Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Behind the Books: DON’T Write What You Know

I know lots of things. I know how to make my husband a sandwich just the way he likes it. I know how to wash windows so they don’t streak and how to make “hospital corners” when I change the sheets on a bed. I even know how to clean a toilet and sort my trash properly at the transfer station (a.k.a. the dump).

But I certainly don’t want to write a book about any of these chores. I’d be bored, and so would my readers.

That’s why it really bugs me when teachers tell kids to write what they know. I write books about science because I love it. I am passionate about the natural world, and I want to share its wonders with children.Look at your favorite book, the best piece of writing you can think of, and I guarantee you’ll see the author’s passion shining through. It’s what fuels great writing.

That’s why I tell kids to write what they care about. This generates description of fire trucks and reports about Barbie dolls and BMX racing. Now I couldn’t care less about any of these topics, but I do care about teaching kids to enjoy writing. And I want them find ways to communicate ideas successfully.

When kids (or adults) write about whatever inspires or excites or intrigues them, they will be motivated to share their passions with their readers. And that will make the writing better. I guarantee it. Give it a try.

1 comment:

  1. I so agree with this, Melissa, for myself and for anyone else, especially kids! At least half of the fun of writing nonfiction is the research and going through the process of learning something new, just as your readers will. The best writing advice I've ever heard? "Write what you DON'T know." It's important to give writers (of all ages) permission to do just that.