At one point or another, every writer is told ‘write what you know’ , so let’s look at what that really means. It in no way means that you have to write within the confines of a box, never allowed to explore new worlds, that would be the anti-create mantra. So, before you stress that you will forever have to write FUZZY BUNNY picture books or bang out 101 WAYS TO SAVE YOUR MARRIAGE as a follow-up to your first accepted manuscript, 99 WAYS TO SAVE YOUR MARRIAGE, consider the following…
(Note: if you are an alien abductee by all means explore ALL of those worlds during the course of your writing journey. This post is for those of us keyboard addicts that haven’t been abducted — to our knowledge).
What if you are finally given a break (it doesn’t matter if you write for magazines, screen or novels) someone has asked you to craft a story on say, genetics and disease, and you are someone who needs to be unconscious to get a check-up. Do you have to turn down the gig? Of course not — you buckle down and research, interview, whatever — until it is what you know, and then you write away. Elementary yes, hang in here.
Let’s look at Stephen King, horror is his brand. In fact, over 40 years ago, when Mr. King was submitting to magazines and still getting some rejections, his alter ego, Richard Bachman, was churning out horror novels. Maybe he was exploring this genre before committing his name to it? It doesn’t matter why, the point is it turned out to be a fantastic marketing tool for his brand that is horror, when those earlier works surfaced.
How about Ben Stiller? TROPIC THUNDER is his work through and through, he wrote, directed, produced and starred. When describing the premise to some peers, I had the unfortunate realization that the general public may not see this film because they think it is a war movie comedy. I reeled my audience back in by simply stating, ‘it’s a Ben Stiller movie’, and that is all it took to have it put back on their movies-to-see list. ( It really is very funny) But the point is Ben Stiller has a created a brand, yet continues to work in different world’s with that brand.
So, instead of the 101 WAYS TO SAVE YOUR MARRIAGE sequel, make the 99 ways into a comedy or a murder mystery and if you can’t commit, use a pen name. As for the FUZZY BUNNY picture books well, they do tend to multiply we all know that.