I’ll be the first to admit it. Sometimes, by the time I’ve finished writing one of my more difficult books, I have troubles remembering why. Why in the heck did I think it was a good idea to write about Black Lives Matter? I definitely had the same doubts by the time I finished What Are Race and Racism?
But difficult projects are often the most important. Why? Because they are the stories that need to be told.
Here are 4 tips for those of you contemplating such a project.
- Write about the things that annoy you. Writing about something that is controversial and people argue about. If it is a topic that people are passionate about, young readers will want to read it and librarians are going to be more interested in having the book on their shelves. This is also the topic about which you will be passionate enough to finish.
- Question your assumptions. When we write about things that tug at our heart-strings, we have to remember to question our assumptions. It is easy to assume that a source is spot on and 100% correct because it agrees with what you believe. Look for the proof that you need to back up that opinion. You may not like what you find but that’s okay. You’re trying to get at the facts.
- Don’t expect everything to be black and white. We’d love to answer all of our readers questions. But sometimes there is a fact that you simply cannot find or something that has yet to play itself out. When things are unclear, admit this to your reader. Give them the facts, some people say X, others say Y and this is why we don’t know who is right.
- Give the panoramic perspective. Looking for sources that disagree with your assumptions and admitting what we don’t know are important because you should be giving your reader the big picture. I knew which side I agreed with when I started writing the DAPL (Dakota Access Pipeline) book but I portrayed both sides. When I wrote Black Lives Matter, I gave the straight forward facts surrounding each situation. It is your job to present your reader with the broader facts.
Writing about difficult topics is hard, there’s no doubt about it. From finding the facts and laying them out in a way that let’s your reader come to their own conclusion, it is a tricky balancing act. But it is definitely worthwhile.