I just finished a draft of the first part of my newest Beyond novel. As usual I am juggling several balls with plots and characters and inconsistencies, and again as usual, I need to do more research. I’ll deal with the juggling act and inconsistencies in another blog post. But today, briefly I’ll go into the research part.
Yes, I have covered research previously, but it is important in fiction writing. If you mess up, readers will find the mistakes. Some of them get very picky with details. One reader chided me for using a BlackBerry and not an IPhone in one of my short stories in Beyond the Tripping Point. She was reading the book when Blackberry was having financial difficulties (the first time), just before the big changeover in their executives. Beyond the Tripping Point came out in October 2012, so the story she was referring to, “Missing in Action” was written before that (April and May 2012).
Which brings me to my first point for research: make sure your details are accurate with the time-line you are writing in. Especially important if you are writing historical fiction (mystery, romance or other). Even going back a few years as my current novel Beyond Blood and four linked stories in BTTP do, you have to get your facts straight. Beyond Blood is set in August 1998, so we have dial-up Internet connection and cell phones that are longish, narrow, have antennae and you flip them open and closed. Not to mention how police set up taping phone calls from kidnappers. My police consultant, Constable Brent Pilkey and I had a good laugh over the setup of that one.
If you are writing anything that includes police procedure, you need to do research. I have my police consultant who is very helpful. I run questions by him, sometimes including inserts from the work-in-progress so he can see what I am trying to do. Yes, I have another round of questions and excerpts to email him.
Medical info needs to be checked to get it accurate. I do both checking online at qualified sources (Mayo Clinic, for example), but also consult MDs. One, who is a former MD-turned freelance writer asked on a medical listserve she is on and forwarded the feedback to me. Now, I have a couple of MDs who specialize in what I’m looking for to consult.
These are just a few examples of research required. Depending on your novel, yours may differ.
Remember: the devil is in the details and you better get those details right or the “devil” in the form of readers will complain.
And rightly so. Readers are your audience, your book buyers.
A reminder: I’m on a panel this evening with other Crime Writers of Canada authors – Nate Hendley (true crime), Sylvia Warsh (historical mystery), Steve Burrows (winner of the Arthur Ellis first novel award 2015), Rosemary McCracken (author of the Pat Tierney mystery series and also moderating the panel. She will be asking questions about researching for your novels), and me Sharon A. Crawford (author of the Beyond mystery series). Check out the full details on my Gigs and Blog Tours page at
If you are in Toronto, feel free to drop in. We authors will also be reading from our books and book copies will be available for sale.
Meantime, the photo at the top of this post still connects to where you can get e-copies of Beyond Blood. Print copies available (among other places) at https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/home/search/?keywords=Beyond%20blood%20and%20Sharon%20A.%20Crawford
Sharon A. Crawford