Everyone's heard the old piece of writing advice, only write what you know.
Hogwash. Or if you prefer something stronger, bullshit.
If I sat down to write a book, or short story, or even an article, and only wrote what I know, it would be terribly boring. I'd have to write about a middle-aged woman living in the suburbs with a husband and two grown sons, whose days consist of checking email, reading blogs, writing, cleaning, cooking, and on occasion, cleaning up cat puke. Not exactly a compelling story.
A better piece of advice is to write what you love.
What are your passions? Let's say you love boats and water. Your nearest body of water is a tiny creek a mile away, and owning any kind of boat, let alone a large one would require hitting the Powerball jackpot. But in your daydreams you can feel the warm ocean breeze on your face as you glide over the sparkling turquoise water. You look stunning in your white capris and striped navy and white tank. Or if you're a man, you look just like Tom Selleck in his Magnum days. Personally, I'd look stunning in the capris and Tom would be standing beside me. Or better yet, behind me. His hands touch my shoulders. He turns me around to face him... Oops. Sorry. Got carried away there.
Ahem. Back to my point.
In your real life, the above would never happen. You don't know a thing about boats or boating. If you stick to the only write what you know theory, you shouldn't write it. But if you really think about it, how many successful writers follow that principle? I counted zero. Zero. Most writers incorporate what they know with what they love, or at the very least, things that interest them. After all, anything can be researched.
Do you think Nancy Martin is a bad girl with mobsters for relatives? Wrong. Nancy's a nice, happily married woman, and as far as I know, there are no mobsters in her family. Nancy is a Pittsburgher, so she's combined that real-life setting with her penchant for creating interesting characters and situations.
Do you think Jennie Bentley remodels houses with a hunky guy named Derek? Not that I know of. Unless that's her husband's name. I'm pretty sure she's never found bones buried in her basement, or been locked in a tunnel room with a corpse. Jennie has a background in real estate and combines her knowledge of houses with her vivid imagination.
And what about Wilfred Bereswill? His protagonist is a female. Even though Will looks fabulous in a dress (yes, I had to bring that up again!), he's not a woman. I'm sure his wife will verify this. Will uses his environmental engineering background to come up with fascinating terrorists and worst-case scenarios.
I could go on and on.
Think about your favorite authors. How do they write what they love? How do they combine that with what they know?
How do you do that in your own writing?
Be sure to come back tomorrow when we're joined by guest blogger Kate Douglas, who will be giving us all advice on never giving up. Kate is the author of the paranormal romance, DemonFire, the first in a new series.