Monday, May 25, 2015

Write What You 'Don't' Know

Writers often live by the rule: 'Write What You Know'. In doing so, a writer is comfortable in their surroundings, knows what they are talking about, and therefore, bring a sense of reality to their writing. It kind of keeps us from looking like idiots, I guess. However, I've discovered that I have a real problem with writing what I know. And the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem...

First of all, I have to say, I adore research. I love learning about something new. For me, it's like travelling to a different world, briefly, and getting a taste of something I've never had before. Like worms. Okay, I'm not eating a worm for research, although I did eat a rock once, but I digress. The point is, research is fun. And in writing my novel, They Call Me Crazy, I did some research on worm farming so I could make one of my characters believable.

Of course, I couldn't learn all there was to know about worm farming, but I learned enough to pick out what I considered the interesting aspects of it, and that's what I included in the book. As a reader, I don't want to know all the details about it, just the parts that get my attention. As a writer, I have to remember that the ultimate goal is to interest readers.

It seems that if I were a worm farmer, I would be able to give a lot of interesting information, because I would know so much. Right? Not always. I'm not a worm farmer, but I have been a Nurse for 30 years, and although I could tell you some great stories, I find that when I write about anything medical, I tend to instruct. I give too much information and try to be as detailed as possible. The result? Boring, run-on lectures about medically related subjects, when all I really wanted was someone to get a paper cut. I've been a Nurse for so long that choosing between 'the interesting parts' and 'the important parts' has become difficult.

Yes, I had someone that knew a little bit more than me about worm farming read the book for accuracy (Yes, there are worm experts). But the medical stuff? I've found that I have to 'consult' with other medical professionals for accuracy, and non-medical readers for interest and believability. If I were writing an instruction manual, it would be different. But I'm not. I'm writing novels, with a purpose to entertain, not teach.

So write what you know...Yeah, yeah, yeah---to a certain extent. But don't be afraid to dig through some subjects that you don't know anything about. 
How else are you going to learn how earthworms mate? 
(Well, I guess you could just read my novel....)  

1 comment:

nyltiac said...

Love this, I completely agree. I'm always keen on challenging myself and my abilities as a writer. I'm currently writing about a main character with narcolepsy. I was digging through the internet for research and happened to stumble upon your blog. I'm relishing in your content!