Thursday, February 5, 2009

write what you DON'T know - more from SCBWI NY

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):

Darcy Pattison

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!

Blogs Added:
Kimmie Poppins

Kim Kasch (blogged about a similar subject, but not because of the conference - Kim must have editor and agent ESP!)


  1. I've nominated you for an art blog award over on my blog. Check it out!

  2. Ooh! I've always, always always wanted to write a book about people taking a trip on a sailboat. But I know jack and zip about sailing, and, frankly, boats freak me out a little :P

    But if I invent my own kind of sailboat, no one can acuse me of being inaccurate, now can they??

  3. Thanks for the links! I usually stick to what I know, but it would be good to get out of my comfort zone!

  4. I've always liked the idea of writing what I didn't know much about. It makes me do research and I always end up learning something new. Either that or writing about something I really don't like, such as worms. Ick!

  5. Thanks for posting links. I'm still working on the end of my notes, but I do have three parts posted.

    ;o) Kim

  6. I had an art teacher that told us in order to learn anything, we had to make ourselves uncomfortable. I guess if you stick only to what your comfortable with, you don't discover any fresh ideas.
    Thanks for the conference tips!

  7. Very interesting...but it makes sense...You will be writing with a fresh voice and this can help the reader learn right along with you...I like...I will try it...

  8. Great stuff!

    And how cool is that that you got to meet Jacqui!


  9. Wow I wrote about this on Feb 2nd:

    and I didn't even have the benefit of the conference.

  10. Lily, write your sailboat book! You can make up your own kind of boat, or do research (on land) about real boats ... whatever floats your boat! (sorry about that last bit :)

    Kelly, get out of that comfort zone and go for it!

    Rena, research is good. Yucky things not so much. Although worms aren't as icky as a few other things I can think of!

    Thanks Kimmie - I added your link!

    Adrienne, you art teacher was right! BTW, love this quote, "I guess if you stick only to what your comfortable with, you don't discover any fresh ideas." Can I quote you in my Art Day post today? Same subject, but on art. :)

    Brenda, have fun trying to write what you don't know!

    Thanks Christy! It was very cool to meet Jacqui!

    Thanks Kim - I added a link to your post too!

  11. :) Don't know if my ramblings are quote-worthy, but of course...

    I just noticed your note about "drawing what you don't know" - yep, I think it's a great tactic for art or writing!

  12. Thanks for letting me use your quote Adrienne! I added it to the Art Day post (at the bottom to inspire people to go make art).

  13. Thanks for all these interesting posts!!

  14. You're welcome Doda. Thanks for stopping by.