As with every rule, the 'write what you know' advice to authors is often broken. Over the course of a novel, an author is bound to run into a circumstance, law, technology, setting, or activity that they're unfamiliar with in real life.
Of course some genres require less research and accuracy than others. For example, a fantasy author would have more leeway with facts than a writer of historical romance.
Russell Brooks wrote an interesting blog "I’ve never held a gun, but I still shoot people" (http://criminalmindsatwork.blogspot.com/ ) about the firearms research he did for his crime novels.
I, too, write crime fiction. The heroine of my Back Tracker series solves cyberspace and computer crimes. Now, although I've had a computer since PCs first came out in the early 80's, since one needed to know dos to run one, and even though I have been online since online became a word--I really know tweet all about today's computer technology and even less about the Internet, networking, intranet, and other such things that are part of our interconnectedness. I'm also not in any mood to listen to lectures on this subject or enroll in a techie course.
All the same, my novels are quite accurate, have been at times prophetic, and will, I'm sure, prove believable to the geekiest of computer geeks.
For an example of what kind of research I do to ensure I stay within the realm of believability on this subject of which I know so little, check out my blog Cyber Crime Villains on http://criminalmindsatwork.blogspot.com/
Scanning news headlines for story ideas is one of my favourite pastimes. It's a much more 'Eileen-friendly' research option than listening to even 10 minutes of a computer nut's expose.
Headlines about software gliches in Iran's nuclear reactor and America's F-35 fighter jet beg to be turned into novels about espionage, or sabotage, or...the possibilities are endless.
Intriguing stories can be build around international crimes via computer technology and secret technology peeking over the horizon. Online sex scandals, internet luring, child porn, and cyberspace hate crimes provide the juice needed to create gripping, emotional tales.
Behind every computer is a vulnerable human who can be blackmailed, bought, seduced, or...the possibilities are endless. Which may be why I was able to draft 10 novels in my Back Tracker series and never run out of inspiration and never repeat a plot.
For more information on my Back Tracker novels visit my website: http://www.eileenschuh.com
Eileen Schuh, Author