This is wonderful writing advice. Write what you know.
It may not mean what you think it means, though. It doesn’t mean you have to write about your school, your job, your family. It doesn’t have to be set in your town or your time period. If that was the case, we wouldn’t have science-fiction, time travel, fantasy, historical fiction or alternative history. Heck, we wouldn’t have interesting stories.
What it means is use your own experiences, your own relationships, your own understanding of the universe as templates within your story. It’s the only way for your story to be “true.”
What would you do, or your sister do, or your friend, enemy, teacher, uncle, do in that situation? How would they react?
There is a dance to most relationships, and that dance can be applied to paper heroes. Imagine the dance between you and your spouse, or a prickly sibling. What if a captain and commander echoed those dances?
People of the past in historical settings may have conditions pressing on the dance, but by including the modified dance, it feels true to us (or will to you, and therefore to us, because you write with understanding).
So write what you know about human interaction, and for everything else research, research, research!
As a habit, I ask people if A) They are readers, and B) Fiction or Non-Fiction?
Invariably, of the readers (about 33% claim to be) children are fiction readers, women are predominately fiction with a dose of non-fiction, and most men are non-fiction.
Yet, demographically, married men don’t buy the books, their wives do. The thought is that women buy their men non-fiction to improve their husbands. There is a shift around Christmas time where women buy the men fiction, typically thriller, suspense and shoot-em-ups. Fiction makes good stocking-stuffers?
At the same time, of those I speak to, the men are the buyers. Amazon has a larger sampling than I do, however, by about 50,000%.
Now let’s look at age of buyers. Young adults buy sporadically, and solidify the habit as they grow older. 30- to 40-year-olds are the gravy train; they’re up and comers looking for solid non-fiction and escapist fiction (as well as books for their children. Readers beget readers. My parents were voracious readers). 50- to 60-year-old readers drop off a bit, then retirees pick it back up. Many of these join book clubs, though as the more tech-savvy people age up, this is expected to shift back to online sales, and book clubs to fall by the wayside.
Another Amazon statistic is that the authors who sell the most books year-over-year are those who sell non-fiction, the biggest areas are finance, business and writing-as-a-business. Writers, of course, are readers.
I have always been a fiction guy. From age 4 to now-55, I’ve read all genres. I’ve always struggled with non-fiction. I start strong and then put it down somewhere mid-book. I have read many all the way through, but not most.
All that to ask, what should you write?
My answer: What you want to write.
Every author wants to make money writing. For some it’s a way to keep track of how many are reading their book, and for others it’s so they can quit their day job and focus on writing. Or retire to a beach sipping margaritas.
There are two kinds of writers though: Those who love to write, and those who write to make a buck. Of course there is cross-over. If you love to write, though, write what you want. Trying to write toward trends, toward what’s selling now, is a good way to miss the wave. Write what you love and you may start the next trend.
If you write non-fiction, write non-fiction.
If you’re a novelist, write novels. BUT. Some advice I don’t give to non-fiction writers… Keep the idea of writing a non-fiction book in the back of your head. Perhaps your research for your novel can be spun into a non-fiction book. Be on the lookout for this.
I have. My next book is non-fiction, and I think it’s an important book. I think I’ll sell more of that book than my others combined. I also hope it will help sell my other books. The key to selling more books is writing more books.
What’s your thoughts on this? I’d love to know.
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