Friday, January 18, 2008

A Little Light Reading...

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These are just some of the books sitting on my desk right now. For the past year and a half, I've been pretty much immersed in the history of The Vietnam War. You might even think I'm writing a non-fiction book! I probably could, but it wouldn't be nearly as much fun as writing my women's fiction novel has been.
My point here? Do the work.
Anybody can come up with a great idea and write about it. But unless you've really stepped into the world you want to create for your readers, you won't be able to take them there. Of course I can't go back in time to Vietnam and tag along behind a couple of journalists going in to the field. I can't hop a Heuy and pray we don't get shot down. I can't see first hand what it's like to watch your buddy die in front of you...but I can educate myself. I can research, read, watch movies, even talk to people who where there if possible.
Even though I don't need to know the inner workings of an M16, there's no harm in finding out, right? Hey, you never know when...
Writing is like acting. You must become a part of the world you are trying to create.
If you're writing a hospital scene, go to a hospital. Talk to doctors and nurses. Get the facts straight before you write them down! My hubby is a pediatrician, and I simply cannot watch medical shows with him. He points out every single flaw, mistake or complete fabrication. Within ten minutes the entire show is ripped apart. All because the writers didn't do their homework.
If you weren't in the medical profession a lot of those things would slip past you and you wouldn't know the difference. That's why shows like Greys Anatomy and House stay on the air.
You never know who is going to be reading your work. You don't want something to come back to haunt you one day just because you didn't put the time in to get it right.
Details, details, details.
So often we writers just want to plunge in and write the story - we have to get it out of our system! And that's fine. Do that.
But then go back and make sure you haven't left anything to chance.
Sure I want to hurry up and get this book out there, but I tell you what, while I've still got it on my computer, I've still got every chance to check and double check my facts. Yes, it's a work of fiction. But it's also a fictional account of a real war. Real men and women lived and died there. I don't treat that lightly. I can't.
Your work of fiction may be a simple romance that takes place in Nebraska. Good enough. But if someone from Nebraska reads your book one day, you want to be sure that any references you make to the place are accurate.
We've talked a lot here lately about time, the value of it, and how we spend it.
Time is your gift. Use it wisely. Don't rush ahead and think you have the authority to write about something because your great great Aunt Clarisse experienced it fifty years ago. YOU need to experience it as best you can. Use every available resource given to you, and use it well.
At the end of the day you'll have created a realistic story world that readers will step in to and become a part of until they reach the final page, and, with a sigh of satisfaction and a smile on their face, close the book and say, "Now that was a great story!"
Do your homework. Your editors, and readers, will thank you for it.

5 comments:

Jo said...

It is the Lord and no other who lead me to your blog today. It has proven great encouragment to my faltering writers heart, and giving me hope. Thank you for reminding me to cherish Time and not to rush anything. The Lord will write the book in His time.
Thank you so much for writing and blessing me so.
Cheers!
- Jo
P.S. I gladly add you to my blogroll!

Audra Marie said...

What a terrific reminder to take the time to research and immerse yourself in the world you're creating (or re-creating). I enjoyed your post, Cathy. :)

Lynda Schab said...

That's why I like the Lit genre. I have no problem with doing my homework about Spas, manicures and shopping. And that's exactly why I don't write historical fiction. I always got D's in history. LOL

Great points, Cathy. Not doing your homework will definitely earn you an F from publishers and readers. :-)

Rachel said...

I love doing research. I have so many books on the Russian Revolution that it's kind of ridiculous. I think I spend more time researching than I do writing, lol. It's just so much fun!

My dad's a doctor, so we don't watch a whole lot of medical shows. Except for House and Scrubs. House is just wonderful, because we all see bits of my dad in him. And even though he would have had his license revoked years ago, it's still well done on the characterization front.

Very few complaints about Scrubs and it's terribly funny. Those writers do their research. And we all LOVE the fact that it's not set in the ER or revolves totally around surgeons. There's so much more to medicine. My dad is an intensivist, works full time in the ICU, and that's where a big chunk of Scrubs takes place.

Lori said...

I'm just beginning to learn how to ask questions during research. I can click away for information on the internet or at the library-- no problem. But sometimes you just have to pick up the phone, call somebody and ASK. Pretty intimidating for someone without a published novel to point to. It's like, "Now, who are you again, and why are you asking me these questions?"

So thanks for the encouragement, Cathy. I'll press on for the sake of the story, even when I feel like an idiot. :)