Research is essential

Did I just hear some folks groan?

Writing is the portraying of a thought or image in your head as a word portrait. Whether your intended audience is the average reader or specialists in the field, you need to make certain that your word portrait is accurate.

This means you need to do some studying. If you're an expert in your field, you've already done your studying, but if you're not, you'll need to get a good working knowledge of your subject before you try to write about it.

Where can you find what you're looking for? One good place to start is your local library. Your librarian can help you find books and articles in the field you want to write about.

Do you want to write about a specialized field? People who work in or are experts in the field that you want to write about are a good resource, provided that you can find someone who is willing to give you all the time you need. Many people are flattered to be picked as a source for such research. Don't forget to mention them in the acknowledgements when your book is published.

Another source is bookstores, whether in your locale or online. It can be handy to have basic texts in the field you're writing about, whether you're writing something technical or writing fiction. Inspiration may strike in the middle of the night, when you can't make it to the library. Or if it's something that you might revisit in future work, having the texts on hand will speed up refreshing your memory.

The Internet is another resource. Just remember that anyone can put anything on the web and claim to be an expert, so double-check things.

Are you writing about a foreign city or country? Sometimes tour books can provide you with basic knowledge and a brief history of the people and the area, but if you want to do something more in-depth, read up on the history of your chosen place and get a feel for the people and the reasons why their culture is as it is.

Do you need help with places and cultures that you might not otherwise be exposed to, or about earlier periods in your own country's history? Historical societies preserve records and items that might be of use to you. There are also often tourist information or cultural sites online where you might be able to contact someone for information. If they don't know an answer, they may be able to direct you to someone who does.

Is it important to be accurate when using real places and people and periods of history? Yes, it is. Readers in certain genres are familiar with what is normal for the time period/country that you set your work in. Anachronisms are spotted quickly, and will cause your readers to lose respect for you as a storyteller. Some will even stop reading your work all together.

You don't want to lose readers because you didn't take the time to make sure you knew what you were writing about.

Click on the Writing label for all writing posts.



Useful Links

If I've done this right, there should be some links in the sidebar now. Two are for literary agents who blog, Miss Snark, and Agent Kristin, both of whom are great sources of information in the world of agenting and publishing. One is for Evil Editor, who takes query letters and shows you why what you've written in them doesn't work.

Then there are three links for Writer Beware, a good place to check for information on writing scams and the folks who perpetrate them. One is for their blog, one is for their website, and one is for the list of the 20 Worst Literary Agencies. I highly recommend checking these links out.

Recovering nicely from mush brain. Next time, hopefully I'll have another post on writing for you~~


Mush Brain

The first Muse Online Writers Conference was quite an experience. Such an incredible amount of information exchanged over a five-day period--I'll be weeks sorting and absorbing everything. All the week-long workshops held on the yahoo message board were open to anyone who was interested in the subject, so I've got notes and handouts from a lot of workshops that I hadn't signed up for originally. I'd set aside a three-inch, three-ring binder to put handouts and notes in, and it's completely full. There was information there for all levels of experience. Quite worth the time and effort spent on it.

As a result, though, I'm still a bit mush-brained. But spending a week doing something else entirely has made me want to get busy on my novel. Knocked a lot of rough edges off the first bit, and it feels like it's going to flow a bit better now.

I'll be back when I've had a little more time to recover...


A few random thoughts

Well, the writing conference begins on Monday. Registrations closed on the 4th. We have around 102 people signed up for the workshop we're doing on writing suspense stories. 5 days of questions and answers on the yahoo conference board, and an hour-long chat on the 13th. And that's only the workshop I'm helping to present. I've signed up for a number of others, and a bunch of them came with paperwork to read ahead of time. LOL! I've got my work cut out for me, but it's great to be able to attend a conference this way.

The new Patty O'Donnell novel is starting to finally shape up in my head. I've gotten six pages into writing it--yeah, I know, you're supposed to plot it all out and have everything down in an outline before you start, but that never works for me. If I write it down as an outline, it never gets written as a story. Besides, the process of writing is very organic for me, and the outline would never match what I eventually wrote. I'd intended it to be a Patty and Micheal story, but Patty's cousin Eddie, who is something of a clown, shouldered his way in and took over. One of these days, I'll write one where Micheal gets a more substantial role, but it's not going to be this one.

My allergies are really stirred up right now--it's the fall mold season, we had a couple of deluges not that long ago, and the trees are dropping leaves. There's a lot of stuff rotting out there. One lesson I seem to need to learn every year around this time is that I should never try to communicate with others during the worst part of mold season. I always end up making a horse's behind out of myself. Apologies to all whom I've managed to offend so far this season. Which of course means I'll really have to watch myself during the conference.

It's a full moon tonight. I love the moonlight. Guess you couldn't tell that by my books. ;)

'til next time~~


Traffic Blues

There are some good things in living in a college town/metro area, and some bad. When I was younger, around the time I was learning to drive, my birthplace boasted a population of somewhere around 25-30,000 residents, not counting the cows and chickens that surrounded us in what was then a mostly agricultural region. Summer breaks for the college meant that there were a couple of weeks in the summer when the streets were so empty that you could practically walk down the middle of all but the busiest and not have to worry about getting hit. It was always a relief, because most of the kids coming up for college hadn't been driving more than a year or two, and were still in that awkward, 'I can drive anywhere and anyhow I want, 'cause Mom and Dad aren't here' phase. It was a great time to learn to drive, because you weren't having to contend with other, relatively new drivers.

The population has jumped since then by 40,000 or more residents, just for my hometown. I'm not sure of the numbers for the rest of the area, but some magazine named us one of the top ten places for something or other, and people started coming. Summer breaks no longer mean quiet streets. My son learned to drive last year, and drove himself to work over the summer. He tells me, "Those kids drive like maniacs," even though he himself is younger than most of them. Winters, now and in the past, tend to be adventures in idiocy. Many of the kids come from places where it doesn't snow. You can almost guarantee that you will see cars off in ditches all over town the first time or two the roads get slick. They find out that four-wheel-drive doesn't mean you don't slide when the roads are icy.

Sure, there are some things that are nice about the growth. We've got new restaurants and stores that we used to have to drive to Tulsa or Joplin to visit. And the small-town, roll up the carpets and lock up at 5:00 mentality has long since vanished. It's nice to be able to pop out to the store and pick up toilet paper or other essentials at 9pm.

The metro area includes three cities and a number of surrounding small towns. The roads were not designed for the volume of traffic that we get. There are often lines at the off ramps on the interstate, which has become the main traffic artery for folks trying to avoid the clogged city streets. These days, neither is a faster way of getting there than the other. On game days at the local college, the best time to try to get out and do things around town is during the game, when everyone else is at the stadium. Careful timing is essential. My husband and I misjudged the end time of the game one day not long ago. It took us nearly an hour to reach our restaurant of choice, when it normally takes around 15 minutes.

This past half-week, the nearest big city hosted Bikes, Blues, and BBQ, one of the fastest-growing, family-friendly biker rallies in the country. They were expecting an attendance of around 300,000 people. There was a ton of traffic, but I honestly think it moved more smoothly than game-day traffic. In spite of their reputation, bikers on the whole seem to be pretty polite drivers. If only we could teach the fans of the college football team to be so polite.


The Muse Online Writers Conference begins in 8 days. So far, registrations are running around 1,000. There's still time to register if you're interested in it. http://www.freewebs.com/themuseonlinewritersconference/index.htm