Research is Vital - 10/22/19
Researching a novel is a vital part of the entire structure. You can't just sit down at the computer and begin to write. You have to have an outline, a roadmap, or an idea of what you want to accomplish in writing.
There was a publisher who once gave me valuable advice in writing. I hated her. She was a terrible person, vain, self-absorbed, and arrogant, but she helped me to understand my writing with one very simple question ...
"What are you trying to do with this book?"
She was, at the time, referring to Blackridge: Shadow Foes. It was originally the first book of the series, until I decided that there was far too much character investment to be made by beginning the story with Scavenger Hunt. Even though I disliked her for the way she treated people, as a publisher, I gave her the manuscript to Shadow Foes and asked her for help. She read it, critiqued it, and gave it back to me. Even she, as an awful person, was good to me in her own way. I seem to have a quality that brings out the good in people. I don't know what it is, but I see it.
Regardless of that, I took her advice and I became a better writer for it. She actually helped me. You never know where you are going to get help from these days. I began researching my book. I checked up on things. I looked into the history of it all and made sure it was where I wanted to go. Research is very important. You have to know what the hell you’re talking about or people are going to know you're full of crap.
I'm gonna put it plainly. That's the way it is. If you have never written a mystery novel in your life and you think you can just sit down and write a whodunit, you're crazy. It's never going to work. You have to research what you want to do. You have to check everything and then double-check it.
I will freely admit, I would have challenges if I wrote anything that has to do with the government or the military. I don't know how all of that stuff works and I don't really care for it. All I care about is telling a good story for the enjoyment of my readers. I don't want them to pick apart every piece of the novel, every line, every chapter. I just want them to read it and have fun.
Let's face it, my friends. We are all very busy people. There are only so many hours in a day to get things done and leisure time keeps getting smaller and smaller. That's why valid research matters so much when you write. You have to make sure you are at least making some kind of sense when you sit down to write a book. It's very important that you at least have some idea of what you are writing about and you convey the validity of that to paper because people are not stupid. Far from it. People are clever and they absolutely do not like to feel like they have been conned or tricked. Don't do it. Just ... don't ... do it.
You are writing something that is being inserted into the sacred free time that people have in a 24-hour period. If they only have an hour or two to read your work, well then you better make sure you are writing your best because they are going to be depending on you for entertainment.
These days, there are way too many forms of entertainment around. Sports, shows, movies, random streaming, books, blogs, news outlets ... the list is endless. There are sooo many different types of minds out there. Not everyone craves the same thing, but let's face it .... when you find an audience, you'd better be prepared to give them what they want and the only way you can do that is by researching the topics you want to write about.
With the advent of the internet, information these days is not scarce. There are countless sources to be found, but you have to make sure that the information you find is correct and relevant to what you are trying to accomplish. Fake news, fake research ... how is one to know what is truth and what is just garbage?
The only way to find that out for yourself is to do your research. You have to weed out the crap and keep the truth. If you write fiction, sure you can make up things for your story, but even then, you have to make sure it's believable. People love fiction, but it's got to make sense. It's got to flow. It's got to be well-written. You don't want them stopping mid-sentence on you and scratching their heads saying, "wait a minute, that's not right ..." because let's face it ... people will do that. They will. Oh sure, there are some instances where if they are involved in the story enough, they will forgive it and move on, but it's always going to lurk in the back of their minds. Don't even go there. Don't do that to your readers. Give them validation. Put your characters into a situation that shows your reader that you've done your research and you know what you are writing.
How are you going to do that, you ask? Why, it's simple. If your reader can breeze through your work of fiction without judgement or stoppage, then you're good. There isn't time for that if they are caught up in the story. There comes a time when they are devoted to the plight of your character(s) and they don't care about the details because it all makes sense. I have had this experience made known to me often. I know what it's like to have a reader run with an idea and not stop because there is nothing to stop them.
That is the key to good writing. You don't want to give them pause. You don't want them to find a reason to pick apart your work. You don't want them to stop and analyze what is happening because all they want to do is read and relax. They want to enjoy the story and be swept up in the captivation of events. They had a crappy day. They are unhappy. They are tired or they are frustrated and they are looking for a way out.
All they want to do us enjoy your story and you have an obligation to them as a creator to make sure they are captivated enough to forget everything else in that limited amount of time you have to get their attention. Do you know how sacred it is for some people to curl up with their favorite book and read? That is the time you want to provide for them all that they seek. Everything they need in those few moments is everything to you and your research depends on that. You have to make sure that you are accurate in your writing, because they are expecting it.
Even though they may be breezing along in reading, they are still analyzing everything that is going on in that story. It's human nature. You can't fight it. They know it's fiction, but it has to be believable fiction. You know what I'm talking about. Make-believe is not totally viable anymore. You have to back up your stories with research into whatever it is you are writing, or you are going to run into those moments of doubt from your readers who are going to be like "oh, right that can never happen." or ... "oh, please, whatever."
You don't want that. You want seamless belief. You want uninterrupted flow. The mark of a good writer is one who captivates the audience without them stopping to analyze. You have to make sure they continue reading without even giving thought to what you've written because whatever it is that you've committed to the page is, in essence, the reality of that situation.
They love it, they believe it ... and most importantly, they carry it with them and remember it.
If they do that, you've done a good job ... and come on, let's face it ... as a writer, that's what it's all about. Enjoyment.
Do your research. Everyone benefits from it.