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If I had to list the three writing tips I heard most often, they would be 1. Read all the time, 2. Write every day, and 3. Write what you know.

Now, while not all writing advice works for everyone, for me, this is pretty solid advice. (I hadn’t meant to talk about tips 1 & 2, but let me touch on those briefly anyway.) The best way to not just understand writing and story structure but to internalize it is to read. 2. I don’t actually think you have to write every single day, but the gist of the tip is that if you want to actually finish something you need to actually write. It could be every day, every other day, just on the weekends, once a month. Whatever works for you and your writing goals.

I think there is a lot more to be said about writing what you know. A lot of people take it at face value. They get hung up because they don’t want to write about growing up in the middle of nowhere with four siblings, 3 cats, and 6 dogs. They want to write about ghosts and monsters, magic…murder. Now, obviously, (hopefully?) we don’t know about monsters and murder. Some of us have never seen a ghost or don’t believe in magic. I’m pretty sure that Patricia C. Wrede has never talked to dragons.

Now, we can take “write what you know” two ways: literally and figuratively.

Literally: if you want to write about something you don’t know about, then research it. Google it, find some academic articles (honestly, depending on the story, wikipedia isn’t a bad source. Wanna write about fairies? Probably not too many academic articles on that. Taxidermy, on the other hand…), talk to an expert. Seriously, pick up the phone and call your local taxidermist or whatever. Research it and then it is something that you know. Write what you know.

Figuratively: what it comes down to is emotions. You’re human, you have presumably had some experiences and felt some emotions. Make your piece relatable by helping us to feel what you have felt. 

I would say that stories are best taking a combination of these. Make sure you do enough research to know what you’re talking about, but don’t forget to add the emotion. That’s where you really hook a reader. 

This is not to say you shouldn’t write about what you know. By all means, if you love to ride horses and you want to write about a girl taming an unruly horse and winning a race with it, go for it. Just remember to make us feel.

As a final note, if you do want to write about your life, maybe consider creative nonfiction?

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