Guest Post – Write What You Don’t Know by Beck Sherman

As part of the 2012 Blogger Book Fair, I’m happy to present this guest post from Beck Sherman, author of Revamp! Also, check out Beck’s offer at the bottom of the post for a chance to win a free copy! Without further fiddle-faddle, here’s Beck!


Throw Momma from the Train

As you read this, the phrase “write what you know” is being uttered from the lips of some writing instructor somewhere. Billy Crystal said it in Throw Momma from the Train. Pick up any writing book and it’s in there, like some cruel, wagging finger, “Better make sure to write what you know.” This makes you panic a bit—sweat starts to pool under the collar, because what do you know, really? And you’d like to write a novel about space aliens that sleep in smelly, old shoes and dance the Macarena right before they suck your brains out through a bendy straw. Your nerves start to level: okay, you’ve never met a space alien, but you are slightly familiar with smelly, old shoes (thanks, Dad), you’ve danced the Macarena before (it was a very long time ago, but it’s just a bunch of arm flailing, right?), bendy straws (check!), but brains? What do they taste like? You’ve never eaten brains before. Where in the world do they still eat brains? You will go there. You will eat brains too. You will record the taste in a small notebook. You will be able to write what you know (sigh of relief).

Maybe the above scenario is a slight exaggeration, but I have recently become a convert to the mantra Write What You Don’t Know, and here’s why:

1. Writing what you know is too safe. Stick your head out, see what’s on the other side. Your head might get chopped off, but you’ll have one hell of a story to tell from beyond the grave.

2. Your writing may become repetitive. If all you know is how to make deviled eggs, sure your first story might be good, but if the main character in your next book has a knack for making deviled eggs too, you could be in trouble.

3. Writing is about taking risks, if not for yourself, then for your reader.

4. By researching something, you’re learning something new and you can write about it with a fresh eye, from a fresh angle.

5. Your writing (especially if you’re a horror/suspense writer) is meant to catapult the reader into the fucking air. If you’re rehashing your daily routine on the page, your reader is getting dragged along, too. Poor reader.

There are exceptions, of course. If you’re a super, suave spy and Espionage is your middle name—WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW. And hi, you’ve got a cool job. Another exception, a lot of writers have their books set in the same locale (Stephen King and Maine) and that works. It can become your thing, and readers, especially your neighbors, will appreciate that. My point is, don’t shy away from writing about something because you don’t know anything about it. Set time aside to research. Don’t put limits on the story you want to tell.

Dive in.

Because it’s not just your future readers’ adventure, it’s yours too.


Revamp Cover Art

Revamp by Beck Sherman

Want to win a copy of Beck Sherman’s Revamp? Click this link to enter the drawing!

To find out more about Beck Sherman, or to find where you can snag your own copy of Revamp, check out Beck’s blog!


9 responses to “Guest Post – Write What You Don’t Know by Beck Sherman

  1. Agreed. I live a pretty sheltered and normal life, and if I’m going to write based upon my own experiences, I imagine I would bore the reader to tears. Great post!

  2. Hi Beck! Hi Brandon!

    I agree with you, Beck. Writing what you don’t know is so much better. Heck, I even take it one step further–because I write what I don’t know, even while not knowing how to write! LOL

  3. Hey guys! Thanks for stopping by! Plus, if you write horror, you’re going to be writing about a lot of things you don’t know (well, let’s hope!). I totally love the challenge and I think every writer should partake.

  4. Writing horror makes it easier to write what you don’t know, or at least, what you are supposed to not know! My latest novella, Bleodsian, is about a man who thinks he can restore his health by drinking human blood. Now,for that book, I had to get a feel for what IT tasted like. Gross? Yes, yes it was, and metallic. So, that being said, research is key to any kind of success, and can greatly help one to have familiarity with a situation they otherwise are unfamiliar with.

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