| One of the most repeated pieces of advice given by Authors is to 'Write what you know'. In my opinion, it is also very sound advice. Now, I must admit that the first time I read that little tidbit in an Author interview, I thought 'Oh, well that's fine advice for someone writing non-fiction, or even certain types of fiction, but what about me? I write Fantasy and Sci-fi'. How do you 'write what you know' when you are writing about a trip through space to a distant planet, or a battle between Wizards, or a piece about a Dragon? This applies also to those of us that write horror, fantasy/horror, and a plethora of other fiction genres. I came to realize that this does also apply to writers of these genres though.
While, admitedly, one can not have personal expreience in some of these matters(when was the last time you rode on the back of a Dragon?), writers of fantasy, sci-fi, horror, etc. can easily gain experience via the writings of others. This, I think, should go along with 'Write what you know' for fiction writers, heck, writes of non-fiction too, as it is just as applicable. Read, read, read, and read some more. One of the best ways to glean insight, and inspiration in both content, and just the actuall machanics of the craft that is writing, is to read the work of others.
One Author said in an interview I read a while back(I can't remember who it was for the life of me) that 'In writing fiction there are no new ideas, there are just old ideas barrowed from others but with new life, and new imagination breathed into them'. What does this mean? Basically, there are so many ideas that have been writen about, in so many ways, that it is nearly impossible to come up with something that has not yet been touched in some way, shape or form. The trick is to put your own 'spin' on it. Take JK Rowling's Harry Potter series for instance. The idea of Wizards and Witches, spells, incantations, magical items/creatures, etc. is not new. The idea of beings of this nature living in a 'sub-culture/world' seperate and hidden from our own is also not new. Also the idea of a 'Dark Lord' striving to conqure all, destroying all that stand in their way, and one lone person having the power to stop them with the aid of friends is also not new. Yet Rowlings gives us a new look, and maybe a new way of looking at, these same elements.
Another way to 'write what you know' without personal experience, is research. If you have an article, or a story involving a particular subject that you want to write, do some research into the subject. At one time this meant going to the library, armed with your library card, a notebook, and a roll of coins for the copying machine. In the world of today there is a vast well of varied information, on almost any subject imaginable, right at our finger tips via the internet. Say we are writing a sci-fi piece about someone trying to manipulate DNA and create a mutated form of life, and we know next to nothing about the science of DNA, or mutation. On Google, the subject 'DNA mutation' brings up 32MILLION entries alone, while the subject of just 'DNA' brings up 123MILLION entries. That's a lot of sources to pull information from.
So, the next time you sit down to start writing about a subject that you think 'I have no personal experience in this', do some research, read a few books by others having to do with the same topics, see what they did and see if it sparks your imagination into life. But most importantly, read, read, read, then read some more, and when you are finished with that, read some more.
Until next time, Happy Writing!...and reading! :)