Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Breaking the Write Rules #IWSG #writing

The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day.
The Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

IWSG Asks: What writing rule do you wish you’d never heard?


Everybody's got them.

Every job requires them.

However, some rules are flexible, yes?

When it comes to writing there are some rules that you really should follow, but inevitably there comes along a rule that just doesn't sit well. 

In my case it's the rule Write What You Know

This is a rule that I heard when I was a young lass just beginning to research the writing craft. Even as a rebellious youth, this rule bothered me.

As a teenager, I had dozens ideas for stories, but none of them were focused around stuff that I knew. I was just a kid in school doing kid stuff. Sure, I wrote my own version of Nancy Drew, my stories usually centered around a young girl around my age getting into some manner of mischief with her friends. 

But, I had other story ideas, too. Many involving stuff that I didn't know much about. So, did that mean I shouldn't write them? I was determined, however, to stretch my writing muscles. I wanted to write. About anything. About everything.

That's what libraries were research the stuff that I didn't know.  Of course, nowadays, we have the benefit of the internet, but I'm going way back when I didn't even have a computer! (gasp)

During my writing infancy, I began by writing stories involving Native American Indians. I was avidly interested in the tribes that once lived in my neck of the woods, but when I started out I knew basically nothing about them aside from a few stories I had read. Those stories had sparked an interest in me so I began researching more about them. I borrowed or bought every book I could find from libraries and bookstores. I visited every museum in the area and bombarded the people who worked there with many questions. I discovered local landmarks where Indian attacks on settlers took place or areas that were said to have once been villages. I also attended and participated in local Indian Pow-wows that popped up during the summers. I danced in the friendship dances, I spoke with Natives about their culture and history, I even began teaching myself some of their language both spoken and sign language. It was fun and exciting to learn about an entire group of people that my school only briefly mentioned once in a while around Thanksgiving...most of which was not even true.

I spent years researching until I felt comfortable writing stories from an American Indian's perspective as well as setting the stories during the Colonial Days of Pennsylvania. After all, my stories were historical.

If I had followed the advise of simply writing what I knew, then I might've stuck with writing young adult stories involving the drama of teenaged angst. Since, at that time, that was all I really knew. 

Writing what I didn't know opened a whole new world to me as well as a new perspective on life. It started me on a path that snowballed into a love of learning that was incomparable to anything the schools could teach me. 

I guess, after all, some rules are made to be broken. 

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Happy Writing!


  1. Some rules are definitely made to be broken. As a sci-fi writer, I've written plenty of stories that lie beyond my realm of experience. Research helps a lot, and we have plenty of life experiences that help inform our writing no matter how far from our normal lives our stories take us.

  2. I have an incomplete sci-fi prison break manuscript as a kid with the main character being a serial killer who could only see the color red in a future where the United States and Germany had taken over the world and not for the better. Now I was never a teenager going through any of that. So yeah...that rule is completely ignored by me. Write things readers can engage with sounds way more plausible. Happy New Year Tricia and it's great to see that you decided to research Native Americans when you wanted to write about them. Too many writers run into trouble writing misguided tales because of lack of knowledge.

    2017 IWSG January Co-Host

  3. Another sci-fi writer chiming in. What I wouldn't give to have first-hand experience in outer space. Research, research, research. But I think the one thing we can all do to follow that rule is to write our feelings about similar situations. Use what we've experienced so the reader can feel it, too. Otherwise, that's a dumb rule. Happy 2017.