Category Archives: research

Getting it Right


Writing and ResearchWriting.  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

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.

The Timetables of HistoryThese 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?

Donna Otto

 

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Filed under memoir, methods, organizing, research, writing advise

In Honor of Black History Month


Black History MonthThe month of February is Black History month.  I did a little research to find out more about some of the African-American writers who deserve to be honored this month.

We are all familiar with writers, such as Terry McMillan author of Waiting to Exhale (1992); and Toni Morrison, 1993 Nobel Prize winner and author of Beloved (1987) for which she won a Pulitzer Prize. The list also includes such writers as Alex Haley whose book Roots:  The Saga of an American Family (1976) was adapted to a popular television mini-series in 1977.

But the list of African-American writers of note not only includes these famous individuals and those such as poets Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou as well as novelist Alice Walker; it also includes more obscure names–people whose works you might have read and not realized that they were African-American.Black History month in books

Frank Yerby was an historical novelist best known as the first African-American writer to become a millionaire from his pen, and to have a book purchased by a Hollywood studio for a film adaptation.  The book, The Foxes of Harrow (1946) became the Oscar-nominated film “Foxes” starring Rex Harrison and Maureen O’Hara.

Samuel R. Delany is an author, professor and literary critic.  His work includes a number of novels, many in the science fiction genre, as well as memoir and criticism.

Octavia Butler (1947-2006) was a Hugo and Nebulla award-winning author of science fiction.

Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784) was the first African-American poet and the first African-American woman to publish a book. Born in Senegambia, she was sold into slavery at the age of 7 or 8 and transported to North America. She was purchased by the Wheatley family of Boston, who taught her to read and write, and encouraged her poetry when they saw her talent.

The publication of her Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773) brought her fame, both in England, and the Thirteen Colonies; figures such as George Washington praised her work. During Wheatley’s visit to England, the African-American poet Jupiter Hammon praised her work in his own poem.

This list is woefully incomplete.  It would take far too much time to list every African-American writer–past and present–whose name deserves inclusion in such a list.  During the month of February I challenge readers to visit the internet or your local library to discover the work of more of the gifted writers whose names belong here and share with PPW what you find.  Who is your favorite?  What genre do they write?

Suzanne Bogue

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Filed under Black History, books, genres, poetry, prose, publishing, read, reading, research, short stories, writers

Research for Fiction? Of Course!


ResearchI’m in the process of writing a piece of historical fiction, based in first century Macedonia. Though the work is fiction, there is a huge amount of research that goes into the development of the story. Clothing, food, religious practices, vocations and geographical studies all play a part in the setting and set-up.

Finding reliable sources can be a challenge. Religious works are usually vague or absent of concrete details, and historical data can be politically skewed and conflicting, and usually relies on the objectivity of the researcher.

In school we were taught to find multiple resources. With the internet, it is easy to find information—often too much is available. The challenge becomes sifting through piles of speculation and opinion to glean accurate information and truth. And even then, how do you know for sure?Computer Research

My rules have become basic. First, as I study through articles and essays, I look for archeological evidence and historical documentation. I compare commonly accepted fact with what the evidence shows. Next, I find corroborating sources. I look for two to three unrelated resources that say the same thing. Thirdly, I look for details within those articles that propel the story I want to tell. Interesting tidbits that don’t help my story are useless to me.

Lastly, I rely on my gut instinct. If the story idea took hold of my brain in the first place, why? What was it that was important enough to latch on and develop? I look for information that develops that hook. If I’m hooked, the reader will be, too.

What works for you in researching for a story?

Kimberly Black

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Filed under basics, books, description, methods, novels, research, story, Writing

A New Tool for Internet Research


As a writer, I’m always looking for ideas that help keep me organized, especially if they don’t involve an excess of paper. I like my research readily available, but I hate to have to carry a huge notebook around with me, with reams of paper wasted because I wanted to print out one paragraph, and ended up with everything on the website.

My new answer is Pinterest.com. Yes, I got hooked a few months ago on the site, and have since “pinned” all sorts of crafts and recipes that I will never try. But then I had this great realization. It’s basically a site that holds hundreds of bookmarks organized in categories with visual cues. Hmm… I can use something like that.

I tried it. First, I created a board with my novel’s title. Then I searched for pictures of people who I “cast” as characters for my novel, and I pinned them. Now if I can’t remember what color eyes my antagonist has, I just pull up his photo, and voila!

My novel takes place in Paris, in several well-known parts of the city, as well as the less-recognizable areas. A few websites pinned, and I have detailed descriptions of bridges, hotels, shops and museums.

I can pin websites for my characters’ weapons, props, vehicles, clothes, gadgets, and languages. If I need to recall something, I just click on the picture and jump to the site with that information. I love it.

If you don’t want your research pins to become public, just create a “secret board” which is a new feature offered by Pinterest.

The only really important thing to remember with the site is that you must exercise self-control. If you want to look up something, you cannot allow yourself to browse through your friends’ newest finds. If you need to see a map of Barcelona, Spain, you can’t let yourself get caught in the newest crock-pot chicken recipe. This is to help keep you organized, thus saving time—not wasting it.

Currently, I have research boards for two novels on Pinterest, and at the end of this month will start another. This new tool has saved me hundreds of pages of paper, several cartridges of ink, and hours of searching for information. It might help you, too!

Do you use Pinterest?  How has it helped you with your writing?

By Kim Black

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Filed under characters, description, organizing, research, Writing, writing advise