Tag Archives: Sharon A. Crawford
You may be writing fiction, but you still need to do some research. Sure, you can make up your story, your characters – and you better be doing the latter – but some things such as a place, a date, a real life event will pop up that you need to check out, even if you are writing science fiction. And if you are writing anything – sci-fi or other – and there are police in it, you will need to do research. Ditto for any other career involved even if you have worked in it.
Then there are stories set in countries other than the one you live in – or oven another part of the country you live in. Peter Robinson, who writes the Inspector (now Superintendent, I believe) Banks mystery series sets his novels in Yorkshire, England. Peter has been living in Canada for many, many years, but he makes regular trips back to Yorkshire.
And if you are writing historical novels – romance or mystery, or any novel set in the past, you need to do some research. My Beyond Blood and Beyond Faith are set in 1998 and 1999 respectively. Computers, the Internet, etc. were quite a bit different then. If you set your story in the late 1990s you can’t have people running around with smart phones. Yes, there was email and Internet then, but on computers.. My twin PIs, Dana Bowman and Bast Overture do have cell phones, but the type that flipped open and closed and no email or text on them, although text was just coming in across the pond in Europe. But not in Toronto, Ontario and north of Toronto.
Even though I didn’t have a cell phone then, a real estate agent/friend of mine did. So I could go back to what I remember about that phone, which I did use a few times. Not enough though, so I did a lot of research on cell phones from the past, what they looked like, their size (fortunately in the late 1990s they weren’t still the big clunkers from four or five years earlier). I was able to do enough research for that on the Internet. But not all research on the Internet is sufficient. Sometimes you have to get off your laptop, off the Internet and off your butt, off your smart phone, and get out there and do other research.
There is the obvious one with police and I’ll go into that in another post. Today, I want to talk about one of my in-your-face type of research – not exactly interviewing someone – which I did a lot of when I was a journalist (and some was via phone and email). No, something else I used to do for research for a story was to get out their and “absorb the scene”.
One of my stories in Beyond the Tripping Point is set in present day Toronto. There is an alley in the story, so I re-visited the alley behind a street of row houses where relatives used to live many years before present day. I walked up the street in front of the houses to see what they looked like today and then I went around the corner and into the alley behind and started walking there. I visualized the scene in the story (Missing in Action) and decided this alley fit the story. So when I wrote that scene this was the alley I was thinking about. Yet I didn’t pinpoint where it was in Toronto in the story.
In the story “Unfinished Business” I have the main character revisiting her childhood home area in Toronto with her 12-year old daughter because the daughter insisted. Something really bad happened to the mother when she was around the daughter’s age and she had only been back once just for a ride-through with a friend and she ducked down in the car so she wouldn’t see the place. When she came with her daughter, I envisioned where I grew up and had her drive in past buildings and on roads there up to the house (but I changed the street names). However, the whole street was in my mind as I wrote it as were most of the changes outside the house like for my house – except the rickety old garage at the back of the driveway. It had been replaced just before I moved back to Toronto in 1998, but I left it in my story, because it was crucial to the story. The people in the story and the bad thing that happened to my character didn’t happen in my life. (I had other things that happened instead). And for the record, I have a son, not a daughter. And also for the record, I took many walks along that street and even talked to the current owners before I wrote my story. Unlike my story’s main character, I don’t drive.
And how the latter happened is the “fault” of a couple of cousins visiting from Michigan, well, one of them. Here’s how that went.
My cousins, G and K and I were driving downtown from my place to meet my son for dinner. As we drove past the street where I grew up, big mouth me mentioned this. G turned onto my street, stopped outside the house (big mouth me again telling him which one). A man in his mid-fifties was hauling a golf set from the trunk of his car. G rolled down the window and shouted out “My cousin used to live here.” So the three of us had to get out and we got into a conversation with the man and his wife. Turns out they (particularly her) are interested in the house’s history and the street’s history too. And the garage came into the conversation. The wife asked me if the original garage was so far back and I said “no.” Some more comparisons of outside were made and I learned some of the history of the property from after I moved. And I saw more inside when a few months later (I had their permission to call to make an appointment for this) I visited the couple inside the house.
Unfinished Business did not take place inside the house, but it did have scenes on the street, in the driveway and the old rickety garage.
So research is not all boring and you can get some physical exercise doing it. Just remember to go beyond the Internet.
Sharon A Crawford
Author of the Beyond mystery series.
My muse has been busy this week. Early in the morning, she appears in the last dream before I wake and she appears with answers, suggestions to the story I’m rewriting.I don’t actually see her or hear her. It is more a short scene showing the story scenario I have been struggling with, and leaving me waking up with an answer of what to write. You see, the more I rewrote the story, the more I questioned something in the plot. Most of the questioning was under the “does it make sense?” category or the “have I got the police procedure right?’
It is a mystery at a crime scene and there is some police procedure there. But the main character is a civilian who wants answers and is determined to get them. because of who the victim is. So police procedure has to be correct, but it is seen from somebody not really familiar with it. And my character is a fat eccentric senior So the story is not just a mystery, but it has humor, satire.
I did my research and have explicit info from a police sergeant who is involved in investigating homicides. So I’ve been going over what he emailed me to fact check with what I’ve written. And that necessitated some changes and a follow-up email concerning the large binders police now use for interviews of all things. And he caught something else I had in the question wording – where witnesses and suspects are taken for more questioning.
So, like I said before, every time I made a change, another necessary one would pop up.
This story has a submission deadline of a week from now and a maximum word count. So those factor in with writing time and story changes.
So I’ve been lucky with my active Muse. And sitting down at my computer every day and rewriting. And resenting time I have to do other things.
It is only now that I have figured out how my Muse is working. Each day and each evening I mull over what needs to be changed to work in my story and it gets pushed into my unconscious when I get distracted. And I do get distracted a lot – problems coming at me to solve, health issues, other writing and editing stuff, phone calls, computer problems, errands, etc. When I finally get to bed and get some sleep I have to go through several sleep cycles first and several unremembered dreams to get to the point when my Muse can get through. And she has and I am grateful for that and also for her timing – last dream before I get up.
Now if my Muse would only help me solve all the other annoying problems I have to deal with.
Any day I would much rather do something creative – like write or take photos or in the summer garden then deal with what I call negative problems shoved at me from what I call outside. I can create enough chaos without any help from others.
So, the lesson learned is – when the Muse strikes, WRITE!
How does your Muse work? Do you have a Muse? Do you listen to your Muse?
Sharon A Crawford
Author of the Beyond mystery novel series.
Many years ago I learned something important for writers from freelance writer Paul Lima. Yes, he said you need a Marketing Plan for your writing business,but he added something that is core to this – You need a vision for your writing business in order to figure out your marketing plan.
Very true. I know that from experience as the last couple of years I didn’t have a vision and only a marketing plan for my Beyond books.. For 2017 I was sick the first part of the year and for last year, let’s just say I had more than my share of problems in all areas, stupid problems, with 80 per cent of them caused by other people or organizations.The rest included health and house issues, I won’t go into a long list, just mention the one that gets the cake (in the face, of course) for the most ridiculous.. My CARP (the Canadian Seniors advocate organization that also publishes Zoomer magazine) membership got messed up by CARP. First, I didn’t get any notification to renew so I phoned. Yeah, I got my membership renewed and a new card last February – dated to expire February 2018. What’s wrong with this number? After raising more than a little hell over the phone and getting the CARP membership advocate involved, I got a replacement card dated to expire February 2019. And I have received a renewal notice for this February.
So, when not dealing with this and other problems, I just dived in and did client work, did some writing, did a lot of promo (and organizing such) for my Beyond Faith mystery novel. Sure, I did my usual daily “to do” list…
But something was missing and something unwanted was there.
The unwanted was the somewhat randomness of it all and lack of any defining vision for my writing.
For 2019 I went back to listening to Paul Lima. And this time I shortened my vision and its marketing plan. It is only one page and under my vision I list three things I am focusing on, three things I envision I want to do (and am doing – hey, it’s already January 4). I’m not going to copy the whole marketing plan, just my vision.
- Write more – memoir book finish; continue writing Beyond Truth, and write more personal essays and short stories for publication.
- Help other writers with their writing, and at the same time earn more money for me.
- Sell more Beyond books.
Each part of the vision statement covers what I want to do in 2019. The first one is self-explanatory. The second one covers both my editing for writing clients, doing one-on-one teaching writing sessions, and teaching writing workshops. The last part is also self-explanatory. This second one is both for my clients and me. The third one is also self-explanatory.
My next heading is simply; How I will do this.
And I list, which I’m not going to do here. I did put in for book marketing to go to a separate file. But my book marketing plan is much shorter than the very long one from last year. It is more to the point and organized by month. And it is not sealed in granite or whatever is the digital equivalent. So if January gets clogged with too much, some can be moved to another month.
My last heading is:
Writers always need to learn something about writing and marketing. Like other things in life it is an ongoing process and any writer who thinks they’ve reached their pinnacle because they are publishing their books or they have steady work writing, teaching writing, etc.. think again. We freelancers know (or should know) that freelance writing and the like is precarious and steady writing gigs can go at the drop of a well, the proverbial hat maybe.
As for Paul Lima, he is still freelancing – but scaled down a lot. Paul has MS and has wisely learned to work around that. He has written and self-published two books on MS which are available online. His previous books on writing and marketing are still available online. He blogs about his MS and shares info on that and his writing on a writer/editor listserve.He also posts regularly to Facebook. And he does get out every day for two hours walking his dog. I suspect the dog and his family are a big help and support (emotional and otherwise) for him. He also has a positive attitude – something we writers need to remember. No point in getting in the dumps about another rejection for a story.
I’m going to finish off here with a few links to Paul Lima’s website, which as all the info about the above on him and more. And also a link to his MS blog, and a story another writer wrote about him and two others who had to relearn how to live their writing career because of various chronic illnesses.
Paul Lima’s website here
Paul’s MS blog here
Paul’s business blog here
His Dec. 30, 2018 posting is titled My Freelance Writing Resolutions for 2019. Writers take note.
May your 2019 be joyful and creative.
Author of the Beyond mystery novel series.