I don’t know how to do that

Research is mandatory. For any and everything. Not just to learn something new, but to brush up on something once learned.

There is temptation to research the crap out of something, get excited than brow beat the reader with all that glorious knowledge. I try to avoid this. I’ve been told that about 90% of what you learn on any particular subject won’t or shouldn’t make it into the book. Now I’m not talking about the main subject matter. Like if the book is about motorcycles, then sure there should be more than 10% on the machines.

What I’m talking about are the things or nuances in a book that make it real and interesting.  Do I know how to fly a plane? Nope, but with a bit of research I could have someone in my book be a pilot with just enough information to make it believable. Because I’m not a pilot nor do I know any personally I would keep that as a minor character trait. Maybe even a hobby. Elude to it, maybe use flying a plane as part of the story. But if I learn all there is to know, then proceed to attempt to educate the readers on what each button and gauge does, it wont go well.  I can practically hear the covers being slammed shut just thinking about it.

For me there are my main reasons to research

Learn something new

How to fly a plane or what do people who fly planes do? videos, texts, other stories. Everyone does this type of research
What does the interior of the penthouse suite look like at a hotel? Most hotels have virtual tours or numerous images online to work off of.
What does a one room apartment look like in an apartment? I’d look up rentals and go for a virtual tour.
Google maps is my favorite tool for getting a peek at a destination I may not have personally visited. Go for a google street walk. Don’t forget to note the traffic or people. 

Remind of something old or once known

I know how to fish, but sometimes I need a reminder on what bait to use and when.
Familiar places can come back to life with a return visit or a google street view visit.
I remember being in school, but times have changed. Interviewing kids or teachers can be a great asset to a fresher look on a classroom etc.


Get better description

I employ my FAB approach (See blog The FAB pencil)  Sure I know what cars look like but a specific one? Dealerships and manufactures often have detailed descriptions.
Take a car out for a test drive. 
Hire a limo for the night
Go to a similar destination or event that happens in your book. The park, the theater, a restaurant. Whatever or wherever, visit with fresh eyes, open ears and a clear nose. 
I’ve never seen a live rat up close. Maybe a trip to a pet store is in order. 

Get a better understanding

I may not know the in and outs of a particular mental illness or behavior. Books, documentaries and interviewing a psychiatrist or afflicted person can be an invaluable research tool.
I Have no idea how to fix flat tire. Sure I’ve seen it in movies… if I really needed more information its out there. You Tube, the local mechanic. 

I have no clue how to start a fire if stranded in the woods. But my one character should… 

If I don’t know, I research. I may only use a tidbit of what I learned but knowing more than necessary allows me as the writer to use that wee tidbit effectively and correctly.

I think its neat how  open people become when you say. “Hey I’m writing a novel and I have a Police officer character. Do you mind if I ask you a question?”  Not every person will be willing to sit down to a full length interview. But from asking several cops different questions I not only got my answers, but I also got alternate perspectives.

If you do plan or get an interview, be prepared. Ask questions you know will get you the information you need to write your scene. Remember I wouldn’t go on and on and on about how pepper spray is attached to the vest, nor how it’s exactly used, feels, smells, or tastes. But if I need to touch on one of those aspects to enrich a moment then it was worth it.

I’ve never had white-hot chocolate. Maybe I’d get some and FAB it. Then ask others what they think of it… What I like/dislike and why will not be the same as someone else’s reaction/opinion.  Sometimes my research is spontaneous. I see something new or interesting and I take a closer look or inspect it further. I use my instinct to alert me to potential plot fodder.

My advice about research.
Do it. Take notes. Open your eyes, listen, feel, smell and taste. Learn and try. Make it fun and even try new things. Research isn’t all books and lectures.

-Sheryl

Related blog posts worth reading:

The FAB pencil

Details, details, details

How did that sound?

Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved

 Instinct

Time to take out the trash

Today I received an email asking for advice. I have been blogging and sharing my experiences and all that I’ve learned and am still learning about publishing my book. My posts have come about from; research, advice, instinct, common sense and a whole lot of hard work. Getting a book published traditionally is a daunting task and a lofty objective. It is however, the path that I know is the one for me. I have and will face many rejections from Literary Agents, I edited and revised my book to a point a professional said it was clean and well written. It may require some additional tweaking but I was told this could be done after a publisher takes me on that it is minor.

The temptation to get quick/instant results and venture into the world of self-publishing or vanity press is strong. However after a lot of research, and I mean a lot, I will take this route as my absolute last resort. Does that mean self or vanity press publishing is bad? No, but it is the last resort for me. Vanity press and self-publishing companies don’t actually call themselves that, but they do ask for money upfront for their “services”. Research the company and see what reviews they have before you decide anything.

Many great authors faced and still face rejection. One of my all-time favorites just recently had a book rejected and was devastated. She has had her books published since 1977. Thankfully, she is seeking alternate routes and publisher to get her book published. I can’t imagine how this felt for her to be so accomplished and then told “I don’t like it enough to publish.” Yiikes.

Scary? Sure. However, nothing in life comes easy; the best things are fought for. The harder I work the better I feel about my book. I have spent countless hours working on it and polishing it up. I can’t just give up on it and I won’t. I have my mind set on traditional publishing and my heart, instinct and common sense all agree.

Believe it or not, this is a level of tenacity your protagonist should have, even the antagonist. They should be driven and focused. If the protagonist ever gets to a point where they want to give up, give in, or even take the easy way out, have someone or something inspire them back into action and back on course.

It was near impossible to focus on work. It was true her designs have been edgier lately. Darker, mysterious and full of danger. The clients were eating it up. Sasha generally kept her office door open, and could hear the laughter of Amber and Scott. Her mind immediately jumped to the conclusion that they were laughing at her.
“Wow.” Sasha rubbed her temples. “I must really be letting them get to me to think that.” She stood and went to find Rachel to see if she was done proofing.
It meant passing the attention whore Amber who was milking a small head wound as if her head were severed and re attached.

“Hey Rachel.”
The young woman looked up at Sasha, relief instant in her eyes. “Oh Sasha.” She smiled. “I’m glad it’s you. That last advert was perfect. I couldn’t find any errors or anything missing.”
“Thanks.” Sasha narrowed her eyes at Dale who was in earshot. He made a show to roll his eyes. Rachel glanced his way then back at Sasha, her tension back. Sasha leaned closer to Rachel.
“Why were you glad it was me?”
“Um.” Rachel’s eyes flicked to Dale again. “No reason. I just wanted… Um to tell you in person that I found no error in your design.”
Sasha stood straight. “Okay thanks Rachel, my office is always open.” She nodded and turned toward Amber who artfully touched her head to draw attention to her bandage. A snarl set on Amber’s lips.
“Nice try. FYI Karma is a bitter medicine.” Sasha smiled brightly and nodded as she passed the malevolent woman.
Sasha had changed all of her passwords and put a security program on her work computer to record any attempts to log in. Sasha needed a plan. It was time to take out the trash. She needed a way to rid the office of Amber and Dale. Scott could stay or go, without Amber and Dale’s influence she suspected Scott would settle down. His recent bout of crazy was completely out of character for him
.

While a small moment of renewed determination from seeing others affected by her workplace-adversaries and Sasha might just be starting out on the right path… Maybe.

My advice about determination.
Don’t let the easy path tempt you. Take the time to figure out which way is best for you as an author. Regarding your characters, give them the same obstacles you face in life with a little more drama and flair and let them flourish or fall.

-Sheryl

Related posts on the path to publishing.

The not-so-direct path to publishing.

The rejection letter

The blurry lines of opinion and advice

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Lofty