A common question asked of authors is where they get their inspiration and a common answer seems to be to write about what you know. That can work, if that’s what you are comfortable with writing, and I think it is particularly useful advice if you are writing nonfiction. As a fiction writer, I find it is more exciting to me to write about what I don’t know and always wanted to learn more about.
Researching uncovers many surprises. It’s like a chain reaction. I often discover something intriguing that takes the plot in an unforeseen direction. I love being surprised that way.
One of the novels I am currently writing started in the early 1900s and the intention is to cover 5 generations. I’m old but I’m not that old. I knew very little about the turn of the century before I started researching it. With just the first generation, I have completed about 80 unedited pages. I should probably move on to the next generation but I am having so much fun with this one. And the characters seem to have a lot more they want to say and do. When I started this, I hadn’t intended to write a 500+ page tome. I may have to divide it up into 2 or more books by the time I have finished.
As a result of my research, I have fallen in love with the history as well as my characters. When I move on, I will have to start killing off some of the older characters. It will be like losing old friends.
So my advice to ‘wannabe’ writers would be to follow their passions. If you are passionate about what you already know, that’s great. But it can also be fun and informative to write about what you don’t know as long as you are passionate about the learning and discoveries. There is so much treasure to uncover in the research.