You want to write nonfiction, but you’re not an expert on anything. So you’re stuck. What will you write about? You certainly can’t write a nonfiction book. “Only experts write books, after all.” (That was gentle sarcasm… 😉 )
I’ve had several questions about how you can write about things you know nothing about. Believe it or not, it’s easy. We were talking about writing nonfiction last week, so this topic seems relevant, especially if you want to write a nonfiction book in a week.
Let’s be a clear: you’re an expert already – an expert in communication. This means that…
You’re a Writer. You Can Write Anything.
Start with this mindset: you’re a writer. You can write about anything, because you can communicate. Few people communicate well, so be proud of yourself. 🙂
Freelance writers come in two basic groups: specialists, and generalists. I’ve always been pretty much a generalist. However, specialization happened, when I started to write consistently about several subjects, like technology, productivity, and business. Most freelancers end up specializing in this way. They write several articles about something or other, then they’re asked to write more. Before they know it, they’re a specialist in an area – they’ve become an “expert.”
A digression: once you’ve written about something, you may get asked to write a book. This happened to me, when I wrote for magazines. Editors passed my name around, and acquisitions editors contacted me to write chapters in books, and entire books. In days gone by, when traditional publishing mattered, that was the shortcut to becoming an author. You started out writing for magazines. End digression.
How to Write About Stuff You Know Nothing About: Instant Expert Status.
Let’s say that you’ve decided that you want to write an ebook about creating popular profiles on online dating websites. You’ve met the first rule of ebooks: you’ve narrowed your topic down. You’re not writing about online dating sites, you’re writing about profiles on those sites.
You have a challenge: you know nothing about these websites. However, you think your ebook will sell – the romance, dating, and relationships area is huge.
How can you write an ebook when you know nothing about a topic? That’s easy. You consult with, and interview people who do know – the real experts. So you describe your ebook in a paragraph or two, decide what you need to know, and you create a little query for HARO. Before too long, you’ve interviewed several experts, and you write your ebook. (Crediting the experts, of course.)
Writers are always being asked to write about people and things we know little or nothing about. So we ask the people who do know about those areas for the information we need.
Beware the “Research” Trap.
You need to research, before you start writing. True or false? If you decided that that’s true, be careful. Research is seductive. Research after you write, NOT BEFORE. If you research before, you’ll become confused. You’ll decide you need to research even more, and before you know it, you’ve wasted hours and days. And you’ve written nothing.
So, once you’ve interviewed your experts, start writing. If you need to do research on ANYTHING, put a big XXX in your typescript. Once you’ve finished your draft, run a search for “XXX”. Then write a list of what you need to know. Resist the urge to research beyond those specific things you need to know. Remember, research is a trap.
So, there you have it. You can become an instant expert on any topic at all. Just talk to the people who really are experts, and start writing.
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