14.50: Write What You… No.

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Margaret, and Howard

We’ve all heard the adage “write what you know,” and in this episode we set out to un-misinterpret it. The phrase is fraught, and perhaps the most perilous bit is that it can be used an excuse to not write. Here at Writing Excuses we’re pretty committed to approaching things in ways that let us do MORE writing, so this topic is a great place for us to leave you out of excuses.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson


Take a thing you’re familiar with, and make it a superpower

Armistice: Amberlough Dossier, Book 2, by Lara Elena Donnelly, narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal

4 thoughts on “14.50: Write What You… No.”

  1. I’ve also heard “Write what you WANT to know,” especially when it comes to first drafts, so when you get into the research phase you have a direction in which to expand your horizon, and you get the benefit of your personal investment of wonder and curiosity. This advice was mostly aimed at nonfic writers but I find it useful for fiction too.

    Screenwriters and playwrights have a lot to offer the novelist, I agree with Margaret 100 percent. In David Mamet’s MasterClass for writing drama, he recounts a student asking “Should I write from my own experiences?” and the response was “What choice do you have?”

  2. A novelist, a puppeteer, and a web comic artist walked into a podcast, and talked with a screenwriter about “right watt u no?” No, no, write what you know! Yes, Brandon, Mary Robinette, Howard, and Margaret took on the old adage, and talked about how to use what you know in your writing, even if you are writing fantasy and science fiction. Corporate dysfunction, the streets of LA, puppetry, addiction, Muppets, even learning… go ahead and read all about it in the transcript available now in the archives.

  3. This doesn’t 100% apply to “write what you know”, but one question I had was how should you go about using existing languages as bases for made up ones? Would it be disrespectful in some way to use a culture’s language without directly representing the culture itself? If so, how much do you have to abstract the language for this to no longer be an issue?

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