One Writer’s Journey

October 17, 2018

Facts: Accuracy Is a Must

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:42 am
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Facts.  It doesn’t matter if you are writing fiction or nonfiction.  You have got to get them right.  If you don’t, you’ll alienate your reader.

That’s why I dug in my heels this week when my editor wanted me to make a change on my manuscript.  The content consultant wanted me to discuss the things teens post on Facebook.

Me:  You mean social media.

Her:  No, he said Facebook.

Me:  Teens aren’t that into Facebook.  We’re on it.

When you are talking social media, you have to know who you are talking about to know what they use.  Oldsters may be looking for what teens post on Facebook.  But that’s not where the teens are posting.  And if I say that they are, I’m going to lose my teen readers.  Thanks but no.  I worked really hard to get them.

And they aren’t the only ones who take inaccuracy seriously.  I just finished an adult novel.  A big deal scientist is discussing evolution.  He talks about people descending from apes.

I took a deep breath.  Maybe just maybe something had been botched in editing.  It’s a super picky point.  Darwin didn’t say we descended from apes.  Or monkeys.  He said we shared a common ancestor.

Then the scientists watch a computer model plot the path between chimpanzee and human.

Ugh.

I used to really enjoy this author.  Used to.  The book also had errors about the Dark Web and now I feel like I need to check up on everything that was said about Francisco Franko and Antoni Guadi.

It doesn’t matter if you are writing fiction or nonfiction, you have got to get the facts straight.  When you say X person who developed this theory said Z, you need to have sources.  When you say that scientists, historians, or dieticians believe W, then you need the information to back that up.

Readers are fickle creatures.  Offend them often enough and they won’t be your readers much longer.

–SueBE

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April 3, 2017

Fact Checking: Finding Out You Wrote It Wrong

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:06 am
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Even when you are writing fiction, your facts need to be factual.  Fantasy, science fiction, whatever.  Your facts have got to add up.  So we research and write and research some more.

But sometimes it isn’t the research that reveals a mistake in your data.  It’s just life.  Just over a week ago, we sorted out a box of cooking stuff in my dad’s basement.  There were baking pans and skillets, including one that wasn’t cast iron but sure looked a lot like it.  My husband snagged that one and a smaller cast iron, came home and started doing research.

What he found included information on skillet sizing.  This one is clearly a #4.  The number doesn’t have anything to do with inches in diameter.  It corresponded to the key hole size on the wood stoves where these skillet were originally used.  Use the right skillet and it fit perfectly in the key hole.

Oh, snot.  Now I have to rewrite part of that scene.  I had done all kinds of research on wood stoves and I even got to check one out in person.  But I had never seen anyone cook on one.  That skillet goes on that keyhole.  This one goes on this slightly larger keyhole over here.  And the covers?  They have to come off.

It seems obvious in hind sight.  But I still have a scene to rewrite.

Do your research.  Do it as well as you can.  But keep your eyes and ears open.  You never know when you’re going to hear encounter the information you need to make your facts factual.

–SueBE

 

September 3, 2015

Research: Source accuracy and checking your facts

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 12:39 am
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One of the things that’s been much on my mind lately is source accuracy.  A friend of mine once told me that her father, a lawyer, told her that whenever the media wrote about one of his cases, they were only 50% accurate.  She thought that was an exageration before my recent experience with FOX and their pals.

With so much misinformation, how do you find what is accurate?

This is why primary sources are important.  Journal articles about scientific discoveries get you as close to the actual experiments and the data as possible.  Some scientists make their actual results available online.  Diaries and letters written by people who viewed the events are first hand accounts.  No one is closer to what happened, but this does take you into the unreliable world of the eye witness.

People are notoriously unreliable.  Every police investigator or prosecuting attorney will tell you this.  People are biased.  They take sides.  They want to believe certain things as much as they want to avoid believing others.

How then do you find the facts when the time comes to research a controversial topic?

When I wrote up the individual cases featured in Black Lives Matter, I paid less attention to eye witnesses than I paid to crime scene evidence and forensics.  Time signatures on 911 calls were more reliable than best friends.  Chemistry trumps the opinions of neighbors.  Where and what was scattered around?  It tells the story much more accurately than any human being.

That isn’t to say that I ruled out eye witnesses.  But when I read eye witness accounts, I looked for people who weren’t likely to agree.  What details did a police witness give?  What about someone who supported the victim?  Why did I look for these two sides?  Because they don’t want to agree.  When they do, you’ve most likely found fact.

Yes, researching something controversial takes time but you are piecing together a story that is buried under emotion and opinion, fear and hate.

–SueBE

July 12, 2011

Experts Make Your Writing Sings

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 2:43 am
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Not long ago, I was working on a picture book set in a circus.  My character attempted the trapeze — swinging back and forth and then tumbling into the net.  When I took the book to critique group, I danced a happy dance when I saw that one particular member was there.   He’s a member of the Circus Flora.  Hurrah!

He praised my story to the heavens and then . . . paused.  With a certain amount of effort on my part, he finally revealed that I had combined the two types of trapeze.  I could do flying trapeze or I could have a net.  Not both.  He worried that he was being overly picky.  But who else would have been able to tell me this?  When I submitted the story to an agent, I was able to tell her that it has been vetted by a real live circus performer.

I’ve sought out horse experts, geologists and Sunday I touched base with a friend who was a competitive swimmer.  These people and more make sure that I’m on the right track before an editor even sees my work.

Do you ever ask an expert to review your story before you submit it?  Give the matter some serious thought the next time you are dealing with something outside your area of expertise.  At best, you’ll find out you got the facts right.  At worst, mistakes will be brought to your attention and you’ll have the chance to fix them before it goes to print.  What do you have to lose?

–SueBE

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