Write What You Know
The old saying seems to be the norm in the publishing world. Especially when it comes to building a platform. Most of the books that I’ve picked up and research that I’ve done pertains to nonfiction work. There just aren’t many resources geared for fiction authors. The experts say to become an expert in something in order to build a platform around it. That’s fine if you have a particular subject you write about or you’re trying to teach something. It’s easier to build a platform and define an audience with those criteria for sure. My interests are so varied that I really cannot claim to be an expert in anything. Though, my experience and interest in the paranormal, along with my research over the years probably fuels my writing and is likely what others would consider my area of expertise. You’ll likely read a number of entries pertaining to my views on the research I do over time but, I wouldn’t call myself an expert. It is hard to be an expert in a subject that is, by its very definition, largely unknown.
For fiction writers things are a little different. Its important for us to keep our options rather open. We often research things that interest us to include in our work. And the beauty of that is that we can use multiple subjects and influences to make our work more interesting. There are many things that go into creating a novel but I think the most important element is character. In that regard, maybe fiction writers should become experts in psychology to understand the quirks and subtle nuances of people. Some of us probably are psychologists. But the truth is that so many, myself included, learn those things through observation rather than through academic study. How we develop characters is another blog topic entirely though.
This “Write What You Know” concept has been around for ages. And I think that for many it has been a good suggestion. However, where would literature be without free thinkers and writers who went out of their comfort zone to research and put forth new ideas and concepts? I think about Jules Verne in particular along with other science fiction authors. They have to research technology, medical sciences, space explorations, and other elements in order to make their worlds come alive. So, I think that it is also important for authors to get outside the comfort zone once in a while.
For my part, I get out of my comfort zone in Steampunk fiction. To build the world that I’m working on now it has taken a good deal of research into technology, Victorian customs, and medical terminology. There is also trying to get a better feel for what’s been done and what hasn’t. I personally don’t like to limit myself. I’ve found many good stories in various genres and I don’t read just one. I don’t expect that the people who read my work will be genre-specific either. Maybe I’m wrong in that expectation but I’d like to think that people have varied interests instead of tunnel-vision. But am I right in that thinking?
What do you think readers? Do you stick to a single genre or would say that you’re more multi-faceted than that?