In the past, I’ve advised you to “write what you know“. It’s certainly great advice and I stand by what I’ve said but at some point, you may find that your writing ambition stretches beyond what you know to a subject that you’re not completely familiar with. Researching, expanding your knowledge and then disseminating that new knowledge through the written word can be an empowering exercise for writers.
Today I’m going to share a few simple tips for lensmasters interested in pushing beyond the boundaries of their existing knowledge.
1. Collect, organize and absorb your information
Once you’ve chosen your subject, it’s time to start learning. You’re trying to fill in the gaps between what you already know about your subject, so start with what you DO know. Consult multiple sources as you search for information. Never trust just one source to be accurate. Any claims or facts you will share in your lens should be backed up by multiple sources. If you can independently verify something, do! For example, if you’re writing a lens about substitutions for baking, try them yourself and tell your readers which ones worked best for you.
Never take anything at face value, no matter how “reliable” the source. Always verify that the information you’re seeking out during your learning phase is as correct as possible before sharing it with others.
Before you begin to write, absorb your information through careful, analytical reads (and re-reads!). Look for contradictions between your sources and find ways to resolve these conflicts lest you share inaccurate or confusing information.
2. Be frank about your background
Early on in your lens, inform readers of where you stood in relation to your subject at the beginning of your writing. It’s important to be yourself – show your personal journey as a writer by weaving your own story of discovery in with the content. Readers want more than just information on the topic at hand – they also want to be able to engage with the person sharing that content. The best way to allow this to happen is by consciously providing glimpses of what type of writer you were then, are now and want to become in the future.
3. Show your work
As you share more information, tell readers about your beliefs, background and knowledge. What were your pre-conceptions about your topic before you started writing? What do you know now that you were ignorant of? How have you been changed through the research you’ve done? What do you know now that you wish you’d known then?
Strive to come across in the work as yourself – both pre-research and as the present day, more informed self that’s writing for your reader.
4. Provide resources for continuing education
The research and information gathering you did at the beginning of this process isn’t just for your own benefit. Always share these resources with your readers through links to outside sites, relevant names and dates, books, magazines and whatever other resources you consulted when expanding your knowledge. You can also take this opportunity to engage with your readers by offering comments, criticisms and observations on the quality, scope and accessibility of the information available through the various resources you’re providing. Tell your readers what you liked and disliked about each resource, share what learning styles you prefer and tell them what they can expect to find in each place.
There you have it – 4 easy steps for writing what you don’t know. I hope they’ve cleared up some of the mystery and made this type of writing less intimidating. I hope these strategies help you improve your range as a writer and empower you do to write with greater clarity and insight. I will leave you with this one thought that’s at the core of all these tips.