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Write what you know?

Cheryl's Musings: Write what you know?

Cheryl's Musings

How to Thrive on the Writer's Road


Write what you know?

I'm taking a brief departure from talking about how to stay motivated to tackle another topic: what to write. We've all heard the advice to write what you know. It's good advice--it steers us toward writing we can do with passion, detail, and accuracy--but I'd argue that it's incomplete advice. We shouldn't necessarily write what we know, because the chances are that lots of other people know the same things. Instead, we should write what only we know.

Here's what I mean: editors often talk about "overdone stories." In the nonfiction realm, stories about animal life cycles, animal rescues, and wildlife rehabilitation centers have been done and redone--making them very difficult to sell. In the land of fiction, you're going to have a tough time selling a book about a magic school unless you have a very unique twist. When I bid on jobs as a freelancer, there are lots of jobs I can do--but only a few where I will stand out of the crowd. I think the same applies to children's writing.

In the business world, it's known as playing to your "core competency"--a term which, I'm told, is a 3-pointer on buzzword bingo. Core competency is your area of expertise, which fits the "write what you know" idea. And successful businesses make sure that 1) they are better than anyone else in this area, and 2) they are unique in this area.

As you write today, ask yourself these questions:

  1. How does this piece differ from others on the same topic? How can I make it unique?

  2. What can I bring to the writing that ONLY I can bring to the writing? What knowledge or life experience or passion or details can I offer that no one else can offer?

Those are the things that will make your writing stand out of the crowd.

:) Cheryl

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