Writing about What You Know vs What You Don’t

Granny squares.

I just turned in a rewrite. I’m not sure which was harder – explaining nuclear energy or describing a granny-square vest. Actually, I take that back. I do know. It was much harder to describe the vest!

The problem was that I was writing about something I know how to do.

Writing about What You Know

Write what you know. We’ve all heard that advice but it really isn’t all that easy to do.

I crochet so I mistakenly thought that describing a granny-square vest would be oh-so easy. Never mind that I loathe granny-square vests. I’m actually really good at crochet and I know how to make a granny square. I described how one square is the front of the sweater and another is the back. Then I decribed how additional bands of crochet join the squares at the shoulders and sides of the vest.


While that’s correct it is also a bit much. This is a single paragraph out of an entire book and it isn’t a book for crafters. Besides, that description does encompass the loathsome horror that is the granny square vest that you must as a 9-year-old wear to match your 3-year-old sister.

Because I crochet, I had a tendency to over-explain. “All of these details are fascinating and vital!” With the perspective that ignoring the paragraph for two days brings, I cut it to a single sentence. Whew! But this wasn’t the only addition I had to make.

Writing about What You Don’t Know

I also got to write about nuclear energy and melt downs of the non-toddler variety. First, I read everything I could find by the Nuclear Energy Commission. Honestly, it couldn’t have been any worse if it was written by a bot. Grammatical errors aside, it was complex while being incredibly uninformative.

It was, as my grandmother would have said, as clear as mud. Eventually I found information from a watch dog group. Watch dogs want you to understand because this makes it easier to know when someone is spinning a yarn.

I had to do an awful lot of reading and my son the engineering student had to read over it and explain it to me at least three times. I learned that nuclear reactions are NOT chemical reactions. Turning off a reactor is a bit of an overstatement.

By the time I had written and rewritten it all three or four times, I had a single paragraph that passed inspection.

Writing about things you don’t understand is hard. But writing about what you understand and love? That may be harder still.

Which ever you are doing – the key to writing is rewriting. And rewriting. And? Rewriting again.