You want me to write about what?
Yikes! You’ve just been hired to write expertly about a subject you don’t know anything about. What are you going to do? Take a page from The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy and Don’t Panic!
Remember, being a writer doesn’t mean that you have somehow managed to become an expert on everything. It means that you’ve become an expert on how to approach a subject so that it looks like you’re an expert on everything. Got it?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating lying. Chances are good that someone who knows about the subject will read what you’ve written and call you on it. I’m reminding you that you’re not only an expert writer, you’re an researcher. Writers are used to asking questions and finding answers. That’s the skill that will get you through the task, and at the end, you might find that you are an expert in a new subject area after all.
So, to get you organized and relaxed, I’ve come up with five tips to ease any doubt you might have about your own abilities to write.
Find out who the experts are
Be thankful that you’re living in the age of the Internet. At one time, this step would definitely have required footwork. Today, before stepping out, you can start your research with Google. No matter what the subject area, you can find people to talk to who know a lot about it. People love to talk about their work and the value it brings to their lives and to society. Take advantage of that. The answers they provide to your basic questions will lead to other questions and, in the end, you’ll be able to offer your readers a deeper understanding of the subject matter.
Get various points of view
Don’t limit your sources to just one or two people. Even if you’ve been asked to write positively (or negatively!) about a particular subject doesn’t mean you shouldn’t inform yourself about other perspectives. Addressing other aspects or different points of view only strengthens your argument, especially if you can offer a counter argument to those other perspectives.
Be as accurate as possible
If you don’t know something, you must go back to Tip #1 and find out. You need to develop a solid understanding of your subject matter before you start writing about it, or at the very least, before you publish it! Your readers may be experts and won’t appreciate mistakes that should’ve been avoided. Make sure that you quote people who are in the know.
Approach the subject with the spirit of learning
I know … writing about something you might not have any interest in can be daunting. You can probably think of a whole lot of things you’d rather do instead of spending hours reading about a subject you couldn’t care less about. But, look at it this way. Taking this job will be good for you, and not just for your bank balance! Learning about new things will actually make you a better writer. The more stuff you can cram into your brain, the more ideas you’ll have for your next assignment.
Realize that you probably know more about the subject than you think you do
You may have already read about it at one time or another. Mining your own experiences with the subject area will enable you to make some pretty insightful connections.
Your turn: Do you have some of your own go-to tips for dealing with tops that are new to you? Share them!