Write What You Know
I started my first novel when I was nine (won’t mention the year, smile). The title was Murder in Egypt. It took place at an archaeological dig in the desert. It had a great cast of characters, twisty plot. I never finished the story though it captivated me for months.
In 1999, at a writer’s workshop I first heard “write what you know.” What the heck did that mean? I was a wife and mother; I knew plenty. But apparently not enough. Rejection after rejection came in. I blamed the publishers/editors for their lack of vision.
It was about this time another thought hit—okay, exploded—into my head. Could I have stumbled upon the reason for the unfinished Egypt manuscript? Could the fact that I’d never been out of Massachusetts have anything to do with not finishing a novel set thousands of miles away?
Throughout high school, the mention of reports and term papers brought sweat from every pore. I was bored silly by research. What got turned in was unemotional rote.
I got hired by a local magazine in 1998 and received my first assignment, to research a long-abandoned town at the end of a road that got more overgrown every year. “Damn, more research,” I groused. The librarian pointed me to, rather than the research section, a man who’d lived during that era. From that moment, the word research took on a whole new meaning. Everything in the world is there, you just have to look and learn, so you can…write what you know.