Monday, April 30, 2018

Write What You Know...Or RESEARCH

We've all heard the saying, "Write what you know". There's a reason for this. If you write what you know, presumably, you are creditable. Because you know what you are talking about.

I love what a favorite author says as well: "Write what you know and research the hell out of what you don't. Because there is ALWAYS someone out there smarter than you who lives it."

She's so correct! If you want to write about a nuclear scientist heroine who lives on a ranch in Colorado, please research Colorado Ranches. They are different from Texas Ranches. They are different near Denver than they are in Pueblo.

Texas Ranch
Colorado Ranch

And research street names. Town history. Customs. Facts. Best of all, find someone who has lived there a long time and pick their brain restlessly (with their assistance of course) about the area and anything that pertains, no matter how little, to your novel.

Why? Why? Why???

Years ago, I had the honor of judging an unpublished authors novel contest. I was particularly excited to read a story set in the same general area where I lived. Since names were NOT allowed on the novels, I have no idea who the author was, but here's what 'failed' her book for me:

She called the main Interstate which runs East-West through the USA and my whole state 'street' or 'highway'. Not a deal breaker for me, so I noted in comments she might want to change it to 'interstate' since the terms she used didn't fully encompass the Interstate.

 THIS was the book  'DNF' (Did Not Finish) point for me:
There's a section of this same Interstate that is extremely dangerous, especially in the winter. It twists, turns and basically drops in elevation with limited guard rails and visibility over 6-10 miles. On a clear Summer day it takes around 15 minutes to drive, because the speed limit is 25 mph. And the police enforce that speed like demons. There's dozens of 'ramps' for trucks to 'reduce speed' going down this way steep grade.

On winter's often closed at the first sign of ice. It's just too dangerous. people have died there. A lot of people. When open, a state trooper and highway crews monitor it constantly 24/7 to assist motorists and make sure if an accident happens, they clear it fast so more accidents don't happen because cars can't see the wreck around a curve.

She wrote the hero drove in a 'blinding blizzard of snow and ice', at night, at 100 mph in a semi-truck over this section. He completed the feat in 3 minutes.

Her hero would be dead.

That one half page section took away every bit of credibility for me. The plot, her characters, all of it was not enough to draw me from the fact she obviously didn't live here, didn't ever drive that section, and didn't, most of all, RESEARCH.

Yes, I'm a picky reader. But I LIVE here. I KNOW that section of Interstate and there's not a Trucker on earth, space, or Heaven who would drive that section at 100 mph! If he/she could even get ON that section in a snowstorm in a semi. The troopers offer hotel rooms before allowing semis on that section in a blizzard.

RESEARCH fellow writers. For the Love of your Readers, RESEARCH.

Just today, a friend of mine posted an article about an activity here in my state. Several of the 'facts' were misrepresented, and could have been easily fixed with a 'search'. For example, the article writer (NOT my friend, just to be clear) had the wrong mountain here listed as the 'highest in the Eastern US'. She also had the times the activity began and ended wrong. Little things, maybe, but again, credibility that make me want to never read another article from this 'writer' again.


And least anyone think I'm 'picking' on other writers:

I'm not perfect either (yes, feel free to GASP here. It's a shock ;).

For example:

I'm forever grateful to my editor who caught I had a second story on a house in Book 3 when there was no second story on the same house in Book 2.

I had a pregnant heroine wear a lei in a Hawaiian wedding ceremony. It is considered very bad luck to an unborn baby if a mother wears a 'closed lei' (a complete circle, as most leis are) while she is pregnant. I'd never considered or heard this, and my Hawaiian friend easily caught it for me.
Open Lei

Closed leis

A really sharp eyed reader called me on the spelling of a minor character's name. I had it spelled with 'K' in Book 1 and then with 'C' by Book 3. Completely missed it, because it was the 'same' name. But the reader was right: the spelling changed the name. And my credibility.

To be taken as a 'Serious Writer' regardless if it's novels, articles, notes, etc. Make sure you know your facts and RESEARCH.

Now please excuse me. I need to research if it's possible to kiss someone while flying an airplane......