Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Write What You Know (or take a first-hand look)

Edie here. Today I'm excited to introduce the newest member of The Write Conversation blogging team. Linda Gilden has guested her several time and I know you all already love her as much as I do. Now she'll be a regular monthly contributor. so be sure and show her some love!

One of the first pieces advice writers here is, "Write what you know."
Write What You Know

by Linda Gilden @LindaGilden

One of the first pieces of advice beginning writers receive is to “write what you know.” But once the honeymoon of your writing career is over, how do you expand what you know?
The obvious types of research – reading, interviewing, visiting key sites, personal experiences, etc. – will definitely expand your storehouse of factual material. But perhaps you need to explore new territory and actually step into the subject of your article, gleaning first-hand experience as a means of research?
When you write what you know, you can provide your reader with insider information. You have “been there, done that” and your confidence will assure your reader that you can be trusted. Your writing will come alive with your excitement of having experienced the setting or activity yourself. Becoming a temporary expert not only strengthens your writing but also will broaden the base from which you write.

Years ago I wrote for a national sports ministry. When I was asked to write the new soccer handbook, there was a problem. Even though my children had played soccer, I was always the mom in the stands who sometime had to be reminded which goal was our goal and often cheered at the wrong time or for the wrong team. So when I began to write the handbook, my son’s high school friends who were on the soccer team stopped by in the afternoons to demonstrate the different soccer kicks and moves. One would get on either side of me, hold my elbows, and another would pick my foot up in the correct position for the kick of the day! I learned to write about soccer moves not on the field but in the middle of my den. But as I learned I was able to bring life to the handbook.
Others have had similar experiences. Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickle and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, worked low-paying, entry-level jobs in three areas of the country to understand how women forced into the job market by welfare reform could survive. Phillip Reed, Consumer Advice Editor at, decided to write about the car business so he got a job as a car salesman. This allowed him an “inside look” at the car business and the life of a car salesman. Yvonne Lehman took violin lessons to understand the feeling of her character in her story, “Name that Tune.”

So write what you know? That’s always a good place to start. But when you have exhausted your first-hand knowledge, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and learn a new skill. Then, write what you know (and just learned).

Now it’s your turn. How have you added to your own experience of what you know? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.


#Writing what you know can also mean learning new things - via @LindaGilden on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Linda Gilden is a wife, mother, and grandmother. She finds great joy in time spent with her family. Her favorite activity is floating in a pool with a good book surrounded by splashing children!

To find out more about Linda, her writing, and her ministry, visit You can also connect with her on Twitter @LindaGilden and Facebook at Author Linda Gilden.


  1. Great Article Linda. Welcome. I am one who loves to float and read also. I never miss this blog. I have learned so much over the last few months. I am going to expand my horizons after reading your information.. Boldly write about subjects I understand but did not think to write about them. Thank you my friend.

    1. Thank you, Cherrilyn. Always glad to connect with a floater! Branch out and write about something new. It's a great way to learn. Blessings on your writing.

  2. Great advice. I used to wonder how to write what you know if you don't know anything (LOL) but you showed us we can learn whatever we need to know.

  3. Yes, Barbara, becoming a "temporary expert" can be lots of fun!

  4. My upcoming novel talks about first-century Jerusalem. The Bible acts as my research along with online experts. Sadly, I don't know anyone Jewish. My heart's desire is a Messianic Jew interested in history as Beta reader. I have this recurring nightmare of a Jew reading my novel, laughing, and saying, "this is funny. But not in a good way." Thanks for your story about soccer. There is help.

    1. Good luck, Pat. Such an interesting subject. Yes, you definitely need to find an "expert" who can double check that your info resonates with your Jewish readers. Blessings on your work!

  5. This was so good. I find that I tend to write more about the things I know. I'm a senior-care-giver and love to write for senior magazines. I also have a kidney disease so I like to write hopeful inspiring story for that genre as well. I believe when we write what we are familiar with, the words flow better. Thanks again. Beth

    1. Hi, Beth, So glad you are finding lots to write about in the things you are familiar with. I am sure you have helped many folks writing about those subjects. Blessings on your continued writing!