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  • Writer's pictureFrederike Schmitz

How does one even write a story based on science facts?

So, picture me, reading up on science literature for weeks and weeks.

And then I finally start writing.

What did I write?

I accidentally started writing a very heavy non-fiction science book for adults.

I could easily read 20 scientific papers a day about the first settlement of microorganisms in the intestines and how your immune cells react to that without getting bored.

But how do you seed through the weed? What do you include into a book and what not?

What do you, the reader want to know? What would you find interesting?

To be honest, at that point I completely forgot the audience I wanted to write for, namely kids.

I started my writing with headlines- important topics I wanted to include and every time I would read something about it, I’d write down keywords from these studies into my document.

That is actually an ‘ancient’ trick I used many times over. Anytime when I needed to write a manuscript or any text for that matter, I simply note down thoughts, snippets from studies or any random stuff that I think about.

Once you have words- any words- on a blank page, it’s not blank anymore. YAY!

And then you don’t need to stare at a blank page and ask yourself where on earth you should start with your writing. That’s always good for motivation.

But because all these studies were already summarized in my document, I started writing …science.

Science for adults, not kids.

And by that, I mean one scientific fact after the other.

How did this happen? After all I wanted to write for children.

Have you experienced this before? Being in the flow of doing something and then only later realizing that you completely missed the point in what you originally wanted to do?

How did you react?

Well, I analyzed. Surprise, haha.

I came to the conclusion that this type of writing was probably my default mode- having worked in academia for so long, I guess this type of science writing was just imprinted in me.

Looking back at the pages that I’ve written so far, this was a hell of a lot of science. Too much science for a lay audience? Possibly. Probably.

How do you learn a new writing style, I wondered?

I turned for inspiration and looked through popular science books.

After reading ‘Let them eat dirt’ by B. Brett Finlay and Marie-Claire Arrieta (I told you about her in my previous blog) and ‘Gut’ by Guilia Enders (or an even better title I think in German ‘Darm mit Charm’; the charming gut) I rewrote the whole thing.

I made it lighter. I guess I needed a detox approach to step away from the ‘hardcore’ science world towards a more digestible way of presenting science which a lay audience could understand and would find interesting.

Now, this looked a lot more what I had envisioned.

Pages and pages were now filled with science for a lay audience.

But then I thought: “Hold on a second- didn’t I want to write a story about immune cells…?”

Oh dear. That was nowhere near a story!

At that point I could have ‘simply’ decided to write a science book for adults about immune cells, after all I had quite some stuff written down already.

But I do like challenges.

And my biggest challenge now was to write a story. A real story about immune cells.

Something I have never done before, for an audience I have no clue about.

After all my child back then was about a year old. No way near to be able to understand anything about cells. And I probably only knew 2 kids that age and had no idea what they’re interested in at all.

Have you had similar challenges? And how did you tackle them?

I guess my approach was step-by-step. Slowly, slowly working towards this goal.

Learn how to weed through science facts and decide what could be interesting- step 1.

Learn how to write about that for a lay adult audience- step 2.

Learn how to actually write for children- next step: 3.

Figure out if kids find it interesting- hmm step 4 somewhere in the future?

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