When I go to conferences, there almost always seems to be a theme. Maybe it's not a stated theme, or even a real theme, but it's something that is mentioned over and over from several speakers. It could be that it's something that I need to hear, which is why it jumps out at me, or it could be because of what's going on in the industry at the time. Or maybe the speakers all meet before hand to discuss notes, like deciding to all wear the same color shirt or something.
The theme (that I noticed) at the SCBWI NY conference this year was:
Write what you DON'T know!
This is contrary to everything we're usually told about writing and was mentioned by several speakers, including a couple of editors in break out sessions. Hmmm.
Writing what you don't know could be writing a non-fiction book about landing on the moon. Most people haven't been to the moon, or even gone up in a rocket ship or the space shuttle.
Writing what you don't know could be writing a book set in the 1800s, writing about being a zombie, or writing a story from the view point of a character with a different gender than yours.
You might need to do a little research or a lot of world building, but when you write what you don't know, you can create something new, fresh, and unique. The best part about unique stories is that if you dig deep and infuse the characters with universal traits and emotions, they speak to readers that don't know about landing on the moon, living in the 1800s, or being a zombie.
Next time you start a story, write what you DON'T know, because it might be more real than what you DO know.
Note: On Monday, I'll talk about drawing what you don't know.
Conference Notes: I was going to type up my conference notes, but there are people that have already done that, and much faster than I could! Reading some of these posts was like reading the notes I took, only better, because they managed to get the experience of being there too (with the exception of Jack Gantos - he's hilarious and that just doesn't come across in notes). So here are some great links to conference notes:
The official blog about the conference (by Alice Pope and sanctioned by SCBWI):
Jacqui Robbins (who I got to meet!)
I know that there are other blogs about the conference. If you let me know, I'll add the links to the post!
Kim Kasch (blogged about a similar subject, but not because of the conference - Kim must have editor and agent ESP!)