Thursday, 5 May 2011

Writing what you know by Julie Day

They say that new authors should write about what they know, and I can say that this is a very good idea and has given me publication success in non-fiction and fiction.

My first success was in 1999 with a Viewpoint column in the Lady, but they no longer do that, which is a shame.

I began writing short stories after I found two small press magazines called Crystal and Creature Features, and the one I've had most success with is CF all about animals. I created two series: a kitten based on antics of cats in my area in next door, and the other about an unlucky squirrel based on antics of squirrels I've seen in my garden. The latest success in CF was about an incident with a dog I had as a child. If you write about yourself it can be a good idea to add a touch of homour. Eg the end of the piece I put a bit about when I was born.

'I was born in 1970 and guess what Chinese year that is? Yes, you're right. It was the Chinese year of the dog. Any significance? No idea. Your guess is as good as mine.;

I've also began a series about birds I see in my garden and elsewhere and what happens. Again what I know about.

I also enter competitions and the one I had success with, coming second, was subconsciously, based on a girl who bullied me at school, who gets her comeuppance from magical shoes.

Then a few years ago I started to read health magazines and began to write reader letters to them. Again this was about things I knew about and am interested in such as using natural beauty products. Since then I've had success after success. So far this year I have had letters in Healthy winning a set of Dead Sea Spa magik toiletries worth £35, in Green Parent magazine winning a set of JASON toiletries worth £48 and a letter in Amateur Gardening winning a £5 National Garden voucher.

There is one other way I write about what I know - novels. My first children's book was all about healthy eating at school, something I am passionate about. In this I wrote that some of the girls had illnesses that I had experienced myself eg. bloatedness from drinking fizzy drinks, and sleep deprivation due to stomach pains in the night. The latter I had years ago and I now realise comes from a dairy intolerance.

My second book is about helping the environment at school, something else I am passionate about, and the third I'm currently editing is about using natural products at school. All topics I've had experience with and am passionate about and write about.

So what successes have you had writing about what you know? Let me know.


Lynne Garner said...

Julie - this is exactly how I started. I love to make stuff and my first features and books were all craft related. My first kids book (A Book For Bramble) features a hedgehog and came from my work helping these cute animals (

So yes if anyone wants to start to write I agree 100% - write about what you know.

Julie Day said...

Thanks Lynne. As you can read, I am still writing it and getting published with it.

Elen C said...

I got into a bit of bother with my first book with not writing what I know...
I wrote about an allotment. In the first draft, a keen gardener told me I had wrong plants growing next to each other, things in bloom at the wrong time of year, terrible crops choice.
Either I could find out about gardening (a lifetime's pursuit, I felt!), or I could do what I did with draft 2 and just make it winter. Which meant I just had to research leeks. Guess which option I took?

Juliet Archer said...

Hi Julie, what a great success story!

I love Jane Austen and read her books over and over again. So guess which classic author I'm updating for the 21st century?