Write What You Know – even in Fiction

Write what you know. This may seem like the most obvious advice in the word, but it’s not. While I’m sure many of us have a burning desire to write the next great novel of pure fictitious brilliance, there is something to be said for using the material your life has gracefully provided you. And it is immediate and at-hand. The only research required is within your own personal history and daily life.

Julia Cameron‘s suggestion of writing “morning pages,” from her book called the The Artist’s Way, is one great suggestion to mine the creative juices from our lives. In this free writing, free flow, pre-consciousness approach, we can find creative breakthrough by writing whatever comes to us. I suspect that this method frequently reveals gems from one’s own personal reality.

What if you rebut: “My life is so boring!”

I’d respond: “Is it? Is it really?”

My six-year-old daughter tells me when she is bored. Often times it is when she is not engaged by me or a teacher or a friend or her siblings; and also when she is too tired or grumpy to play by herself. When she says this, it always blows my mind. She has a pretty amazing life for a little girl – that’s what I feel from my perspective at least. I’ve stocked our home with countless garage sale books. She has neighborhood friends and they play (safely) in the street. We travel to visit our out of town family. When I look at all the places she has gone, the experiences our family has had together, the opportunities open to her, I think: “Wow, you’ve had a great life so far, my dear.” I hope most days she realizes this too.

It’s all a matter of perspective. 

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One of our mandates as writers is to translate our experiences into our fiction, non-fiction, poetry, young adult stories, mysteries, essays, short stories, and the list goes on. Whatever your mind can conceive of, right?

If you are a fiction writer that has never considered taking inspiration from your own life, I suggest you give it a try! Think about the people that cross your path every day; your coworkers, family and friends . Maybe some of them can become your most beloved characters – or villains. You have a collection of people around you. People you know extremely well – from their opinions to their facial expressions. Take inspiration from these folks and write that kind of detail and intimacy with humanity into your stories. The same goes for settings.

I’ve heard it said somewhere, something to the effect of: there is no true fiction. (If someone can point me to the actual quote, that would be much appreciated.) There is a grain of truth behind all stories. What better reason is there to write what we know!

Somehow, my life experiences always seep into my writing. Or perhaps I would better describe it by saying: my life provides the richness of inspiration for my writing. This is something I am extremely grateful for. 

I am so inspired by the human experience that I have inevitably become an avid observer and recorder. For me, memoir and personal essays are an easy choice. However, it is nice every once and a while to break out and experiment with fiction. You could say my successful completions of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month; 50K in the month of November) and the 3 Day Novel Contest (September long weekend; 100+ pages) are just such a foray into crafting work outside my every-day life. I would also argue that I simply love a challenge.

Funny enough, I actually found it much easier to write fiction to the pace of the racing clock during these competitions than I did the one year I participated in NaNoWriMo with a memoir as my goal. I couldn’t unearth my personal stories that quickly. They require a slow-cook-approach I’ve discovered.

What I write about most often, for my profession and for pleasure, are family stories. Parenting. Motherhood. Being a working-mom. Being an artist-mom. Personal identity. These topics are close to my heart. They feel almost quintessential and spiritual to me. For now, I am telling these stories through creative non-fiction. Its a blurry category. Is it 100% truth? Well, no. Is it fiction? Nope, not really. At the same time, I feel like creative non-fiction is my perfect vehicle, for now, to write what I know.


What writing projects have captured your heart right now?

What are you working on?

How do you use your own life as inspiration for your work – no matter what genre you are writing in?

Please comment below. Let’s have a conversation : )

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Thank you for reading!


– Alexis Marie


I’m Already Preparing for National Novel Writing Month

NaNoWriMo 2015. This November. Are you planning ahead?

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Finishing Strong NaNoWriMo 2014


When I signed up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this year, I underestimated how busy my life can get. I am a full time writer, artist and mother – and I always strive to give 100% to everything I do. I know, I know, my math does not add up. Who has 300% to give? Logically, it does not make sense, but on a more abstract level it does.

What I have discovered is that when I work at my passions, the joy I derive from them (and especially from my children) simultaneously deposits energy and happiness in my life while I withdraw from my reserve of time and effort. It’s a helpful equation.

This is how I am going to finish strong this NaNoWriMo. Unfortunately I am terribly behind, but I don’t mind working hard and late into the evening to jack up my word count to make the 50k goal. As I write my story, I turn off the editing and critical side of my brain and click away at my computer. Its rhythm is peaceful for me and I find the very act of writing deposits much back into me as a writer.

By letting go of perfectionism and focusing on the joy of writing and the love of the story, any writer may finish strong on November 30th or on any other day with whatever project that needs completion.

As the NaNoWriMo deadline approaches, write what fuels you and deposits back into your creative reserve. Let this balance roll forward and energize your each and every word.

Good luck!


Save the Date for a NaNoWriMo Write-In with the Canadian Authors’ Association in Edmonton

First of all, Happy Halloween! This spooky season is sure to ignite your creativity with haunting characters and unforeseen plot twists.

If you didn’t already know, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) starts tomorrow – November 1st. I want to invite local writers for a fun event coming up on November 15th. Save the date! This year I am helping coordinate a half day NaNoWriMo write-in with the Canadian Authors’ Association Alberta Branch in Edmonton – and the event is open to both members and the general public.


Here are the details:



Goal: Write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. Track your progress on the NaNoWriMo software and connect with other writers. You’ve had a novel idea in your head and now is the time to bring your story to life.

Check out the NaNoWriMo website for more information.


Canadian Author’s Association Write-In

Date: November 15, 2014

Location: Idylwylde Library, 8310 88 Ave NW, Edmonton, Alberta, (780) 496-1808

Time: Doors open at 12:20pm with event starting at 12:30pm. The event will conclude at 5:30pm.

Cost: FREE

Things to bring: a snack to share, friends (the event is open to everyone), and your pen and paper or laptop and charger.

Check out the Canadian Authors Association Alberta Branch website for more information.


Myself, along with the CAA Writing-Coach-in-Residence, Suzanne Harris, will encourage you as you find inspiration to get over the halfway hump of NaNoWriMo. Write alongside others also penning their novel (or just looking to get words out on the page) and find inspiration in the presence of shared struggles and successes.

It will be a day of breakthroughs in a focused community environment. Who said writing has to be a lonely endeavor? Short, facilitated breaks will give you motivation and energy to pound out the words.

Even if you are not participating in NaNoWriMo, come out and join in the fun and creative atmosphere.

I look forward to writing with you!