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.
There’s no snow here in Florida, but Christmas remains a magical time of the year. I have delicious memories of running downstairs to a room full of presents. Lots of socks and underwear, lots of candy, lots of toys of dubious quality, and books. My parents, readers themselves, knew of my love for the written word and always gave me some books for Christmas.
It’s a worthy tradition and I encourage each of you to adopt it. Might I humbly make some suggestions?
For grade school kids, Always Look for the Magic, by Bonnie Manning Anderson, or Do Angels Still Fall? by Robert Swanson.
For older teens, Me and the Maniac in Outer Space by Robert Swanson.
For the college-aged young adults, So Many Mountains… Which Ones to Climbby Aron Osborne (also good for every teen and adult of any age).
For the married couple, Cherishing Us by Tom and Debi Walter, and 7 Essentials to Grow Your Marriage by Steve and Cindy Wright.
All available on Amazon!
May you have a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year!
I first read So Many Mountains… Which Ones to Climb? What Really Matters in Church Life a few months ago, straight out of Aron’s hands. Let me tell you what struck me about this book:
So many things Aron shared about his first steps in Christianity were like reading my own biography. There was an immediate kinship with the author.
Reading it is effortless. It’s like talking with Aron on the front porch of a beach house, lemonade in tall, cool glasses sweating in our hands.
An instant sense that this is the book all Christians should read. We’ve been getting slammed by unbelievers for far too many good reasons. Aron address those here, artfully throwing out the dirty bathwater while keeping the beautiful baby right where he belongs.
While it was an affirmation to my beliefs, I know it’s going to ruffle some legalistic feathers (that deserve to be ruffled!).
Weeks after I read it, whole chapters came to mind. “Ah, I’m living that chapter; ooops, I’m failing that chapter.”
I’m a better person and Christian for reading it.
You’re going to feel like you personally know Aron once you’ve read it.
This kind of book, like all our others, is why Prevail Press exists. This book, and all the others, deserve a place on your bookshelf.
Vanity Press is a term for alternative publishing that preys on desperate authors.
We’re not that.
Vanity Press takes anyone who will pay them.
We take overlooked, fantastic authors. We help people with potential and turn away people who haven’t yet mastered their craft.
Vanity Press charges so much you’ll never make your money back.
We don’t. Yes, we charge, but very little; a fraction of what VP charges (on order of about $9,000 less).
Vanity Press forces you to use their editors, book designers and cover designers.
We don’t. If your book needs editing, we’ll offer some suggestions for no-cost editing, or refer you to a qualified editor. Or you can hire your own. Same with book and cover design. We can help, but if you have them already, no need to pay us for them.
Vanity Press requires you to buy a minimum number of book copies, at a mark up.
We don’t. You don’t have to order any, or you can in any quantity you want. We don’t mark up the price and we don’t take a percentage.
Vanity Press is about making money any way they can.
We aren’t. All you pay is a low amount for time and administration. Once you earn back every penny with your 70% commission (Amazon get the other 30%), we’ll charge 10% (which is about .20 per book). However, that is covered through the sales we inspire with our network of promoting writers.
We will always be honest with you. Chances are high that your book will need editing. Editor’s books need editing. You should invest in this even if you self-publish.
All told, you will spend less with Prevail Press than you would self-publishing. In the next post, I’ll detail the benefits of publishing your book with Prevail Press.
A unique publisher who is Author-Centric and Reader-Sensitive