The Realities of Publishing: Research
Posted on Monday, February 4, 2013 at 1 am by Yasmine Galenorn
Research. You need some info for a book on a current high profile author. So you head out to Wikipedia and look up what you need and you’re good to go, right? ~sound of buzzer ringing~ Not.
Research. You need some info on tattoos for a book. Your great aunt Agnes, who has never been near a tattoo shop in her life but has friends who have friends who have tattoos so she thinks she knows the answer and she’s sitting in your kitchen so hey, why bother going to the library/hopping on the net (NOT to look at Wikipedia). You’re good to go, right? ~sound of buzzer ringing~ Not.
Research. You need some current info on Ecuador for a book. You go to your bookshelf and pull a twenty year old South American history book off the shelves. You’re good to go, right? ~sound of buzzer ringing~ Not.
In all these cases, the research you gather is a combination of hearsay, misinformation, half-truths, and outdated information.
Research can make or break your book. Now, if you’re an expert on your subject, you will probably have a lot of what you need, but when you find yourself needing information, make sure what you find is up-to-date and accurate.
A few caveats:
- Wikipedia is not your friend. Yes, it’s a good starting point but it’s just that: a starting point. After you find out the basics, then use that information to search out official websites (scientific/university) to make certain it’s right. For one thing, anybody can edit any Wikipedia piece, which leads to massive misinformation and outright lies. And it’s lacking—lacking depth, lacking important information. If you’re checking out an author/artist/entertainer look for their official website to give you the true picture.
- Anytime you’re writing a book that involves current or recent history of an area, look for the most updated information you can find. I will forever associate the name Hayden Lake, ID, with the Aryan Nations in my mind but when you look it up, you actually find that the compound went down a number of years ago. It would be wrong of me to still portray it as the home of the white supremists at this point.
- Remember: all information is colored by personal experience. If you got a tattoo and you hate it, then you’re not going to have positive information to relate. If you loved it, you will. Take everything with a grain of salt. When you’re putting a spin on the subject for your characters, think of how their experience will color the knowledge you have gathered.
- The library is your friend. A number of libraries have reference librarians more than willing to look up information for you—or help you find it. And they also work via email, so even if you live in BFE, you can find what you need.
- Looking for information on an animal? Call a zoo—the zookeepers will talk to you. Need info on a tattoo—call several tattooists. Need info on medical procedures? Call a teaching hospital or university and ask to speak to the professors. Don’t be afraid to ask people—if they have the time to spare, most people love to talk about their work.
- Of course, in fantasy, UF, SF, genres, we create our own creatures, folklore, etc., but it’s handy to know mythology so that you can intersperse ‘real’ legends with your own. I’ve managed to do so seamlessly enough to where my readers are always asking whether something is an actual legend or my own creation.
And one of the most important things to remember: 90% of your research will NOT appear in your books. But the ring of truth your writing gains from the knowledge, will bring the readers back for more.
Posted in Writing