Almost every author has heard the adage – Write what you know. If you’re like me, the first time that phrase reared it’s head, you turned politely around and made the ewww face. The things I know are boring. I don’t lead a fast-paced life, I don’t travel the world, I don’t have stories – and those I do aren’t necessarily romance-novel worthy. They’re the kind that make someone ask, “Good grief, how much more boring can a person get?”

In an effort to avoid what I know, and create a tale someone else might enjoy, I plunged into the world of historical romance… and promptly created an over-the-top, god-like hero with a simpering heroine who had a temper that popped up out of nowhere. Needless to say, that didn’t work so much.

I piddled with another historical, a contemporary about horses, and a full fantasy series. And while I grew with my craft, and things were far more logical, things just weren’t clicking the way I wanted them to.

That’s when it occurred to me – even though I was writing what I didn’t know, I knew parts of everything I wrote. The historicals encompassed time periods where I knew certain parts and aspects of the time. The first contemporary covered more or less fictionalized events that centered around one summer I spent in the barns growing up. My fantasy series stemmed from ten years of online fantasy gaming design.

Did I know exactly what every utensil was called in my historicals? No. But I knew how life in Rome’s class system worked. Did I know how the Olympics handled an injury to one team member in a sport that required two? Nope. But I knew how to get the team to the qualifiers. Did I know by heart the dice-roll totals required to overpower a race when confronted by an uber monster? Heck no! But I knew the generalities of what affected magic, and the success thereof.

And then another thought hit me (yes, a rather basic thought) – This is what research is for. This was a classic face-palm moment.

Writing what you know doesn’t have to be about something that happened in a day in the life at the office. Writing what you know can be as simple as knowing the best office gossip occurs in front of the candy machine outside the elevator on the third floor.

It’s taking a handful of pieces of knowledge, weaving them together with the other parts of craft, and creating a complete story. It can start with a piece of a conversation overheard. It can start with witnessing a traffic jam. It can start anywhere. The key is knowing how to make that singular aspect entertaining and build from that point, while using readily-available tools to research all the stuff you might not know but need as filler.

The first result of this light bulb flicking on was my book, Seduction’s Stakes. I know horses, but my day-to-day horse experiences only touch on the world of racing. However, the contacts I’d established through my breeding farm provided colorful pictures that gave me the ability to write a full-length romance centered around the world of high-stakes racing. Do I have the means to wager 5000.00 on a bet? Absolutely not. But have I seen the effects of what can happen for those who do? And the outcome – positive or negative – in such situations? Yep. My imagination filled in the rest. And research filled in all the details, right down to a vivid journal entry written by a reporter after one leg of the Triple Crown came to a close.

It was this book that made me fully realize I was writing what I knew, and when the imagination took hold, what I know may not be so boring after all. I don’t have to write about the back-breaking hours mucking stalls. I can create grooms for that! The hours put into training? Well, I can hire a trainer in my novel.

And so forth.

Which leads me to where I am at now. Horses have become a very comfortable subject for me, and I have a great deal of fun plugging in the little things I’ve been exposed to. My coming releases Waiting For Yes, and A Christmas To Believe In, both use this approach. In Waiting For Yes, I used the goals I had as a young girl and blew them up to three times their original size. I’d never competed at Arabian Nationals, never wanted to. But I have competed locally and known the desperation to place if for no other reason than to prove everyone who said “You can’t do it”, wrong.

A Christmas To Believe In touches on some of the very real set backs a Thoroughbred breeder can face. I took my own fears of what could happen, the training I’ve had in dealing with those situations, and tied everything into a Christmas homecoming.

Again, pieces of what I know. Not the full scenario of what I do day in and day out.

So the next time you hear Write what you know, don’t automatically assume like I did, there’s nothing entertaining in your world. There’s always a story lurking somewhere. But if you try to avoid what you understand, your experiences, your story will fall flat and your readers will be left unfulfilled.


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1 Response so far.

  1. Glad that you pieced it all together and you found your niche. congrats on many more books! :O)

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"Victorians used the term 'limbs' as a euphenism for legs, which were thought to be so sexually exciting to a man, even a glimpse of a table leg could incite him to sexual frenzy. Table skirts were invented to prevent any unnatural unions between men and furniture."
(History Channel International)



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