Write and Read What You Know or What You Don’t?

Since I can remember I’ve read fantasy, mostly middle-grade and young-adult. Since I can remember, I’ve written fantasy too, again middle-grade and young-adult. 

I wrote fantasy because it’s what I read, what I knew. It was probably instinct.

Many writers only write in one genre, some about only one character. Lee Child writes thrillers, all of them with Jack Reacher as the main character.

Some writers write in many different genres. Stephen King writes horror, thrillers, detective fiction, drama, fantasy, and once YA (Eye of the Dragon).

But does writing in one genre, just what you know, limit you? Or does it mean that what you write will be better than if you wrote something you didn’t know about or understand?

I used to write only fantasy, and for children-teenagers, but since I started reading more than just fantasy, for more than just middle graders and young adults, I’ve had an itch to write more than just fantasy too. For the past few years I’ve written books that are sci-fi, thrillers, crime fiction, high-fantasy and horror. Up until a month or so back, I’d still only written for middle graders and young adult.

Then I decided to give writing for adults a shot.

A month and two weeks later and I’ve finished the first draft of my first book for adults this morning. I’d had the idea for a while, was intending to use it for a YA series, but decided it could work better as a stand-alone adult supernatural horror.

Turned out to be some of the most fun I’ve had writing for a while. It was tough in places, but came smooth in others.

I’d never written for adults before, was worried it wouldn’t work or I would slip back into a YA tone at some point. But, as far as I can tell, it did work (but this could be bias–so I’ll have to wait until my agent reads it to find out the truth). I finished, and I’m as happy as anybody can be with a first draft.

So my answer to should we write or read only what we know or what we don’t is the former. If we only write or read what we know, we’ll never know what else we can write or read.


What do you think, or do? Do you read or write (or both) only what you know, or what you don’t (or both)? Do you think sticking to one genre limits you, or not?

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About Sam Whitehouse

Sam spends most of his time in a different world to other people. If it isn’t one he’s created himself, it’s one he’s reading about. In the rare moments when this isn’t the case, Sam can either be found addicted to a sci-fi or crime show, re-watching Marvel movies, finishing up an assignment for his final year of studying Creative Writing at Sheffield Hallam University, or trying to get the dozens of ideas for stories in his head under some kind of control. Sam has lived in the same small village in Yorkshire, surrounded by countryside on all sides ever since he could remember. His childhood saw him get into plenty of scrapes climbing trees and crossing rivers and generally believing he was Indiana Jones. Sam gives credit to his Grandad for him wanting to be a writer, and his bedtime stories for keeping Sam’s imagination stoked. But credit must also go to Steven Spielberg, J K Rowling and Stephen King, who have provided plenty of inspiration over the years, too. Sam writes what he reads, and that is pretty much anything—save romance. Fantasy, thrillers, or crime: once an idea takes root, he can’t stop until the world, characters, and plot are on paper. A huge Marvel fan, Sam one day hopes to pen a screenplay for one of their movies, or direct one, or do anything at all related to one. Until then, he’ll stick to his own fantasy worlds and wait for Marvel’s phone call.

Posted on 09/24/2015, in reading, writing and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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