And my answer is, you don't have to.
If I wrote "just what I know", then I'd never be able to write about a thing! I don't know how to ride a hoverbike, I don't know the fine points of racing, I don't know how plasma actually works, etc. (And yes, those were all sci-fi examples.) The point is, I can research them!
And you can too! Even if you don't know something off the top of your head, you can research it. A gift of the internet is the ability to view media, websites, blogs, videos, pictures and tons of other things to help us gain knowledge of what we need to know.
So if its out there, why shouldn't we access it?
Here's some quick tips to remember when researching.
- Don't get too caught up in it. Remember that your main goal is writing. Even if you enjoy researching like I do, don't get so caught up in it that you never write anything.
- Research what you need. Research first what you need to have in your story for it to make sense or whatever the reason is. Then:
- Research what you don't need: What I mean is this. Once you got what you need, then you can research other things you may or may not need in your story.
- You won't use everything. Yes, you may find some really great things about the topic, but remember that you may not need everything you find. For example, the other day I was researching how to blacken teeth. I found some really cool stuff about it, but I didn't need all of it. So I saved it for later. And that's what you should do, save the extras for later.
- Make a list: Make a list of everything you need to research, what you want to research, and then keep your findings in a safe place. Make sure that you keep track of were you got your information in case you need to know that later on.
- Double check your findings: A really awesome rule, guys! Sure, that site looks like it has tons of information on the subject, but is what its really saying true? To find out, look at other sites of the same topic and see if they say the same thing. If they don't, well...that source may not have true information and you don't want to use something that later on people will get mad at you because they know its wrong. Of course, you could still use it depending on your story, but its better to be safe than sorry. Not only this, but make sure the information is updated. Remember that we're in the age of information and in this time period, information is quickly outdated.
Writing what you know.
Now that we've covered the other side of the argument, let's take a look at this side. As Janice Hardy points out in her blog, The Other Side of the Story, is that writers know a lot. Sure you may have never been afraid of heights, but think of the things you are afraid of. Can you work that fear into a charcter's fear of heights? Sure.
Also, you can use your past to help you with your writing. I bet that you've experienced several of the same feelings or things your character's go through. Maybe not the exact same things, but we can draw on our past to help us shape our story into something different.
So, do you write what you know? Or do you think that its okay to write what you "don't" know?