in suburbia, that that’s all you’re permitted to write about. You can learn about any place or time in history – and then write about it!
Write What You Know does not mean that you should just give fictitious names to your eccentric friends and relations and then document their dysfunctional lives. But you can disassemble those personalities and personal histories, shake up the pieces, pull some out, put them together – and then write about it!
Write What You Know does not mean that you may only write about persons, places, times or things that have ever existed in the universe. You can make up your own universe that is parallel to, or tangent to, or completely opposite to life as we know it in the arm of the spiral galaxy that we call home, make it your Happy Place where you go to be with your Imaginary Friends – and then write about it!
Write What You Know does not mean that you’re not qualified to write anything at all because your life up to this point has been short on experience, whether it’s because you’re rather young and haven’t done much yet, or because you’re rather old but you believe your life has been “bor-ing!” You do know your own feelings: happy or sad; you do know your own opinions: reasonable or off the wall; you do know your own horrors and hopes, trials and triumphs, problems and pleasures and pains, all of which you can hurl at the heads and feet of fictional characters, while you watch how they cope with them – and then write about it!
So, pay no attention to The Man Behind The Curtain! You know a story! Write what you know!