Write About Something You Know…
It’s one of the tips most often given to budding authors. After all, it seems obvious, doesn’t it? If you love horses, write a book involving horses, if football’s your passion, write a book with football in it. But when I think back to the first books I got published, not one of them involved a subject I knew much about. They were all animal books and although I know a fair bit about dogs and horses, I actually found myself writing books about cats, chinchillas, rats and goats. This theme of writing about subjects I know very little about has continued over the years. I’ve written a series about ice-skating, a series about ballet, a series about travelling the world and rescuing endangered animals and, most recently, a series about baking. None of which were things that I knew very much about when I started writing them.
You see, if an editor says to me ‘I’d like a book about…’ (fill in the gap with whatever activity/animal you want) I will undoubtedly find myself saying ‘no problem, I can do that!’ and then usually adding for good measure: ‘oh yes, I used to do it all the time when I was a child.’ The thing is, in my head I can bake and ice skate and ballet dance. I can certainly imagine what it’s like to love those things and to feel passionately about them and I do lots of research to fill in the gaps and details. Research is brilliant fun – often far more fun than writing –the Internet is a wonderful tool. You want to know what it’s like to go to study polar bears in a remote settlement in Svalbard, Norway then you can bet that someone, somewhere will have blogged about it and provided photos. You want to know what the airport in Delhi looks like, well you can watch many YouTube videos of people walking through Delhi airport. You want to know the traditional way to make pumpernickel, then you can find photos and recipes galore. I thank heavens for those people who take photos and videos wherever they go and of whatever they are doing because I really do rely on them. I also rely on talking to people who are experts in their field. Reading, watching, talking to people who can actually do the things I am writing about and getting my own hands on experience if at all possible helps me no end - sadly not possible when it came to the polar bears in Svalbard but I did end up baking a lot of cakes and pastries when I was writing my Best Friends Bakery series. The more I baked, the more I came to understand why so many people love to bake so much - even if my own attempts still in no way measure up to the fantasy cakes I am able to bake in my head!
So, if you or someone you know would like to write, yes, writing about something you know a lot about is clearly good, sound advice but you might also have an incredible time if you write about something outside of your comfort zone, something completely new – you need to do the research but it will open your mind, broaden your horizons and most of all, be a huge amount of fun!