Writing What You Don’t Know
We’ve all heard that we should write about what we know. But what if you find out about a project that you don’t know anything about but would like to learn?
I discovered since I started writing seriously that I love history. I met up with Mary Davis at an ACFW conference and asked her what she was working on. She said she and three other authors were putting together a proposal on the Pony Express. I said if there was an opening, I’d love to join.
I told my husband about this meeting, and he said, “Sounds like an excuse for a road trip.” So I researched the Pony Express and learned that the only station in Colorado was in Julesburg. So we picked a long weekend and set out. Along the way, we stopped at the visitor center at Sterling, Colorado. I asked if they had information about the Pony Express, and she showed me the couple of pieces they had. She also said I should talk with the past president of the Colorado Pony Express Association. She called him, Gary came down, and we spent an hour talking about the Pony Express.
Prior to this trip, before I even knew if I’d be able to get in on Mary’s collection, I’d visited the library and read a bunch of stuff about the Pony Express. I’d researched online, and I’d ordered a couple of books from Amazon.
A month later, Mary Davis emailed and said one of the ladies had to drop out and now there was an opening. Because I’d done the research, I was ready to submit a proposal.
What I’ve learned:
- Writing only what I know boxes me in. Writing what I’d like to know allows me to learn and explore. I don’t need to be an expert; I just need to know enough to sound credible. If I don’t know a particular detail, I can always look it up online or find a book with the information.
- Writers conferences are great places to connect with other authors as well as with agents and editors.
- The more I learn about a subject, the more excited I get, and the easier it is to write about it.
- No matter the topic, there is a book, a museum, or an expert out there.
- Folks love talking about their jobs. Plan to interview someone.
- Research the kind of museum you’d like to visit—many have virtual tours if you can’t physically visit.
About the Book
This is a 9-in-1 novella collection from Barbour Books centered on the Pony Express, which ran from April 1860 through November 1861. The Pony Express already seems to be a romantic snippet of Americana, and so it seemed to make sense to write a collection of historical romance set on the trail. My story, Echoes of the Heart, features a mail order bride responding under an assumed name, a crippled station master who thinks no woman will want him, and their search for a future—together or separately.
Donna lives in Denver with husband Patrick, her first-line editor and biggest fan. She writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts. She is a hybrid publisher who has published a number of books under her pen name and under her own name. Her current release, Echoes of the Heart, a 9-in-1 novella collection titled "Pony Express Romance Collection" released April 1. Donna is also a ghostwriter and editor of fiction and non-fiction, and judges in a number of writing contests. She will be teaching an online course for American Christian Fiction Writers in June 2017, “Don’t let your subplots sink your story”. Donna loves history and research, and travels extensively for both.