Saturday, July 22, 2017

I only research what I need to know to start writing the book.

I use three basic forms of research: online fact-checks, talking to experts, and taking photos of real places and things. I wait to do the majority of my research until I've written my secret draft because then I can tell what it is I need to know. In other words, I only research what I need to know to start writing the book. I wait and do the rest of the research after I have finished the secret draft.

A friend of mine spent his afternoons researching everything about police procedure because he was writing a mystery. I suggested he begin writing the book, then research what he finds out he needs to know.

In other words, don't study The History of Clothing Removal just to write about a stripper.

Don't spend weeks pouring over everything you can find about police procedure in America just because you're going to have one scene in your book featuring a police officer. You’re better off talking to a police officer once you figure out what you need to know.

One of the best forms of research is calling the experts to check things out.

Because they do it for a living, they often have anecdotes and special lingo to share, which will bring a realistic, emotional tone to your writing.

A good example of how checking facts with an expert helped a book turns up in my first novel, Kill Cue:

Harrison Taylor Dean opened the mahogany box filled with expensive, handmade cigars from El Sol in Ybor City. He took out an Emperador, cut the end with a stainless steel knife and lit it with a solid, brass lighter.

When I wrote that paragraph in my secret draft, I didn't know what kind of cigar was both expensive and hand-rolled in Ybor City (a Latin American section of Tampa). Therefore, I called the Cigar Association.

They put me in touch with the owner of El Sol who told me his was the only firm still doing the hand rolled cigars and that the Emperador was the most expensive.

I didn’t waste five days reading about cigars, I just talked to an expert. Don't be afraid to talk to the experts. Tell them you are writing a novel and they will be delighted to help you. Often they are glad to set you straight.

Another great source of research is your friends. You'll learn more about what it’s like to be a scrap dealer or a bond salesman or a dance teacher by chatting with one than by reading a dozen books on the subject.

Friends with an expert’s knowledge can frequently help you work out your plot problems; if you present them with the situation, they may be able to think of a solution, which wouldn’t have occurred to you. Don't worry about imposing on your friends. People usually like to help writers in their own area of expertise. It’s ego food.

----- (From NOVEL SECRETS available in paperback and Kindle form.)

Lary Crews