Tuesday, November 22

The Fact of the Matter

This week on WordWranglers we're talking about research. How, when, where you do it.

Anyone who knows me knows I hate to do research. I live in the middle of nowhere, and the two closest libraries are tiny without much to offer. If I do need a fact checked, I tend to use Google, which I hate. Yes, hate. For one thing, who knows if the sites are accurate? Anyone with an opinion can put up a site and claim anything. So then I go to the next site, then the next. I end up spending what should have been a simple fact check into an all day time suck.

As you know, I mostly write contemporary western suspense.

If I need to know something about cows or horses, I call my dad. He's an expert. Easy.

I also tend to stay in my comfort zone. I can write a million cowboy stories. Easy.

Awhile back I started two stories that weren't cowboy stories and they lasted about two chapters. The first one is about a woman who has a child with leukemia. To share bone marrow with the older child, she wants another baby with the father, who didn't know he had a first baby. Fine. All was well until I had to start checking leukemia facts. Ugh. I spent more time on fact checking than I did writing and that went to fun to chore real quick.

The second was about an Arizona border guard and an illegal sympathizer. Do you know that there are Arizonians who go out into the desert and leave water stations for the illegals crossing into the states? Neither did I. And I didn't know a whole bunch of other stuff that made me ditch that ms.

I recently started a new manuscript about a country music star. I've listened to country music most of my life. I have gone to a million concerts. Easy, right? Not so much. I wasn't halfway into the first chapter before I hit a factoid I wasn't sure about.

Lucky for me, a few CPs and others from writing loops know the stuff I don't. No Googling for me. I made it through that crisis without having to spend hours and day on the Internet looking to see if one small fact was correct.

I think I'll stick with what I know and love, cowboys! It makes me a happier writer.


  1. Like you with your dad, I have my husband who is a police officer. So I call him. A lot. The other day I called and asked him what the police would do if I found a human bone in our backyard. Now normally he's used to such questions but this time he paused, then said, "You didn't find a human bone in the backyard did you?" LOL.

    I like research in small chunks. That's why I tend to research as I write. But sometimes I think our best resources are other writers. There is such a vast amount of information out there that others writers know about.

    Speaking of which, I have a question about a horse...

  2. Lol love your last line:) I love research BUT it's actually a love and hate relationship. LOL

    I love doing it when I am finding the answers I need but when it takes away from my writing time, it can drive me a little crazy.


  3. I love research. I research as I write. It's so much easier. Becuase I write Regencies, I have to research not only places, fortunately I've lived in England, word usage and syntax, clothing, houses, horses, carriages, travel times etc.

  4. I'm with you--I detest research and will try to avoid it, but sometimes I can't.

  5. LOL Sharon, that is funny.

    D'Ann, I think I love research--once spent 6 weeks researching for a book. All about Sedona, vortexes, time travel, and meditating. :) Wasn't a hardship, except that I really blew a lot of time and it took some effort to get back into the swing of that book. (It's done though--Trouble Under Venus, one of my favorites in the end. Oh yeah, I also had to research Cuban mafia.)

    By the way, I really wanta write a book about rodeo...thought of using you if I had questions. :) Either that, or spending a month reading rodeo books and watching rodeo movies and watching rodeos on TV...might require a trip to the National Western Stock Show, right?

    Still--no matter what--do the research. I edited a historical last year, that was way, way off the mark. Once our historical expert got hold of it, virtually nothing the author had written stood as usable. Pretty bad. Readers will go nuts if they come across things they know that the author obviously doesn't.

  6. I'm with Ella. I LOVE doing research. I also do it as I go and I use both internet and print sources. There's tons of good stuff out on the internet, you just have to know what's reliable and what's not.

    I love turning up little known facts I didn't know!

    And you know you are my "go to" horse person! :)

  7. Fun blog D'Ann...and I love everyone's comments. I don't mind research, but tend to do it as I write. If I can't find the answer from someone I know, then it's the internet or the library...and it can get time consuming because I generally get sucked into it and keep researching well past what I need to. lol

  8. Writing what you love or know is never a bad thing...especially because you're really good at cowboys!!

  9. I love it! Of course I'm a historian by education and career. With historical writing (romance/fiction) I'm having a blast cuz I get to research topics I don't know much about & some that people rarely write of (Regency to Civil War to white slavery by Barbary pirates). Fun!


  10. I love research! I'm working on a short right now that I pulled out of thin air. I wanted the hero to be Irish, but I couldn't find an Irish knife for him to use (I need to get a new weapon, but that's another story), so I made him Scottish because they keep hidden knives. So while I was researching knives, I ran into some folk lore and now I've got the basics for the ending. Usually in research, I find that one thing leads to another and I always learn something really cool.

  11. I think the research lovers are winning! I loved Sharon's story. Good post, D'Ann.

  12. I love research. I think it's some sick, twisted part of me that was born while I was in college, lol. Although what I research, I don't write about. Research is like piano playing (which I do) - it's therapeutic.

  13. I don't hate research. I can do it. I just don't want to have to look to hard or too far. And I'm pretty gullible so if it says it on the internet I'll believe. LOL

  14. I hate research most times, too, D'Ann! Write what you love, that's my motto, so then when you have to do research it's fun :) Great post!

  15. I like to plot out the story and do most of my research. Sometimes, if my muse is kicking, I tag a site to look up later and go back to add the info later, because if I stop to Google at the moment, then I've loose my drive.
    Good Post,

  16. I don't mind research - yet. I've had to research Greek mythology a bit and herbal medicines too. No big deal on either. Researching leukemia...holy smokes.

    I can't always write about what I know (I've never been in sword fight for instance), but I've got a damn good imagination and try to draw from other experiences in my life.

  17. The best novels are those that combine what you know with some level of research.

  18. Love research. Happiest time at university was burying myself in the stacks at university and not coming up for air until I had an answer. I like google - I watch the sites - wikipedia can give a direction for something but I tend to track down academic sites.
    That way if someone disputes my "fact" I can just snort and ignore them.
    And when all else fails - I use the critique group - somebody out there will know the answer.

  19. Oh my Gosh, I'm a freak. I love research. I can get lost in it. Pick up one thread and grab another then another then ...well pretty soon I know way more about some stupid thing that doesn't even apply to my WIP anymore. Still love it.

  20. I'm just the opposite, D'Ann... I enjoy doing research. I've never written a book that I really didn't have to research. The very first story I ever wrote was in 11th grade... Set in Georgia during the Civil War. I've never been to Georgia, and although at the time I was a Civil War buff, I still didn't know everything about Sherman's March to the Sea or the battles my hero fought in. And that was before the internet!

    My next book (that wasn't Star Wars fan fiction) was written 20 years later and is about a vampire. Piece of cake... Except the vampires are FBI agents. I knew nothing about the FBI.

    Then you have my contemporary Westerns... Well, you know WHO my primary source of research is for those...

    My point... I never have written about things that I really know anything about. If I did, no one would want to read it. My life is boring, and I've never been more than 300 miles away from the town I was born in.

    Personally for me, writing is a way for me to escape. I can become a Jedi knight (as in when I was still writing fan fiction) or a woman in love with a country singing cowboy, or ex-drug addict prostitute in love with a Green Beret suffering with PTSD (okay--I do know more than I want to about PTSD because of working with vets who have it, but I knew next to nothing about the Special Forces) or a vampire FBI agent. Or a werewolf bartender... (I don't think I've been in a bar more than a dozen times in my entire life.)

    I do my research usually when I need to know something. But I enjoy learning about something I know little about and using those facts to create a richer story.

    Gook luck with the new story... I can't wait to read it!!!!

  21. Thanks so much everyone for your comments. You all amaze me with your eagerness to research!

  22. I don't actually hate research, so much as it bores the crap out of me. I don't bother doing any research during the first or second draft. I wait until the third and then every time I get to a place I need to add the correct thing, I stop and research.

    It's start and stop, but at that stage it doesn't matter that it interrupts the flow, because the story is already down.

  23. I love research.After deciding to try my hand at writing I had discovered all three of the Lord Of The Rings movies. I did a lot of research found a great site with lots of information about the characters and things. I took what I learned there and wrote a fan fiction taking it to the next generation. It wasn't a very good story but it started me writing.
    I don't know a lot about horses or cowboys. I listen and then search for things. I learned that all these novels where the hero rides a stallion isn't truly possible. But in some ways a gelding doesn't seem as strong although I'm sure he is, it just seems odd. Maybe we could just say his horse or her horse? LoL Good post on research. I type in something and keep digging and reading until I can find out more.I prefer the Internet over going to the library. Although where I live now it might not be too bad. But hey if you write paranormal or fantasy I would love to know where to research those things.