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Act like a journalist to do research for your novel

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

Three and a half years ago I finally stopped being a journalist. Or so I thought.

The journalistic writing may have stopped, but something stayed, something carried over to my fiction writing. My research skills, including my interviewing skills and more important the realization that even with fiction you need to seek out the experts for some aspects of your novel besides the craft of writing fiction. Most novels contain something else – perhaps medical conditions, perhaps police procedure, perhaps court procedure, perhaps historical information, perhaps socio-economic conditions, perhaps geographic information. The list goes on and on.

So as I write my novels, this research necessity is always in the back of my mind. Coupled with readers’ intelligence and knack to find anything off in my novel, I make notes in brackets in the manuscript about getting more info. I even do separate files with lists of what I need to find and where I could get it.

Some, of course can be found on the Internet. Mr. Google is very helpful. So are books on the subject. But some more specifics may need that personal expert.  In the last few years when I did a story for a magazine – print and/or online, and I needed information, I did the list of online links for information as well as indicating where a person was necessary. Sometimes there would be someone mentioned in these links; other times not. Then I used my other writing connections – sometimes posting on a listserve I belonged to – sometimes directly to a contact who might have this info.

I have received some good sources that way including a source who decided he could play guinea pig to be interviewed because he had been involved as victim in the crime. (Yes, this was a story about crime).

Other times I’ve found sources at writing or other conferences – either others attending or a speaker. So I talked to them, let them know what I was doing, and asked if I could interview them.

Usually they could help including letting me interview them.

Sometimes just random conversations with friends lead to sources and sometimes they were the source. Other times it worked for story ideas. That can work for fiction story ideas but that’s for another post.

Another good source is your public library and sometimes it is better to go right to the library, especially if there is a reference library branch. Stacks of books that you can’t find elsewhere and you can’t borrow can be found there – for in-library checking. And don’t forget the knowledgeable librarians. University libraries can also be of great help.

Just remember that because you write fiction, you have to include some facts. You wouldn’t want to have your main character holidaying today in a country using the country’s former name? If you set your story during a war, you definitely want to get your facts right about places and dates.  Leave no (research) stone unturned.

Which reminds me – I need to talk to a medical doctor who specializes in concussions for the novel I’m currently writing. I have taken the first few steps, the Internet, books, and getting some contacts from a former medical doctor turned journalist.

Your publisher may catch some or raise questions about others, but what if you are self-publishing your novel? Either way, you the author are responsible. Get your facts right. Act like a journalist but write like a novelist.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

The book cover at the top links to Beyond Blood on Amazon.com

 

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Don’t rush your writing

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

We writers all seem to have deadlines with writing our novels or short stories. Sometimes it is the publisher’s deadline, sometimes our own. So we fret and hurry through writes and rewrites and maybe don’t write our best.

Last Saturday I had a heart-to-heart talk with the acquisitions editor at Blue Denim Press (publisher of my Beyond mystery books). Shane had a big piece of advice – Don’t rush the writing.

If you rush it, you’ll miss things, make errors and your writing will come across as hurried. This is mostly me speaking, but including some of what Shane and I discussed. Note: Shane is also a published fiction author. Both of us have missed things because of writing in too much of a hurry. His error is his business, but it was caught in time before all print copies of his new novel In the Shadow of the Conquistador were done for the book launch, etc.

I’ll tell you my stupid error – it is in the current Beyond book (third in the series), I am writing – apparently too fast because of time constraints (too much else going on in my life – the writing, editing and instructing business, health, house, social, etc.) Anyway for  those familiar with my Beyond books, they are set in the late 1990s, although this third one gets my fraternal twin PIs, Dana Bowman and Bast Overture into the beginning or 2000.

Which is neither here nor there with my writing error. In one scene Bast goes to the Toronto Reference Library to look up old addresses in the Toronto Might Street Directory. So, I had him go to the library’s former address – now the University of Toronto Bookstore. Why? I had done research there and for some reason the decade  that I did so got lost in my brain, so hence my date mixup.

I had gone there in the early 1970s. Bast went to the Toronto Reference Library in late 1999. This newer (and current) TRL location opened in 1977. My error arrived in my brain weeks after writing it, as often happens when not actually writing. You can bet I made the change next time I turned on the computer.

That is only one of the many things that can suffer if you write too fast. Try to pace yourself and make more time for your writing – either in the time spent each day/week or the whole time (months/years) spent.

If you do that, when your publisher accepts your manuscript and you sign that contract, you won’t have to worry so much when the publisher suggests some changes.

And often publishers have tight deadlines.

I am constantly trying to prioritize my life – including dumping things, saying “no” more often and putting some people and things on hold.  Still an uphill battle, but I try. And I need to try to relax more.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Click on the Beyond Blood cover at the top to find out where copies are available

 

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