Help Desk: 3 steps to decide if “Write what you know” is best

Maybe it’s the lure of the internet; or a desire to write novels or maybe it’s your vocation.

No matter how you’ve found yourself in the world’s second oldest profession; you, like most writers, probably have forgotten the most important element.  “Write what you know” becomes plausible when you know for whom you are writing. Therefore,

A professional writer, litterateur, will ultimately have to decide on an audience.

Even if you’ve chosen to become a writer or if writing has chosen you, you must decide one of the following:

  1. write for yourself (an audience of 1)
  2. write for the audience you already have. (built-in audience)
  3. write for the audience you desire.  (break into a new genre)

Now of course, there’s no easy answer here. There are consequences attached to any of the 3.

Audience of 1

When you write for yourself, it can be a lucrative venture if you can find an audience filled with like-minded consumers. If not, then your writing will be akin to journaling or a hobby.

Remember, it’s only a profession if someone pays you to do it.

If you are looking to make a living from your creation, then note – most of your time will be split between writing and aggressively marketing and promoting your work.

Known Audience

Writing for the audience you already have may be lucrative but being comfortable may not challenge your writing ability or ignite your passion for exploring new worlds.  Your growth and excitement, however, will come from exploring ways to connect, develop and build new relationships through your writing. As you expand your network you’ll have them accompany you and you them on adventures to broaden your skill-set while expanding their knowledge base.

Unknown Audience

Writing for the audience you desire i.e., breaking into a genre or creating a new one, such as the recently created “New Adult” will require you to become intimate with the audience’s needs, wants and desires to communicate with them successfully. It will require you to learn how to build worlds they’ll respond to in a new genre or discipline.

Look into the abyss, it looks back into you.

It will require you to morph into an audience member to see the world from their perspective.  At the same time, you’ll have to elevate your writing style to reach them.  For example, New Adult genre deals with challenges and conflict of “new adults – the 18-30 year old age group.  Unless you’re in that age group, not only will you have to reach back in time – you will have to apply what you remember to the current era.

Reinventing yourself as a writer, on this level, might get your heart racing as it requires you to develop a part of yourself that might be hidden or otherwise ignored. Further, understanding the audience and the literary narrative they consume, is to embark on a lifetime adventure.

So, there you have it; now you can approach “Writing what you know” in earnest with full knowledge of how much time you’ll have to commit to your art.