Write What You Know

“Write what you know.”

I wish I had a gallon of gas for each time I have read that in the past dozen years.

Once my idea of writing a novel became a reality, once I began to be slightly enthralled, and once the fact that I knew next to nothing about doing such a thing whacked me upside my head, I knew I had at least six years of research to do. I wanted to do it all in a month and get it over with. I was, at first, what I would call preoccupied. “At first” means about a week, after that I was obsessed. I haunted magazine racks for issues about writing, actually taking one right out of the stock lady’s hand. When I could get to a book store, I bought books on writing:  how to, what to, when to. My old computer nearly went over the rainbow bridge with exhaustion.

I made notes about notes and wondered why. I printed out advice articles and lay awake at night thinking about what I had read. I was tired, crabby and annoyed when I had to do something trivial like the laundry, or cook supper, or sweep the floor. But, by golly, I learned more than you could shake a pencil at! And one of the things I learned was to “write what you know.”

I argued with the WWYK promoters. Not the people themselves, of course, but in my head. I have read some large number of books with two or three zeroes behind it. Those authors could not possibly have known about all of which they wrote. Remember, I am a western and cowboy poet, and I hold to the idea that it is tough to write a believable line or verse about how horse sweat can smell good (yes it can), or what the wind sounds like rushing through the reaching limbs of a gray pine if you have not experienced those things. So how in the world did writers manage to create entire stories about murder and intrigue or love affairs or driving real, real fast? Know what I mean?

Now that I have written two full novels and umm, about a third of another, I get it. While you read the following, please keep in mind that as far as I can recall, I have never sneaked down a dark alley in the middle of the night with unlawful intentions:

The slender woman in black virtually floated within a hand’s width of the high board fence, footfalls silent, and being careful not to step out of the darkest of dark shadow so her presence would not cast out onto the rutted ground of the alleyway. She was good at this. So good. She made no more noise than the padded paws of the feral cats that prowled there. The blue points of starlight and the silver face of a lopsided slice of moon lit her way and that was fine. I was all she needed. When her next step would have her leave the fence’s shadow and approach the hedge edging the grassy backyard she paused to check herself carefully. Her gloved fingers ran around her hairline being sure every red-gold strand was tucked away beneath the woolen scarf. She had wrapped the dark, soft material snugly about her head, knotted it at her throat …

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