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Today I wanted to write about research and how important it is. I know... I know, it seems obvious but it has been lacking in several books I’ve recently read. Now, we are only human and all of us make mistakes. But I’m not talking about minor points or little mistakes. No, I’m talking about the glaringly evident, the ones that scream from the page ‘Look at Me!!!’ or slap you across the side of the head.
I’m not naming names or pointing fingers, but in this day and age there is little excuse not to get your facts right. If you don’t know something, please do a little research and find out. Google and Wikipedia are not infallible, but at least it’s a place to start.
I spent a great part of my life combing through books seeking facts and information. I love it and I’m pretty damn good at it, although I can still get things wrong.
As writers we take the facts and merge them with our stories; sometimes we manipulate them and even use poetic license, but the basis is there. I know a bit about the Middle Ages (mainly in Britain) – ever since I was a child I’ve read about it. Medieval History was one of my majors and I obtained my Honours degree in Medieval Literature. I continue to read and study it, as the love affair is far from over and the thirst for knowledge never stops. To paraphrase an old saying “the more you learn about a subject the less you know.”
There can be a tendency to get lost in research. It happens all the time. You can spend a day or more playing with details when it will eventually only amount to a couple of sentences in your book. Many, many of you out there know exactly what I mean.
I’m not asking for a detailed list of how many men and ships were launched at Troy or in which battle did the English longbow first appear. Nor am I saying that you need a degree to write historical romances... you don’t. But you do have to be willing to go the distance and put in some research time.
If you are writing about another country/time period, please get your basic facts in order. Simple things, like what plants and animals are indigenous. In that time period were those particular foods available. If wrong, these points can be as jarring as hearing ‘G’day mate’ in a thirteenth century court (Okay I made that one up but I have read ‘Hey you!’ in a medieval and not in a... hey nonny nonny way). We cannot replicate the different time periods to the letter but we can try and create a feeling for it or a slightly tinted vision.
There are amazing writers out there whose research is impeccable. So let’s emulate them and aspire to greatness.