Take this to the bank: If it's a commonly accepted writing maxim, you need to challenge it. Here is one more of the most harmful "tips for better writing" I've come across in more than half a century of scratching pen across parchment. Ready?
"Write about what you know."
Oops, wrong-o, bong-o! You can know plenty about your subject and still come across as a rank amateur. The truth is, you should write not about what you know so much as about what you see! If you can't visualize the image in your cranium, you'll never be able to help your reader create a mental picture of it. And if you can't do that, you'll never be a good writer.
Which brings up a point too often left undiscussed: The art of writing isn't about putting words on paper, it's about putting images in people's minds. Images are created by a word or a combination of words that generate a mental picture of the scene, place, person, or event in the reader's head.
So, what's the difference? Check out these two similar sentences: (more…)