February 30 – Finding your story: writing what you know and writing what you don’t know

‘Write what you know’ is often given as advice to writers looking for a story. Many authors use the routines and experience of everyday life – what they know – as the foundations of fiction. All stories are found, to a lesser or greater degree, through an author’s own perception of the world around them. As author Derek Neale has pointed out, writing what you know means sharpening one’s powers of perception. How do we sharpen those powers of perception to best transform what we know into the most effective language? How do we find the limits of our perception when we are writing? And, importantly, how do we write about the things we don’t know – those elements of the world that remain mysterious to us or imperceptible yet are central to our intuition and the wider human experience?

Workshop Format

In this workshop, Eoghan Smith will explore the basics of how to find your story through writing about ‘what you know’, as well as writing about ‘what you don’t know’. He will cover topics such as:

  • What we know: the building blocks of stories – the world around us
  • The importance of perception – noticing and using details
  • Class exercises – creating stories from the people, places and things we notice


  • Writing about things we don’t know
  • Recognising and overcoming the limits of perception
  • Class exercises – finding the beginnings of stories

About Eoghan Smith

Eoghan Smith is the author of the novels The Failing Heart (2018) and A Provincial Death (2022). His other books include a monograph on John Banville and a co-edited collection of essays on Irish Suburban Literature and Culture. His essays and criticism have been published widely in publications such as The Irish Times and Dublin Review of Books, and he is a regular contributor to Books Ireland. He holds a PhD from Maynooth University. He currently teaches creative writing at Carlow College, as well as other courses in literature.

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