Category Archives: Research for fiction

Researching mid-stream for your novel

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

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


Sharon A. Crawford


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Kick-start writing your novel when it hits stall mode

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

Has the novel you are writing hit stall mode?

Maybe you’ve been procrastinating? Maybe family and/or work stuff has taken up a lot of your time? Or maybe, like me, 2015 has been shoving unwanted and unanticipated problems at you.

To get back on track with writing your novel takes some major work on your part. What I am doing to get back on track with writing the next novel in my Beyond mystery series may not be your cup of tea, but for what it’s worth, here it is.

When I get hit with a lot of problems from “outside” as I call it – and that can be anything from weather-related property problems to cable TV problems to computer problems, I find that getting angry about it helps. I use that anger to get at whomever or whatever is causing the problem to fix it. Sometimes I am even nice about it. But I find anger combined with persistence, can help get the problem resolved.

That’s when a third party doesn’t have to be called in to fix the problem, but that’s another story.

As you can guess, all this steals my precious time, time I could be using writing my new mystery novel. So how am I getting back to that?

  1. I switched over to Research mode – I had some research I needed to do before I could get much further in the novel anyway. Research can be worked into a fragmented schedule at home or in transit (except when driving) – whether online or from print material.
  2. Go back to your novel outline – plot and characters. Chances are your mind is scattered with all your problems, so focusing on just where your novel is going (or not) and fixing that not only gets your mind off the problem temporarily, it helps you move forward with your novel. Because of the crappy winter weather conditions, I decided to arrive very early to teach a memoir writing workshop last week at a local library branch. I didn’t bring my laptop because I was carting enough books and handouts for the workshop. But I did bring a small print file containing some plot and character concerns. So, I sat in the library branch and reworked some of the outline. I figured out exactly why I wanted X character to be the murderer and also how to add more suspense and foreshadowing in the novel.
  3. Make an hour or two during your day when you can actually sit at your computer and do some more writing – and to hell with the problems. This is a good distraction and also moves your novel along.
  4. I also went back to the beginning to work in more suspense and foreshadowing, mainly connected to the murderer. Sometimes going back to the beginning and just reading it, not only refreshes your memory, it might also provide more ideas and you will find yourself making a few changes.


And the problem causers?

They better watch out. I don’t take kindly to having my life screwed up big time. Especially when it interferes with my writing. Sometimes I work these people, organizations, etc. into my fiction-writing – changing names and details of course. All fodder for the fiction.


See, you can have some fun as an author and also get some writing done, too.




Sharon A. Crawford


Author of the Beyond book series. See and for more info. Book at top of this post links to my Amazon author profile.

To watch my interview on Liquid Lunch on go to Go to and enjoy


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Researching the meds for the next Beyond book

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

I am trying to do some research on concussions for the next novel in the Beyond mystery series. However, besides client work and PR for Beyond Blood (which are part of my usual writing work days), I have had my time stolen thanks to dealing with computer snafus, cable TV reception problems and shovelling snow.

As a former journalist I know that research must be thorough. I also know that you won’t use most of the information you collect. However, accuracy is important, including when you are writing fiction. You don’t want to come across as a sloppy writer or worse, include inaccurate facts.

One of my characters will suffer a concussion. I’m not saying which character – if a regular one or one just in this book. I’m also not saying what causes the concussion, although I’m beginning to think I should use the sports injury angle as most of the concussion literature today deals with concussions that are sports injuries.

My novels also take place in the late 1990s, so I have to watch I keep knowledge, treatment and research studies in that time period. So far I’ve contacted a retired family doctor turned health writer and she in turn asked for contacts from her colleagues on a medical writers’ forum. She then forwarded their suggested medical experts in this field to me.

I have also done some research online but have more to do here, thanks to another writer I know who sent me a link. And I have again borrowed the library book on concussions (albeit sports injuries) that I had out previously, but only got partway through reading and making notes before the book had to be returned after nine weeks. Let’s hope this time I make it through the book. Perhaps I should buy it.

Money, however, is tight, partly because of all the snafus I’m encountering (see first paragraph).

But, hey, I’m a former journalist and “persistence” is my middle name. Or the “S” isn’t just “Sharon;” It also stands for “stubborn.”

And that’s what I have to be to do thorough research for my new novel.

And yes I have started writing (and rewriting it) and revising the outline.

That’s fodder for another blog post.


Sharon A. Crawford

Author of the Beyond book series. See and for more info. Book at top of this post links to my Amazon author profile.


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