Stevie Mach

Writer, creative, general good guy… with mild OCD

Write What You Know

Spaceship in Outerspace

When I was young, for several years I wrote short stuff quickly, lyrics, poems, short stories. I was always ambitious though to write something longer. I wanted to try my hand at writing a novel. The trouble was, at that time, I was young, I was eighteen, and had very little real knowledge of the world I lived in and wanted to write about. I learned more about the world from the books I read at the time, than the experiences I had of living. Yet, all the advice I read about creative writing, and the knowledge imparted to me from other writers, was to write what you know! It is hard to write what you know, when you are starting from the position of knowing very little.

One Day in the Pub

I went for a drink one day with another local writer I knew at the time. We had a few drinks, and the conversation came up about writing what you know. I explained I was struggling, I did not know much about the world, so I had virtually no idea what to write about.

‘No problem,’ he said, ‘write science fiction, make it up as you go!’

I remember walking home that day, concocting ideas in my head for my new science fiction novel. I decided it would be a humorous novel, something akin to ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ by Douglas Adams, a writer I had a great deal of admiration for and whose books I thoroughly enjoyed.

Over the next few days, I scribbled down ideas for a storyline and began to write my first novel.

The Days Before the Computer

Of course, back then, circa 1982, I had no computer, or word processor. Therefore, I hand wrote every page of that novel on A4 lined paper. I got into the habit of forcing myself to write five pages every session, and mostly did so. After three months, I had completed the novel, hand writing every one of the 240 pages of A4. Now all I had to do was type it up!

The Difficulties of Editing the Written Word

Hand writing the novel, though, was only the beginning. It was a first draft, and required a great deal of editing. This involved scoring out sections, rewriting paragraphs, adding bits here and there, and of course correcting spelling and grammar as I went. The end result was an almighty mess of paper and ink I could hardly read myself, never mind attempt (even if I could have afforded it) to hand to someone to type up for me.

At that time, I was dating a lovely girl who was a secretary at a local company. She loaned me some of her training material, which included exercises to type, and a record that played ‘dings’ to start an exercise, then another ‘ding’ to end it. The idea was to type the exercise passage in the silence between the ‘dings’. When you gained competency on an easy passage, you moved on to the next, and the corresponding silence between ‘dings’ grew longer as the exercises progressed.

Therefore, with the purchase of a mechanical typewriter from Woolworths, which cost about a tenner, if I remember correctly, and the secretarial exercises from my girlfriend, I taught myself to proficiently type with all fingers on the keyboard. A life-long skill that was a great achievement to me, and which was easy to transfer, with much less physical effort, to electronic keyboards which came soon after, with the advancement of me receiving my first computer.

I now had the skills, so I hastily began typing up my first novel. Unfortunately, the relationship with the girl fizzled out and we parted, but I will be forever grateful to her for assisting me to touch type.

Realising You Are No Douglas Adams

Typing and reading are two different things. I would type without taking in what I was typing as most of the time I was deciphering with difficulty the mess I had made as I edited the hand written manuscript. The fact was, the story wasn’t that great. There were good sections in it, here and there, but no real cohesion of a book. A few characters stood out, but mostly, to be honest, it was a crap novel, and I realised pretty soon in the process of typing it up, that it was probably unpublishable.

Still, I was determined to fully type it up, it was my first baby and it deserved at least that. Eventually I did have a fully typed manuscript. And once complete, I put it in a drawer.

Science Fiction Is a Great Genre

For a beginner, science fiction is a great genre, especially if you cannot write what you know, because you basically know little. You can invent your own little world with science fiction, and who can dispute the fact of inter-galaxian travel if the storyline is based in the far future, where, who knows, one day it may be easily achievable?

But, writing what you know, is not only based on your own personal life experiences, it can have a great deal to do with the people you meet, and the characters you encounter every day. Developing your fictional characters is something you will do no matter what genre you write in. Therefore, writing what you know, is taking aspects of the knowledge you have accumulated about how people interact, then characterise them around a storyline.

Writing a first novel that was nonsensical science fiction wasn’t a waste of time even though the completed manuscript was left in a drawer for years before I eventually disposed of it. It taught me a great deal about writing, and how I would proceed. The exercise also enabled me to attain new skills. Above all, it taught me patience. Writing a novel is not an easy undertaking. It requires commitment, stamina, and a great deal of time. Above all, it teaches you that writing what you know is probably good advice, but it has to be tempered with how good can you write what you know?

That first novel was unpublishable. I’ve written five other novels since, which are all published on Amazon. While each has their own charm, I’m sure astute readers would agree that with each new novel, I’ve improved slightly on the one before. Life, you see, is a process of learning and developing and always striving to improve.

If you visit my homepage,, you will see a list of my books for sale. If you do take a chance and purchase one, if you enjoy it, please leave a review, it will be greatly appreciated.

Featured image at top of the page AI generated.


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