We’ve all heard this perennial advice to the new writer. But what does is actually mean?

What do you write about if you’ve never been anywhere romantic, aspirational, any of those places where romances are usually set.

Well here’s the big truth. Writing about what you know isn’t about exotic places or being places where big events happen. You can research the exotic places, the great events online these days. Tour them, re-live them on Youtube.
What you, and only you know, is the stuff you’ve experienced, the tears you’ve shed, the laughter you’ve shared, the things you’ve touched and that have touched you.
We’re all sponges, soaking up images, sounds, feelings. Laying down memory. As a writer, those memories are your greatest asset.
Nora Ephron (You’ve Got Mail and a whole heap more), sitting beside her dying mother, – also a screenwriter – was told “you should be making notes, Nora”. Not actually necessary. Those big emotional moments carve themselves into your psyche. The discomfort of the chair you’ve sat on for hours. The constant beeping of machines, the rattle of trolleys, the routine of the hospital, the things you said, the things you didn’t say…
Search your memory for an occasion when, one moment you’ve been laughing, on top of the world celebrating some achievement with family, friends and then, without warning, there’s a prickle behind your eyelids. Present laughter evoking a memory that has tears in our eyes before we know it.
What emotional trigger has caught you out that way?
It isn’t always the big occasions that get you and, maybe, for the writer it’s the small things that are the most valuable. Picking the first strawberry from your garden, making a daisy chain with your daughter, building a sandcastle can spark a tender memory. My Dad used to make the world’s greatest sandcastles…
For me it was at my daughter’s wedding. Not the moment when she walked in on her father’s arm. Not the vows. It was the moment when she and her new husband, and all the members of the band he played with lined up to perform air guitar to some rock number on the dance floor. It made me laugh and then, as I thought how much my mother would have loved that, it made me cry…
These feelings, emotions, are veins of gold to be mined by the writer. Use them in the same way that a method actor reaches into himself, searching his own experiences, tapping into his memories to create living, breathing character.
This is “what you know”.

Liz Fieding says...
I met my husband when we were working in Zambia and were both members of the Lusaka Theatre Club. He was playing John de Stogumber in St Joan, and I was the pageboy to the Earl of Warwick. He swore it was the purple tights that got him. I wish I had a photograph. Sadly none exist.
We travelled a lot in Africa and the Middle East then we had babies and settled down back home, first in Wales and now in Wiltshire – photographs in my gallery.
I started writing when the children were small and my first romance, An Image of You, was set in Kenya, in a place where we’d spent many happy weekends on safari. It was plucked from the slush pile because the feisty heroine made my editor laugh. Emotion touched with humour has been the hallmark of my work ever since.
We now live in Wiltshire, within the magic circle of Glastonbury, Stonehenge, Avebury and the ancient hot springs at the heart of the city of Bath.

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Liz Fielding has a new book out from Tule Publishing.

The Bridesmaid's Royal Bodyguard (Royal Wedding Invitations Book 3)

After being sacked from her job on the gossip magazine Celebrity, Ally Parker is forced to return home to Combe St. Philip with her tail between her legs. She is given a fresh start when her childhood friend, Hope, asks her to work PR for Hope’s marriage to Prince Jonas of San Michele.

When Count Fredrik Jensson, head of security for the royal family, arrives to check out the village, he makes it clear that her past employment makes her unfit for the role. The fact that there’s a sizzle between them from the moment they meet only makes everything worse.

Forced together on a trip to San Michele for the official announcement of the wedding, Fredrik and Ally find themselves stranded overnight in his mountain retreat. Their sizzle flares into an inferno. However, their night of passion sours when he sees her with her ex-boss. Believing that Ally is about to buy back her job with wedding secrets, Fredrik turns back to ice. What will it take to see the person she truly is and a thaw to set in?

Buy on:

Amazon Kindle            Amazon UK           Amazon Aust

Tule           iTunes     Googleplay       Kobo


  1. I agree that writing what we know doesn't mean we have to know everything before we start - we can use our imaginations and research to build on our existing knowledge.

    1. Thanks,Patsy. My imagination is my most cherished possession

  2. Hi Nas and Liz ... it's easier to write around a base and then add things in. Fascinating back story you've had Liz - no wonder you can draw on so many story lines ... cheers to you both ...

    PS Patsy writes true to herself... love her stories -

    All the best to you three - Hilary

    1. Thank you, Hilary. It's Bern an interesting life!

  3. I've been writing for years and STILL found this such good advice and a good reminder. Thank you.

    1. After 25+ years, I still love to read advice from other writers to refresh the "well", Elizabeth.

  4. What we know is much more than a list of dry facts. Excellent article.

    1. Thank you, Tamara. The emotional well is deep - sometimes we have to send the bucket down a long way. :)

  5. What wonderful advice, Liz! I like that you give us a different take on this popular advice. Very interesting! :)


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