[Tipster] Know What You Don't Know

tipster post Dec 02, 2022

You've probably heard some version of the phrase, "You don't know what you don't know."

And that's the absolute truth at the start of a writing project. For every writer.

You don't know what you don't know.

You have an idea for a project. You think the idea is fresh. But you worry that others may have already written on the subject.

And you should worry.

Because you don't know what you don't know.

At least not yet.

The "Knowing" Journey

Obviously, at the start of any new adventure, you don't know what you don't know.

But if you want to write something substantive, something fresh, something truly new - you need to know what you don't know.

It's okay not to know everything about your idea at the start.

But you can't stay in the dark.

You must discover what you don't know. You must take the knowing journey.

Read Your Competitors

Most book proposals that I read include a list of "competitor books." Ergo, a list of books that are similar in subject and readership.

But often, as I read, say, the first chapter of the proposal (nonfiction), it's clear the person has not read the competitor books.

He or she has simply provided a list for the proposal because "that's what an agent or publisher expects" in a book proposal.

So, here's a quick tip: Read the published books that you think are similar to yours.

You definitely need to dig into (or, better, "absorb") the four or five most recent books that address your topic.

And if you are writing fiction, and you want to write a series like Harry Potter, then you had better be a diehard Harry Potter fan.

You can't just attend the movies. You must read the entire book series. Maybe several times.

So much good happens when you read published works that are similar to yours.

Your writing becomes more nuanced.

Your ideas become more crisp.

You gain confidence because you know that when you publish ("make public") your words, they will be new to the world.

You will be building upon what has been published before you.

And thus your contribution will be truly unique.

Now, buckle up and write!