Some thoughts on ‘write what you know’ — a podcast

Last week I ran an interview with my Venetian writing mates, Gregory Dowling and Philip Gwynne Jones, which you’ll find below. One point raised by Gregory in that chat near San Basilio kept nagging at me: that old and thorny subject of writing about what you know.

Gregory rightly pointed out that, as an academic, it was second nature to him to try to find out everything he could about a subject before sitting down to write about it. My background in journalism — with deadlines always looking — made my approach very different.

Neither’s right or wrong of course. There’s no such thing when it comes to working on a piece of fiction, just what works for you.

But here are a few thoughts on the subject from my point of view. Feel free to jump into the discussion in the comments below if you like. This is also a test of my new podcasting system ahead of a bigger project to come — I hope the audio quality is starting to improve.

6 replies on “Some thoughts on ‘write what you know’ — a podcast”

This one sounds interesting, but as a casual matter, podcasts are an impossibility for me. I hope at some point you provide transcripts for them!

Up to you. If I’m reading something primarily for information, though, I read at about five times the speed that I can listen to anything, and as listening to a podcast involves setting aside the time and getting out headphones, it’s not a way that I and many people prefer to consume information. It’s a potentially better format for entertainment.

I couldn’t listen to this originally as others were in the room and I didn’t have any headphones. I had a problem starting this player so I missed about 14secs. I will have to look up that interview at some stage.
I thought your approach was interesting and wish I could go and live in France for a while. Immersing yourself in a foreign country I can see that you would gain a perspective that you can draw on when writing. I’m not sure you can describe your style as writing about ‘what you know’, its more writing with an outsider curiosity which probably helps draw the reader in as they too are outsiders to your story. I also thought that you came across as a ‘pantster’ rather than a ‘plotter’.
It is always interesting to learn how writers approach their work. Thank you for your post.

I enjoyed your thoughts on “Write what you know”, and the interviews of Gregory and Philip.
For what it’s worth, the way I look at the relationship between my writing and my research is that it’s a form of dialogue. Research – or experience – gives me the idea for a narrative, which I then sketch out. That sketching-out then effectively asks questions requiring further research, which allows more detailed sketching-out but poses further questions, whose answers require further researching. And so on.
That allows me to do the minimum of researching that the narrative demands. And that suits me because life is short.

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