Write ‘What You Know’ or ‘What You Love’

It is hard to know, for sure, which works best . . .

I have attended numerous creative writing classes and workshops over the years, all of them offering valuable advice.  But there has always been two conflicting pieces of advice, from well-known, established writers, which still cause me confusion.  Some writers feel that you should only –



while other writers feel you should only –


Thankfully, I have done well with both.  But I do find it weird, firstly that I have ever written a poignant short story and secondly that it won first prize!  This obviously came about, sub-consciously, from the Write What You Know rule of thumb as, although most of it was fiction, elements of my childhood memories also emerged.  I remember being in an exceptionally good mood the evening I wrote it – and I knew it was totally unlike anything else I had ever written.  Weirder still when I NEVER, intentionally, read sad stories or watch sad movies.  But, I really liked this one, and thankfully, so did the judges . . .

Having said that, I feel that my heart definitely lies on the side of Write What You Love – which, for me, would have to be psychological thrillers!  Even though this is not necessarily the area that I would, personally, know the most about.  I devour thrillers and my latest rule, to read only one-book-at-a-time, has me reading a fascinating book on forensics.  Maybe not the best bed-time read, with pen-in-hand, as I take notes for my latest crime scene!  But I am delighted that, by writing what I love, one of my thriller short stories was recently given an honorary mention and is due to be published very soon.

I would be very interested in your views and comments, as either a writer or a reader, as to which you think works best for you and why . . .

About Susan Condon

Irish Writer and Poet. Award winning, published short story writer.

Posted on January 1, 2012, in Writing Tips and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Mhhh, I love YA, but its difficult to find a good with beautiful writing and a great plot. Saying that, there are some YA authors that I would crawl through fire to read Brenna Yovanoff, Tessa Gratton, Maggie Steivatter and I adore Catherynne M. Valente.

    I mean Catherynne M. Valente is an artistic with language.


  2. I was wondering the same thing yesterday, your post coudln’t have come at a better time.

    I read a lot of very different books cause I am still trying to find the genre I like, my conclusion is that I like ’em all. When I write, I just go with my gut.

    Congrats on winning.



    • Thanks for your comments Michelle. Who are your favourite authors and out of the last ten books that you read would there be a genre you’ve veered more towards? I love a mix too, but definitely found over the last years that 8/10 books I read are thrillers . . .


  3. Susan – great blog! I’ve always felt it would be easier to add to one’s knowledge than it would be to add to one’s loves. The latter is a more passionate state, something nurtured over a long time, and therefore easier for the writer to dip into the memory bank of emotions. That’s a flowery way of saying I write about the things that I love (in this case action thrillers) – and if I need to know more about certain things then I’ll do my research. I would guess that makes us alike.


    • Too true Joe – I can relate to all you’ve said! I love the entire thriller roller-coaster – from getting to know the characters (the good and the bad), to guessing how the plot will unfold and be resolved – there’s nothing quite like a great story with plenty of twists and turns along the way . . .


  4. There’s lots of different advice out there, but for what it is worth, in my humble opinion, you have to write, what you love to write, whether it is something you know about, or need to find out about. I’ve given up being too logical about the reasons behind why I choose certain forms of writing, I have learned to just go by my gut feeling. If it excites me, or takes me to a place I think is well worth the visit, then I can’t resist.


    • Sounds like good advice Louise. Probably what happened to me when I wrote that poignant story – even though, I’d never have considered writing something like that it wouldn’t let me go until it was written . . .


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