May is short story month.
You know that phrase "write what you know?" Here's the thing: I don't know very much.
That is to say, I know what it's like to be me, to have lived where I've lived, and to have had the life and education I've had. I've never been a personal trainer and I've never had a defective heart. I haven't run a bakery, or dated a man with a tween-aged daughter. I've never been a vampire, or a demon, or a mage. I've never chatted with an angel. I've met soldiers, but I've not been good friends with any. I haven't investigated a theft or made a deal with the devil. I don't think my book is going to accidentally show up in the hands of someone famous and rock me into anonymous stardom. Oh, and I've never had sex with a Russian knife thrower.
What I don't know could fill a book. I hope it does, someday.
Half the joy for me in writing "Elsewhen" was digging through archives on government websites for photos and stories about Grand Trunk - the rail station that used to exist in the middle of Ottawa's downtown. It was closed in 1966 for the dumbest of reasons, and I love the building - which was only saved because the centennial was approaching and they didn't want an eyesore in view. When I got the call for RIDING THE RAILS, it was the first thing that occurred to me. I'd taken a tour and heard a little bit about the building when I'd first come to Ottawa, and so I loaded up the websites and started looking around to see if a story would occur to me.
I was a little nervous - if I did use the Grand Trunk, it would officially be my first "historical" piece. I'd never tried that, and I was pretty sure that if I got something wrong, someone would tell me. I actually ended up starting the story even earlier than that, in a way, in 1919, with the burning of the Parliament Buildings - more research - and then onward I went to Grand Trunk.
The point being that if I only wrote what I knew, I'd be out of ideas by now. Or I'd be trying to sell stories about selective seretonin reuptake inhibitors, bookstore customers, or tabletop role playing games.
I'd say the statement is a great place to start, but that it needs a bit of rearranging: "Know what you write." Take some time to dig a bit - and I don't just mean wikipedia - and see what details you can find. There was a single line in an article that made me go a different way in my story - it had originally been intended to occur in 1966, but I ended up pushing it a bit further back, to coincide with a time closer to the end of World War II.
In a short story, I'm quite lucky that if I'm going to try to write about something I don't know very well, there's only so much space to fit the details. I fact-check, absolutely, but since the narrative has to take the vast majority of the space, there isn't room for a history lesson, or a science lesson, or any other sort of lesson. Making it as accurate as I can is the goal, but it's not as exhausting as I imagine it would be to write an entire novel in a period setting.
I found out how the train door latches worked in the private compartments, and what the Grand Trunk looked like inside, and what uniforms Canadian soldiers wore. A few other details were all I really needed - but I didn't have to know what a typical breakfast was, or currency standards, or style of dress for the period in general, or other current events, or... You get the idea.
It was also a lot of fun to dive into a piece of the past I'd already had an inkling about. I do prefer it when the writing is fun.