Check It Out
by Cait Collins
I was rather upset by a comment made the other day regarding writers who do not check their facts. I was purchasing a number of books and magazines on gems, minerals, and jewelry making for more information on the career of one of my characters. The clerk commented I must be really into rocks and jewelry. I explained I was doing some research for my new book. Her response was “Thank you. I do some editing and I can’t believe how many writers expect the editor to do the fact-checking.”
Really? I can’t believe writers would put something on paper and not check the facts. I prefer to think that we take the time to learn what we don’t know. For example, would anyone start a story about a doctor and not know the basics of education, office set up and regulations regarding the practice of medicine? Would we be willing to tarnish our reputation just to get the book finished?
We are responsible for what we put on paper. I have a situation in a novel regarding the purchase of several tracts of land with the stipulation the former owners could buy the land back in five years. Only the buy-back did not include the water and mineral rights. Was this possible? Absolutely. How did I learn about this? Book and on-line research combined with discussions with experts in the field. And with on-line resources, it’s easy to do the research.
While we have more up-to-date information at hand, I still prefer books. I purchased a detailed book on gems, cuts, faceting, settings, and designs. While I have done some rock collecting and panning, I need details so that my character is real.
I also believe in experience. Writing a western? Go west. Sign on as a ranch hand, and if you don’t ride a horse, learn. Pick up the cowboy lingo.
Find a fee site and learn to pan for gold. (You get to keep what you find.)
Is your hero a rock climber? Find a beginner’s location and scale the cliff. Become familiar with the rigging and terminology.
Proper research builds better settings, richer dialog, and more exciting characters. By paying attention to details, we portray ourselves as true professionals who take responsibility for the words we put on the page. We make the editor’s job easier and we reduce the amount of editing needed to make a project press-ready. Good research permits the author to put one project to be and start a new work.