18. Writing About What You Don’t Know
Welcome to my blog on Writing About What You Don’t Know.
Like most other writers and authors I’ve read a lot of articles and ‘self help writing tips’. The one that I remember most was the advice to always write what you know. This confused me. I’ve never murdered anyone or committed a crime and neither did Agatha Christie. So why give this advice?
If we only ever wrote about what we know and we stayed in our comfort zone then we wouldn’t grow as writers or authors.
It’s like walking the same path everyday and never going into the undergrowth or slipping between the hedge to see what lies beyond. It’s about never trying something different, experimenting or learning. The problem is, as soon as someone gives me advice as to what NOT to do, I question it.
So, of course I’m going to write about what I don’t know.
That’s why I write. That’s why I enjoy my job. Writing can be a long and lonely journey but sharing it with others makes the journey more rewarding.
If I knew what books I’m going to write in the future there would be no fun. It’s the not knowing and the learning that makes me want to write it’s the discovery, choice and the opportunity.
As I’ve already shared with you, the research involved in writing the Culture Crime Series is as exciting for me as I hope it is for the reader. I have a very low threshold of boredom and if I’m bored writing my novel, then the reader will surely feel the same reading it.
I research constantly, reading and looking for information: INTERPOL, Culture Crime News — all the things that interest me and that are relevant to my writing and I have enrolled on short University courses with Future Learn. I am currently studying a short course on Forensic Psychology at the University of Kent.
The Antiquities Trafficking and Art Crime course with the University of Glasgow was invaluable for writing my novel Book of Hours. This online course explored the seedy world of smuggling, theft, fakes and fraud. Numerous experts around the world lent their experience to the course and a variety of subjects were discussed with examples given of looting and illicit crime from various archeological sites including Cambodia, Iran, Syria and Iraq.
We covered the grey market for stolen art. How it is found, looted, trafficked and sometimes returned.
Studying this course enabled me to understand the world of culture crime that I write about. It taught me about the ethical, emotional and legal issues. It gave me the opportunity to discuss and swap ideas and thoughts with fellow students in a world-wide forum.
When you read Book of Hours you will understand the level of research involved and you may see how I was able to express what I’d learnt.
So, although I write about what I don’t know. I am willing to learn.
Like you, I understand emotion; anger, fear, hate, rejection, love, duty, respect — the list is endless AND by combining these ingredients my novels come alive.
Mikky dos Santos’ morals are questioned. There’s jealousy, anger and bullying. These are all emotions and situations that I have come into contact with and can therefore write about in the context of my novel and in the confines of my research.
This complex but thrilling combination brings characters and their circumstances to life. It creates tension and conflict — the two most important ingredients for story-telling.
So, DO write about what you don’t know but research it thoroughly, first.
REMEMBER: A novel takes a long time to write so make sure it interests you, because if not, it’s a lonely road on your own and the chances are the reader won’t thank you for boring, rambling statistics on the research you’ve conducted.
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