Writing. What a challenge. Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, facts are part of your writing. If your work is not accurate, someone will catch your mistake and you will hear about it! For the nonfiction writer truth and accuracy must be adhered to. Since readers may not be able to discern the difference, the nonfiction writer assumes this responsibility – and the accompanying accountability.
Many writers refer to and utilize historical facts, experts, interviews and research. You must be aware of copyright issues, of individuals that claim expertise but are not experts, plagiarism, and the authenticity of memoir writing.
The Everything Guide to Writing Nonfiction by Richard D. Bank covers many of these issues and can be useful not only to the non-fiction writer, but any writer needing to address these concerns. If you do your own research then look to The Craft of Research by Wayne Booth, Gregory Colomb and Joseph Williams, or The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Research Methods by Laurie E. Rozakis, Ph.D. (definitely written with me in mind.)
For tidbits of historical facts look into The Timetables of History – A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events by Bernard Grun and The Reader’s Companion to American History edited by Eric Foner & John A. Garraty.
These are just a few references on my bookshelf. Do keep in mind however, that just because information is published, even in a scholarly work – and may even be on the New York Times bestseller list, this does not mean that everything is the truth. (Or, I got it off the Internet so it must be true!) Legends can and are perpetuated and digging for the truth can reveal some very interesting and revealing reasons for misinformation in original documents and memoirs.
So, writers beware – because these days readers are very aware.
What is your biggest challenge in getting it right in your own writing?
- Creative Nonfiction: Did You Get the Memo? (thelivingnotebook.com)
- David Sunshine: When Fiction Reveals More Than Nonfiction Ever Could (prweb.com)