Fact or Fiction?(Revised)

_shannon-wheeler-stop-fact-checking-my-story-new-yorker-cartoon-2If your hero is drinking sake in Tokyo, you better know which hand he should use to hold the cup; and when he is sunning on the beach at Cape Cod, remember that there won’t be any palm trees-Dean R. Koontz

You can’t get away with faking background information. If you fabricate a lot of facts on a wide variety of subjects, your readers will catch on.  I know it’s your story, and it’s fiction, but unless you are writing science fiction that involves creating your own world, you better stick to the facts when it comes to background.

Every time a reader knows that you are faking a bit of background information, your credibility slips a notch. When your credibility slips two, three, or four notches, you will lose that reader.

No one is saying that you have to limit your story to places/things that you know, but if you are going to step into unfamiliar territory, you had better do your homework.
There is so much information available, that there is no reason why you can’t write about any country you never visited, canoe making, basket weaving, or the floor plan for Biltmore house. I think you get the gist of where I’m going with this, but keep in mind that very few reference books are perfect.

If you do have to research certain topics, cross-check every piece of information, using two and preferably three sources.

Firsthand knowledge of background information is always more desirable than second hand. There is no better way to learn the sound, texture, smell, and look of  a place or thing, than when you experience it firsthand, but if you are diligent in your research, you can make your background come alive.
-Jan R

Fact or Fiction?(Revised)

So You Thought You Were Finished?

208-6I read a quote the other day and thought I would share it on my blog. I don’t know who wrote it, as a name wasn’t provided. It reads as follows:

A lot of times that first manuscript needs to sashay out stage left in order for the real blockbuster to break into the spotlight.

If you’ve been working on your novel for a while, you know exactly what this writer was saying. My current manuscript is so different from the original, and while it’s not ready for submission, it is sooooo much better than it was after the first very rough draft.

As a newbie, I had no idea the work involved in creating a masterpiece worthy of publishing. I wrote my book and sent it out. It wasn’t until I started receiving the rejections and the one response explaining why it wasn’t ready for prime time that the truth sunk in.

I did have a completed manuscript, a great story, but it was missing the bells and whistles, that something that would make it stand out. Of course, the fact that it was full of grammatical and structural errors didn’t help my case either.

I read another quote years ago that has remained with me and I’ve used in several of my blogs.

Get it done and then get it good.

Don’t expect your first draft to be the final, finished, ready to go version. It won’t be. Once it is completed, the fun begins. At least I hope you enjoy it, since you will be working on that manuscript for quite some time.

If you are new to the writing scene, I would recommend a lot of reading. Not just books in your preferred genre, but also how to books from credible authors. I’ve found some excellent blogs, and of course, the internet is invaluable.

I would also recommend courses on creative writing and writing fiction. I’ve purchased classes through ‘Great Courses’ that were excellent and inexpensive. I’ve watched webinars and also signed up for a workshop through Holly Lisle on ‘How to revise your novel’.

You don’t know what you don’t know until it’s to late. Know this, your first draft is not ready, and it’s up to you to research, learn your craft and get it done.

-Jan R

So You Thought You Were Finished?

It’s All In The Details

Writing fiction can be fun. You get to create your own world with your own characters and you can take your story anywhere you want to go. Right?Unknown

Well that statement is true to a certain degree. You do have a lot of leeway but keep in mind your story has to make sense. It has to be believable to your readers. That’s were research comes in. Your plot may be fictitious but your details had better be correct.

Anachronisms-details out of place and time-can break a readers suspension of disbelief if they notice the error. If for example a character in ancient Egypt consults his watch, a reader would instantly be drawn out of the story and roll his eyes. That is an extreme example but I think it helps you get the point.

There’s no excuse for anachronisms or lack of detail.  Once you know what you are writing about, immerse yourself in the subject. If you want to write about police, you do a ride along or shadow a precinct. If your novel takes place in a school, interview teachers or volunteer.

You can also use social media to learn about people and places, by watching videos or listening to interviews.  My novel is set primarily in the Carolinas but my main character is deployed to Iraq for a short period of time. I’ve never been to Iraq and have no intention of ever going there.  For that short but important segment of my book, I watched a documentary and actual footage. I also read pages set up on the internet by marines returning from the area describing what it was like for them. I found the information I needed to make that portion of my story believable through research.

It is always best to set your novels in cities that you know.  A good example of this would be Nicholas Sparks. His books are set in North Carolina. That’s where he lives. He understands the culture and can provide the details his readers expect.

One word of caution is to remember your research and detail are the seasoning for the story, don’t make them centerstage. Resist the urge to show off how much research you have done. You don’t want to overwhelm your readers with unnecessary information.

-Jan R

It’s All In The Details