Last week, I talked about whether it was possible to write about what you don’t know. I.E. what you haven’t experienced personally. And my conclusion was, no, it’s not possible. At least not with the story’s content.
But there are ways to write the things you don’t know. Of course, I’m talking about the craft of writing.
There are a zillion different aspects to the craft of writing. Plot, pacing, dialogue, characterization, voice, etc. Writers know what they’re good at, and what they’re not so good at. Laurie Halse Anderson is amazing at making her character’s emotions tangible. JK Rowling is fabulous at plot. And I haven’t seen anyone better than Neil Gaiman when it comes to voice.
Unless you’ve just started to write, you probably know what you’re good at. As well as what you’re not so good at. You could even venture to say there are aspects of craft that you know well, and there are aspects that aren’t as clear in your mind. These are the things you don’t know.
I’m good at plot and I know my characters like they’re my best friend. But getting all aspects of my characters onto the page doesn’t always work out the way I intend. Therefore, you could say that I don’t know how to siphon my characters from my head to the page. That I’m not very comfortable doing this. And that would sum it up quite well, because I’m not.
To me, the phrase ‘Write What You Know’ or ‘Write What You Don’t Know’ has nothing to do with the content of your story. It’s about your comfort zone as a writer. I’m very comfortable with plot, but I can’t just write a story that’s all plot. Much more is needed. So, I need to leave my comfort zone and work on the areas that don’t come naturally.
In other words, I need to write what I don’t know.
Basically, it’s the old saying ‘practice makes perfect.’ Take something you don’t know, and then work on it until you know it.
What aspects of writing do you know so well that it just flows onto the page? Now, what aspects of writing make you bang your head against the wall? Leave you scratching your head? That your critique partners always pointing out? These are the things you don’t know, and these are the things you need to write. Talk to other writers about it. And write. Read, read, read. And write some more. And keep writing until you know that concept like the back of your hand.
For me, this blog has really helped me to grow as a writer. Basically, it’s helped me take all those things I didn’t know, and sort them out until I knew enough to explain it to another person. And it’s something I’ll continue to do forever, because I can’t see the day when I’ll know all there is to know about writing. It’s much too big for that. And far too interesting. : )
What don’t you know? :)