by Mollie Hunt, Cat Writer
This is the fourth in a six-week blog tour series for the Northwest Independent Writers’ Association. NIWA serves Pacific Northwest writers working to achieve professional standards in independent writing, publishing and marketing.
They say, “Write what you know,” and that advice is certainly valid. I write about a cat shelter volunteer. Philip Margolin writes about lawyers. Debbie De Louise writes about librarians. However, what happens if you want your cat shelter volunteer, lawyer, or librarian to go somewhere you’ve never been, such as Paris or Peru or Pluto? Should they be confined to the places you, yourself, have visited? How dull that might be if one doesn’t get out much.
That’s where research comes in. True, you can make some things up as you go along. That’s called artistic license or suspension of disbelief, and when it works, it’s wonderful. But if a reader discovers a mistake, it throws them right out of the story. If the mistake is too glaring, they may never bother to come back again. Doing research is the key to keeping your story authentic.
There are many ways to do research. You can call people or you can look things up in a library or online. Here are my favorite go-to’s for finding out things I don’t know:
1. Google: My number one research resource is Google. But I don’t just read one article; I read several. I also check dates to make sure the information is current. Note: Your browsing history may begin to look a little crazy after while.
2. YouTube: You can learn just about anything on YouTube. That’s where I first learned how to shoot a gun. (not literally)
3. Wikipedia: Since this resource is created and edited by volunteers, some facts may be skewed, but all and all, their information tends to be so vast, I always find something useful.
4. The Library: Our local library has a service where I can submit a question and have it answered by email. I also check out books on my subjects of choice, but books can be more extensive than necessary. I don’t need to read a 450-page tome to tell me how cats hunt. The “For Dummies” series is a good starting point for some information.
5. Children’s books: Children’s non-fiction books often explain a subject in smart, simple, concise terms, perfect for a lot of subjects.
6. Writers’ Groups: You should be able to ask your writers’ group anything, from what’s a good murder method in the Antarctic to where to put the comma in a complicated sentence. NIWA is such a group, and our members’ Facebook Group is always a great resource for things I’d never thought I’d need to know.
7. Professionals: Cops, nurses, firefighters, detectives, waitresses, hookers! This is my least favorite research method because it means introverted little me may have to make a phone call, leave the house, or talk to a stranger. But one can also connect with friends in the professions one requires. It’s easier to talk to friends. Do you have a favorite research source not mentioned here? I’d love to add it to the list.
Watch for my next post, #5: INFORMATION FOR NEW WRITERS, coming the week of April 26-May 2 on the Heliocentric, Suzanne Hagelin blogsite.
Check out this week’s other participating NIWA blogsites:
- Connie J. Jasperson, Life in the Realm of Fantasy
- Peak Amygdala, Joyce Reynolds-Ward
- William J. Cooke, Notes From A Journey
- Heliocentric, Suzanne Hagelin
- Mollie Hunt, Crazy Cat Lady Mysteries & More
About Mollie Hunt: Native Oregonian Mollie Hunt has always had an affinity for cats, so it was a short step for her to become a cat writer. Mollie Hunt writes the Crazy Cat Lady cozy mystery series featuring Lynley Cannon, a sixty-something cat shelter volunteer who finds more trouble than a cat in catnip, and the Cat Seasons sci-fantasy tetralogy where cats save the world. She also pens a bit of cat poetry.
Mollie is a member of the Oregon Writers’ Colony, Sisters in Crime, the Cat Writers’ Association, and NIWA. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and a varying number of cats. Like Lynley, she is a grateful shelter volunteer.
You can find Mollie Hunt, Cat Writer on her blogsite: www.lecatts.wordpress.com
Amazon Page: www.amazon.com/author/molliehunt
Facebook Author Page: www.facebook.com/MollieHuntCatWriter/