Write What You (Don’t) Know


Actually, writing is not all that complicated. You have a very simple choice when you write:

  • Write what you know.
  • Write what you don’t know.

It’s that simple.

Not easy. Just simple.


Write What You Know

You might know a great deal about something – or a little bit about many things. The trick is deciding how you want to combine these knowings into a piece of writing.

The Life and Times of … You!

On any given Wednesday, slightly later than lunch, you might think that you have a truly boring life and an uninspiring existence. But don’t sell yourself short.

Maybe some things are slightly ordinary: making porridge; checking your mail; watering the plants; washing the car.

But twiddle with them and you could have something worth writing about, for instance:

  • Porridge vs Cereal … and the Winner is …
  • What Should Happen With Your Email Account After Your Death?
  • Home-made Mixes to Make Your Violets Blush
  • 7 Shiny Car-washing Rules

Yeah. You get the idea.

And I didn’t even mention the stuff that you did that was actually … to be honest … quite spectacular.  Such as the prize for the biggest zit in school; swimming with dolphins; losing your baby fat/abusive partner/mind.

Lots of stuff to write about. Lots.


Friends and Enemies … Lend Me Your Lives!

You are not such a dull person, after all, don’t you agree? And, being a special person, you have intriguing friends and spectacular enemies. And they all have such interesting lives that you could … well, kinda borrow a section or so for a storyline or a blog post. (You will return it, after all!)

Seriously – people you know and love, or people you know and don’t love that much, are a bit like the spices in a great stew. They make it all come together.

Their lives could offer direct inspiration. If a friend did something amazing, or lived through something that could guide or inspire others, think about doing an interview for a blog or an article. Or use what they know as the background for a plot.

If you do a straight interview, let them approve it once it’s done and before it’s published. If you used an experience from their lives, discuss the ways in which you would like to use it so that it doesn’t cause them embarrassment. Be prepared to give it up, if necessary. It wasn’t after all, yours to start with.

Maybe some friends could inspire characters. Be careful, though. They should provide inspiration for a character, not act as a blueprint. A quirk that you could attach to your villain. Or kindness that you could give to your strong male lead character. Maybe just the glint in their eye or the way in which they touch with strength, but also with compassion.

When you are dealing with others, always remember to step carefully.


Write What You Don’t Know

However, writing is not only about the five senses or the past, present and future of a life lived.

It’s also about Middle-earth,

the Emerald City

and Hogwarts.

It’s about going Where No Man Has Gone Before.

It’s about Shrek,

Nemo and

living in a Giant Peach.

Come on … if you can dream it … you can write it. (With apologies to Kevin.)

Writing is the most (good, clean, legal) fun you can have with a keyboard. Go for it!

Silly Prompts and Serious Ideas – Wacky Ways to Warm Up Your Writing Muscle!

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Maybe you want to start a project. Maybe you are working on one, but it seems uninspired. Maybe the white page/screen has become more foe than friend.

Whether you are looking for fresh ideas, or just need a way to get unstuck, the following could help you get going (again):


Use Keywords

The idea behind Google Adwords is to help advertisers see which keywords are hot or not. Little did they know that it is a great tool for potential writers as well. Have a look here http://tinyurl.com/27uvznm to see how it works.

Using Google Adwords is a great place to start if you are into writing non-fiction. Simply type in your keyword(s) and do the search. Remember to keep the option “broad” rather than specific if you want to use this as a tool for ideas.

Your search returns will have the word(s) you asked for, but also link the word  to other keywords or show it as part of a phrase – the way that real people looked for something to do with this topic on Google Search. You will also see how often these were searched globally and in the area you choose.

Great ideas for blogs! You can download and save the searches as Excel files. Remember to rename each file by adding the original keyword(s) so that you can easily sort these into groups that might make up different chapters of your new eBook!


Use an Online Writing Prompt

Writing prompts are to a writer what warm-up exercises are to an athlete. Some days your writing muscle just seems to be a bit stiff and you stare at the page/screen feeling old and empty. Or you could be stuck with a story and not know how to continue. Use the writing prompt to get the writer’s muscle nice and warm and ready for a sprint, or a marathon.

And do remember to keep what you wrote – later it might actually grow into its own work of fiction, a blog or a book.  You will be able to find many online writing prompts, but here are three websites to get you started:

Creative Writing Prompts (http://creativewritingprompts.com/) has a creative approach: a list of numbers. As you move your cursor over each of the numbers (there are 346), you will get a pop-window with a writing prompt. From the divine to ridiculous – lots of fun!

 Writer’s Digest has a free download called “The Writing Prompt Boot Camp” that you can download here http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-prompts and that will give you a writing prompt for 16 days in a row.

Creative Writing Solutions (http://www.creative-writing-solutions.com/creative-writing-prompts.html) also has some great writing prompts, but some of them, especially the ones dealing with plot development, could actually be more than just mental finger exercises – you might just get a book out of them.


Use Online Images

Writers create mental images as they write and readers do the same. So why not use images to get you started?

Find a great image and imagine it as a snapshot taken at some point in someone’s life.  What happened before the time? What was happening at that precise moment when the snapshot was taken? Who are the other characters? Why are they involved? What will happen afterwards? Just keep asking questions and you’ll soon have a strong plot and some interesting characters.

Obviously you can use real photographs, or page through magazines or coffee table books. But online images are simple to find and there are multitudes.

Google Images makes it really easy. Simply do a keyword search using Google’s Images search function. (Look for the word “Images” on the top bar of your browser.). If you searched for the words “lonely man”, you would find all of these: http://tinyurl.com/d8nmzlm. Surely one or two of these would be interesting enough to get you writing?

Pinterest is as great a tool. Look at what the same search for “lonely man” returned on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/search/pins/?q=lonely+man  Again … lots and lots of writing ideas here!


Linking Words

For this one you need to draw a table with three columns. Make about ten or so rows. In the left column now start filling in random adjectives. Anything will do – don’t think, just write. In the middle column you do the same, using random nouns. Anything – human, non-human, animal, plant – again, don’t think, just write. And in the last column you add some prepositional phrases, such as “over the hill”, “during lunch”, “at noon”, etc.

Now choose any word from the first column, add any word from the second column and end with any phrase from the third column. Write this down. Do the next one. Do NOT go down the column – choose the words randomly each time. You will end up with a list of weird and wonderful writing prompts such as “green icebergs on Saturday” and “happy dress beyond the horizon”.

Okay … now choose one and start writing. Most of these will be truly silly, but your job here is not to be your own judge and jury – it is simply to get started, to get the creative juices going.

And to prove to yourself that you ARE a writer and you can write about anything! You never know where these wacky prompts could lead you … I mean: “A cat in a hat” or “Green eggs and ham”?

As soon as you feel all happy and creative and positive, leave this silly exercise and pour all of that creativity into your “real” writing.

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