As writers, we tend to write about the things we know. Or at least the things we are familiar to us. All of my books thus far have contained experiences I’ve had in my life (slightly rewritten, of course.) If I write about something I have no knowledge of, I most likely have a member of my family whom I can ask. For example, I wrote a book several years ago that I self published, and the story took place in jail. Now, I have never been in jail, but I have a family member who is a cop, and a friend who is a prison chaplain. With those resources, I knew I could get the correct information I needed to write my book. Also, as writers, we tend to write about the things we see. Another example: I have never been in love, but I have seen plenty of couples walking around that I can use their actions in my books and know that it will make a pretty good love story. Or, another example, I recently wrote a book with a character with Alzheimers; I have never met anyone with Alzheimers, but my grandparents have a friend that has it, so I know I could ask them, or just wait for them to tell their stories. So, long story short, writers write about what they know.
I recently started a book that takes place on a barque ship (old sailing ship). I have no experience sailing on a ship, even a modern sailboat. The closest I’ve come to knowing about barque ships is by watching Pirates of the Caribbean. However, my lack of knowledge didn’t stop me. I simply Googled instructions on how to sail…but soon found out that that wasn’t helpful. I knew I couldn’t write this book without mentioning sailing commands/actions, so I did some more research. I found several companies that offered lessons on sailing barque ships. Gathering up my courage – and my perseverance to finish this book – I emailed all four companies. And guess what?! By the next day, I had heard back from three of them. They each offered specific resources I could go to and find exactly what I needed. (One of them did suggest I take a sailing class, but since I live in small town Iowa, that’s not going to happen anytime soon…)
So, writers write about what they know, but they also write about what they can find. If you’re writing about a topic that you know nothing about (which probably doesn’t happen very often) then do the research. We’ve all written plenty of research papers in school. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, then send an email to someone who has the information that you want. 9 times out of 10, they’ll be happy to help. When I emailed each company, I explained that I was writing a book. When they each emailed me back, they wished me good luck! If you’re excited about something, other people will be too. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!