Write what you know, they say.
Well, yah boo sucks to that, I say. How would fantasy, historical, science fiction, or even crime ever get written? If all authors stuck rigidly only to their own sphere of knowledge and experience then the world of literature would be a very boring place.
So I'd amend this to: Use what you know.
Use the experiences you've had to colour your novels, and especially use the emotions you have experienced to add depth. Holding your newborn baby; cradling an elderly much-loved pet as the vet gives that final injection; attending a sporting event when the team you're supporting wins; being first on the scene at a traffic accident; watching the Millennium fireworks; watching TV as the twin towers fell on 9/11; holding your mother's hand as she breathes her last - I've experienced all these as I guess many readers will have, too. And those intense emotions can be channelled into scenes I write.
|Me, hours after giving birth to my second child.|
I'm not advocating writing scenes that tell of your experiences exactly as they happened - some are far too private for that. No one's ever going to read of my mother's last moments. But that "chip of ice" in my writer's heart stored away exactly how I felt at the time for future use, and that's what I can use (and have already used).
|A wise quote from a great writer.|
Harrowing though it might be, when writing the death of a character, think back to how you felt when someone you loved died, relive it, and try to tap into that emotion. If you make yourself cry when writing it then you'll probably make the reader cry when reading it, and it is the emotional novels that people most remember afterwards. I'd suggest not trying to do this too soon- emotional experiences need time to bed in, to become a part of who you are. It's after this has happened that you can use them in your writing.
|Mum. Gone but never forgotten.|
Same goes for the joyous, happy occasions. Relive the moment, re-experience the feelings, and pour it all out as you write. Your reader will feel it too. And the dramatic, tense moments - you may have been holding your breath simply awaiting the email confirming your son's A level results, but you can use those feelings in any scene you write that requires tension and it'll work.
A marvellous writing tutor I used to have always advised when writing the "big" scenes, to put as much emotion as you possibly can on the page, and then treble it. Tapping into your own emotional memories is the way to do this. Use what you've experienced.