What Do You Know?

“Write What You Know.” Original Author Unknown

“Beware of advice—even this.” Carl Sandberg


Creative juices are flowing. Your protagonist takes a high-powered position in a renowned law firm to be closer to her love interest. The romance is simple for you to write, however you know almost nothing about a criminal law firm. To make the story realistic, research is necessary. Even the pros do it.


Tom Clancy, known for espionage and military based novels such as The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, The Sum of All Fears, and Clear and Present Danger, was never in the military. Clancy had a bachelor’s degree in English literature and worked in the insurance business. His fascination with the military motivated him to do the research to create his best-selling novels.


Vince Flynn, a dyslexic who graduated with a degree in economics, was medically disqualified from entering the Marine Aviation Program. He quit his commercial real estate job to work full time on his first novel, Term Limits, a political thriller. Flynn also wrote Transfer of Power, The Third Option, and Act of Treason. Having no military or political background, he did a lot of research to get essential facts correct.


Harlan Coben studied political science in college and writes mysteries, such as Tell No One, Deal Breaker, Just One Look, and Six Years.


Some best-selling authors use the knowledge of their occupations to create heart-stopping plots. Robin Cook is a physician who writes medical thrillers, i.e. Coma and Contagion. Tess Gerritsen is a physician who wrote Call After Midnight, a romantic thriller, as well as a series of novels that spawned the television series, “Rizzoli & Isles.”


Michael Crichton, an anthropology professor, studied medicine and did exhaustive research to write medical thrillers. He is well-known for Jurassic Park, Twister, and The Andromeda Strain which were made into popular movies. Crichton also created the television series, E. R.


Are you motivated enough to thoroughly research your topic of interest to complete your novel? Will you be the next Tom Clancy, Tess Gerritsen, or Vince Flynn? What are you interested in researching?


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    • Claire Murray on August 30, 2014 at 10:13 pm
    • Reply

    Interesting article. You make a great case for the importance of doing one’s research.

      • Book Lover on September 6, 2014 at 8:59 pm
      • Reply

      Thank you.

    • Kelly Bixby on August 18, 2014 at 2:33 pm
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    This is why I admire Jodi Picoult. Readers learn many things from the extensive research she incorporates into her stories.

      • Book Lover on August 19, 2014 at 11:34 am
      • Reply

      How true. Many writers incorporate facts in their stories which educate as well as entertain readers.

  1. Booklover, thanks for the great perspective regarding the authors you mentioned. It is about what you know. I’ve heard that it’s also about what you want to know too. I tend to agree with that point. What do you think?

      • Book Lover on August 19, 2014 at 11:31 am
      • Reply

      Thank you. I agree. Researching my family’s genealogy has given me information that I can use in my memoirs as well as my historical fiction. My eyes have been opened to much more than I planned on.

      1. Very cool

    • Sue Remisiewicz on August 13, 2014 at 9:01 pm
    • Reply

    I love research. The trick is knowing when to stop!

    1. It never does stop, does it?

      • Book Lover on August 19, 2014 at 11:25 am
      • Reply

      I’ve enjoyed research since the old-fashioned encyclopedia days. Now with the internet, I find myself fact-checking what I read in books, newspapers, and magazines. I don’t always know when to stop.

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