They Say "Write What You Know," But What if You Only Know, Like, Three Things?

They Say "Write What You Know," But What if You Only Know, Like, Three Things?

Over the past three and a half years, I’ve written four novels, all of them in varying states of disrepair. That looks impressive now that I’ve written it, but really, if you saw a few of them, you’d just get sad.

Now that I have these four manuscripts, I’ve started to notice some patterns in my writing. Sure there are the usual things that creep in, the adverbs and the “howevers” and the lists joined by the word “and.” But I’ve also noticed that there are certain subjects that creep into my writing all the time, almost without me knowing it.

OK, I kind of know it. I’m an unpublished novelist. Part of my thinking goes like this, “Well, I know I made so-and-so a singer in Novel #1, but that might never get published, so I might was well just make blah-blah-blah in Novel #5 a singer as well. No one…will know. (You have to say that last part in a Christopher Walkin voice.)” I studied voice for so long, I want somebody to be a singer, so I’ll keep making all the main characters singers until something gets published. Then I’ll go research investment banking or whatever.

Because “They” say write what you know, I’ve really taken that to heart. All four of my novels are set either in Chicago, Northwest Illinois, or Indiana. All of them (except one, I think, but I could be wrong. It’s been a while since I’ve revisited Troubled Novel #2) include in some fashion the following: music, golf, and Latin. Novel #1 actually includes all three of those things, the trifecta of shit I know a lot about.

If you’re a writer, do you have a well you keep drawing from (i.e. does your manuscript always feature someone who repairs snowmobiles?)? How do you avoid repeating yourself?

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