Doing Research – Making sure your writing is right


In my first book, Frankly Speaking, my main character, Frank Rozzani, notices someone has broken into his home. He reaches into his glove box for his Glock and proceeds inside with caution. Sounds right, doesn’t it. That’s what other characters in books, television and movies do.

GLOCK_19

In my original draft, however, I had him making sure the safety was off. When I let an author acquaintance of mine, who is retired police officer, read the book, he came to that part and let me know that a Glock doesn’t have a safety. I had no idea. I didn’t know a Glock from a hole in the wall.

This taught me a valuable lesson. I went back through that book and looked for other things. For instance, I used GPS and satellite phone technology in the book and I researched the use of these things extensively to make sure that it was accurate.

nerd

Have you ever gone to one of those comic book movies and looked around. (Wow, what a segue). I remember taking my older kids to see The Simpsons Movie at the midnight premier some years ago. We were nerdy in our Simpsons t-shirts, but we paled in comparison to the Nerd Herd that I saw near the front of the theater. They had notebooks and were making notes on all of the things they saw in the movie. I’m sure the nerdo-blogosphere blew up after that. It was the same when we went to see the last X-Men movie.

My point here is, in our Internet society, there are trolls waiting under every bridge to point out something that is wrong with your work. If you have flawless grammar, punctuation, and usage, but you didn’t know a Glock doesn’t have a safety, someone will call you on it and the credibility of your work will suffer.

I now have a cadre of people that I can call on for details. I have a friend who is an EMT/firefighter, another with extensive military background, a police detective, and various other people that can call BS on anything that I didn’t get right.

Furthermore, when I was in high school (back in the dark ages) we actually had to go to the Library to do research. My parents had an encyclopedia set that was so old, it only listed The Great War, as World War II hadn’t happened when it was published.

Now we have the Internet. That’s not to say that everything is accurate that we read on the World Wide Web. You have to know your sources. Everyone rains down on Wikipedia as being a bad source because it can be edited by anyone. That may be true, but most good Wikipedia posters have a reference section in their entry that you can use to corroborate what you find.

Sometimes researching a book makes me nervous. When I did research for Blood Orange, I had to look up facts on radioactivity, creating dirty bombs, and terrorism around the world. I fully expected black SUVs to pull up in front of my house. Luckily, this hasn’t happened (yet).

So, what am I advising in this rambling post:

  • Surround yourself with experts. Get them to validate what you write.
  • Do your research carefully. Look for respected sources on the Internet.
  • Get a second opinion. If you are writing about something scientific, try to find multiple sources or get more than one expert to look it over.

The bottom line is, if you get something wrong after doing all of this, just deal with it. The beauty of independent publishing is that you can change your work if something glaring ends up in the finished product.

We’re all human, but if you take as many precautionary steps as possible to research and check your work, you’ll avoid the Internet-troll-nerd-writer-wannabes that will trash you at every turn.

Your comments and suggestions are welcome as always.

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8 thoughts on “Doing Research – Making sure your writing is right

  1. Great post. Your point about the Glock and the safety is the perfect illustration of why we must be careful with our facts. I have never handled one, so I would have assumed it had a safety. Surrounding yourself with authories on subject matter is a great suggestion. Thank you for that one. I have two friends who are police officers, but I will have to expand this to include other occupations as well. Thanks for that.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yep, there is always that one person (and I am one of them). I hate it when I come across factual errors in my reading. It is one of my pet peeves. It makes me think, ‘if this author can’t be bothered to get the basics right for their story, how much effort are they actually putting in? Do they deserve to be read?’
    For the type of stories I write, I get a lot of my info from life experience. I led a pretty diverse life in my 20s. I was the only female member of a gun club in the UAE and learned to pull apart M-16s and fire them, also 9mm Berettas and a few other things. I also did several excavations overseas in the UAE (before Dubai turned into a super modern monster) so experienced Arab culture first hand. I’ve travelled in Europe and have a degree in Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology, that really helps with my archaeological action adventures.
    If there are things I don’t know (and that’s plenty), I mostly use the resources available on the internet because I’m a bit constricted by my rheumatoid arthritis now. But thankfully I’ve been taught how to sort the wheat from the chaff.
    I’ll look at videos on YouTube to give me an idea of places I need to describe but have never been, I’ll use JSTOR to read journal articles about particular topics I need more info on. If I’m just after something basic I’ll do an online search but use a trusted source (not Wikipedia). I’ll also download user manuals and guides for objects my characters might use that I don’t know the workings of.
    There are also a multitude of procedural guides for various professions available for download. For instance, I live in the UK, and the Home Office kindly makes the User guide to: Police powers and procedures, England and Wales, freely available on gov.uk for anyone to read and download, or the Police Library has the Murder Investigation Manual available for download from their website, all 304 pages of it.
    I’ll also download pictures of things so I can describe them better, especially if I am writing historically. I read copiously and if I am heavily into a topic, I’ll budget a book purchasing allowance. Researching is one of my favourite parts of writing, I don’t see it as a chore at all. There is always something to learn.

    Liked by 1 person

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