“Write what you know.”
Can this piece of advice be helpful? Yes and no–but mostly no.
So perhaps your story is set in Japan, yet you live in Texas and have never visited. Obviously you don’t know Japan as well as someone who actually lives there. But the solution to most problems such as these are research. Talk to people who live there, look up major cities, make it so that you know the area your book is set in like the back of your hand.
The reason why “write what you know” can be bad advice is that what writers know isn’t always interesting. JK Rowling doesn’t know any wizards. JRR Tolkien never visited Middle Earth. So what? Thinking that you can only write what you know sets up a box for writers and gives them a very limited field to write in. Sure, maybe writing characters with personalities similar to people you know in real life is easier than creating an entire character from scratch, but the issue is that writers should not repeat life; they embellish it. They take what they know and transform it into something they can convince their readers is fact. Use your natural resources, but don’t work yourself into a box.
- “Force Yourself to Write.”
This advice also falls into the in-between. There are moments where it’s absolutely crucial to meet a deadline, so forcing the words out is the only way to meet the deadline with a final product that can be edited. But if you’re in no rush to finish the book–say if writing isn’t your primary job or focus–then waiting for inspiration isn’t a crime. Everyone writes at their own pace. Don’t let other writers make you feel rushed when they tell you that “real writers write every day”. You know what writers do? Write. At their own pace, in their own time. That’s all. Even if you’re having a dry spell or lack of inspiration, you are still a writer.
- “NEVER use flashbacks, prologues, this trope, that trope, blah blah blah….”
Often writers and occasionally agents or editors will say, “Don’t write a book with the Chosen trope! It’s way too overdone!” or “No prologues!”
Writing is a never-say-never field. There are always way around the rules. Rules put in place by agents and editors are typically because those current tropes, etc, are hard to sell.
This often discourages writers from writing the prologue they want, or using the “chosen” trope they’ve been stewing on for months. There are always ways to break the rules–and you should pursue them. Some books break the stereotype of having useless flashbacks and have flashbacks that tie everything in together for the rest of the book (such as The Fall by Bethany Griffin). Don’t let the rules discourage you. Learn them, analyze them, and then think of the best way possible to break them.
“Self publishing/Traditional publishing is the best way to go!”
Publishing is different for everyone. It’s best to do heavy research on both and decide what is best for YOU. Some people thrive off of self publishing, such as the author of Fifty Shades of Grey. Others become successful through traditional publishing. Every person is different, and don’t let anyone tell you that one way to publish is right or wrong.