Write What You Know

About seven years ago at an RWA conference, I sat in on a workshop. In this workshop, attendees were asked to list every job we’ve ever had and the roles we’ve played in life throughout the years. I listed: Administrative Assistant to NY Fortune 500 Executive, Secretary in a pool of thirty, College student/graduate, receptionist at a veterinarian hospital, retail associate at a design store, owner of my own Interior Design business, Substitute teacher grades K-12, Girl Scout Leader, mother, sister, wife, daughter, godmother and aunt.

The speaker asked us to think about how we could use the professions we’ve spent time in as part of our books. Can our hero/heroine work in a field we’ve worked in? Can he/she be a parent? A scout leader? A teacher? An Admin? The speaker then went on to explain that if we took what we know and incorporated it into our books, not only would our writing voice be more genuine, but our hero/heroine would be more relatable.

Long after this workshop was over, I thought about what the speaker had said and something clicked. Yup. It was my light bulb moment. So, I took the speaker’s advice and incorporated a part of who I am into my next book, and like they say, the rest is history : )

My first book, All You Need Is Love features, Little Man, my family dog, who we lost to illness. By filling the pages of this book with his cuteness and adorable ways, he literally jumps off every page. I love dogs, always have, and through no planning of my own, a dog pops up in every book I write. It’s funny how the subconscious works, isn’t it? My critique partner says having a dog in all my books is part of my ‘brand’ and I suppose she’s right. All I know is that dog’s allow us to be vulnerable. We’re allowed to be our true selves around them without judgment and their unconditional love brightens the darkest day.

Marrying Mr. Right’s heroine, Missy Modesto, is similar to a good friend I’ve known my whole life. Missy is a strong woman with a heart of gold and although years may pass between visits, when my old friend and I that based Missy on, do meet, it feels like days not years have passed: )

Training Travis is about a divorced dad who gains custody of his fifteen year old daughter after his ex-wife’s untimely death. And even though I can’t relate to divorce, I am the mother of two girls, so I can relate to Travis’ daughter and the mood swings of a teenage girl : )

My first woman’s fiction, Pieces Of Candy, is about a menopausal, mother of two. Candy is a substitute teacher and decides she’s fed up and wants a career of her own. So begins her journey into interior design.

All of these characters/stories parallel my life in one way or another, and it isn’t by coincidence. I took the speaker’s advice at that conference long ago, and I didn’t just find my writing voice, I found out who I am as a writer because I write what I know.

Do you write what you know? And if so, how do you think your writing process has changed since you’ve started to write what you know?


Cathy Tully

2 responses to “Write What You Know

  1. I mostly write what I know about and what I do not know about, I try to research. Yet, because I write Sci Fi, there are some aspects that I have to rely on my imagination, like strange creatures and space travels. Yet, I write the characters and creatures similar to the ones we have here on Earth. Sometimes it is best not to completely reinvent material or history.
    As for changing my writing process, I’ve changed it some. I’ve stopped going back and changing chapter 1 and 2 every time an idea popped up. Now, I make a note in bold letters and highlight it so that it sticks out. Then I continue writing.
    I also free write my first draft so that I can get all my ideas down. This way i do not get bogged down trying to put everything I needed in the beginning chapters in order to foreshadow until it come time for me to edit the material.

    Dennis H. Clarkston
    AKA Clark Stone

  2. Great comment Dennis, thank you. I love when other writer’s share their process. I have also stopped going back to chaps 1-3 and changing things as I write. It’s a time suck. Now I wait until the end of the first draft and then go back, because like you, I note the ideas that pop up while I’m writing and then go back and insert them into the manuscript. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts : )

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