How many of us use Wikipedia? Everyone, I’d hazard – and I’d go further to say everyone, everyday. Wikipedia is one of the best resources to come out of the invention of the internet. It’s literally THE BEST. It’ll pretty much tell you everything about anything. That sudden interest you developed in fluid dynamics? You’d do pretty well to start with Wikipedia. The slight geektasm you get when you read about Nietzsche? Wikipedia is your friend. And – perhaps more importantly – when you’ve forgotten the plot to a book and you’ve want to read the sequel, Wiki will save your ass more often than not by providing a plot synopsis.
Here’s the thing, though: of all the millions of people who read Wikipedia in its gazillion languages every day, only a few will actually ever contribute to an article. And of those who have ever contributed, only a fraction are active editors.
Here’s my challenge: to sign up for a Wikipedia account (you don’t have to, but it helps for your own overview) and create or contribute a new article about a YA book, series or author you’re particularly fond of. There are many YA authors who aren’t currently represented on Wikipedia even though their work is significant. You can help change that.
There are a few rules, of course – the most important, perhaps, that you use citations for anything and everything you say. This is important because strictly speaking it allows readers to check the veracity of your writing and to read further and deeper into the subject matter. Without citations, Wikipedia would be a mess of made up garbage; with citations, it’s a carefully curated encyclopaedia that points to deeper and richer resources.
Starting to edit Wikipedia is daunting; I know. There are a few things you can do to make it easier.
- Start by editing, rather than creating. Add to existing articles – maybe flesh out the “critical reception” portions of books, or include information from author interviews in their biographies. Small changes will help you to get stuck in and understand how Wikipedia works.
- Use other, fuller articles for reference (I still do this). If you’re creating a new article, say for a book, checking out the articles for other well-known and richly-contributed books (say Harry Potter or any other large series) can give you an idea what to include in the article and how to structure it.
- Research before you write. Decide you want to edit or write a certain article. Before you go ahead, do some google searches and find as many original sources as you can about that topic and bookmark those pages. Once you’ve read most or all of the material you found you can start to build an argument. Plus you’ll have TONS of citations, which everybody loves.
- If you’re not sure, read up. Wikipedia has loads of resources as to how to edit it. If you’re not sure, you can find out. And if after that you still don’t know – try doing it anyway. If it’s wrong, someone somewhere will correct you and you’ll learn from your mistakes. That’s the best bit about Wikipedia – it doesn’t matter if you’re wrong, because everyone’s in it together.
To inspire you, here are some articles I’ve worked on in the past: