Don’t know: if any of my readers are familiar with the concept of know/don’t know lists (or don’t/know lists).
Know: that I can explain it to them through this post if they don’t.
There’s your introduction to your course in Don’t/Know Lists 101. I’m your professor and your next test is in the next ten seconds. Pop quizzes! I love them!
Only not really. There’s no pop quiz and I don’t love them and I’m not your professor (because of the whole those who don’t know teach type deal). However, this is your 101 course in don’t/know lists.
If you don’t know what these kinds of lists are then I’ll explain it to you now – using an awesome example that I know everyone can relate to.
Let’s say you’re working on a new concept or novel or blog post or whatever literary endeavor you’re taking on and you don’t know where to start.
Don’t know: where to start.
But you do know what you’re doing, right? You know what you’re starting? Sure you do. Otherwise you wouldn’t be trying to start it.
Know: what you’re starting.
That’s the basic idea of how you use the don’t/know lists. It doesn’t get any easier than that. You take a paper or a document, separate it into two halves – one for the things you know and one for the things you don’t know. From there, you ask yourself two questions:
- What do I know?
- What don’t I know?
If you remember something like this from grade school reflections and science experiments, you’ll probably recall there being a third section: what would I like to know? But, when you’re writing and working on a project, everything you don’t know is shit you’d like to know – so it’s best to just cut out a third section altogether.
These are important lists to use when you’re starting something new but they’re especially effective when you get stuck on something you’re already working on. It’s good to reflect.
Here’s the main idea behind these lists:
- Turn the things you don’t know into things you do know and
- Use the things you do know to help solve the things you don’t know.
Really, the lists are pretty self-explanatory. Though, as obvious as these lists are, I’m not sure many writers use them – which is odd considering there are a lot of us out there who are outlining whores. This is an outline of sorts. But instead of outlining what’s in your novel, you’re outlining how to write your novel. Along with where you should start in your novel, what parts of your novel needs work, how to fix those parts, and it keeps in the front of your mind the things you don’t know – like those plot holes and new characters that you don’t quite know what to do with just yet but know they’ll be important later (see what I did there? It’s an example of how to use what you do know to figure out the things you don’t).
I like don’t/know lists. They’re really helpful when you run into walls and are a great way to get unstuck from your problems. If you haven’t tried using a don’t/know list method when working on your novel or blog post or short story (or whatever) then you should definitely consider it. They’re more helpful than you could (initially) imagine (upon using this method you’ll later realize that wow! This is good shit!).