The Problem With “Write What You Know”

Photo by  Joao Tzanno  on  Unsplash

Photo by Joao Tzanno on Unsplash

A few years ago, I visited a book fair in Malmö, Sweden. One of the speakers there was Jens Lapidus, a successful crime writer with a keen eye for all spectrums of society, apt at channeling the voices of both urban gangsters and Stockholm’s elite. His hard-boiled writing is often fast-paced and written in a jargon that mirrors that of the characters.

Lapidus was previously a defense attorney and drew on many of the cases that he encountered in his profession to craft the characters of his novels. It’s been said that when the police enter the home of a criminal, they often find a “Scarface” poster and one of Lapidus’ books.

During recess at the book fair, I approached Lapidus and asked him for writing advice. He gave me two tips:

1. Copy the writers that you admire.

2. Dig where you stand.

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