One thing distracting a lot of aspiring writers is the question of research. I know people who write beautiful, entralling prose yet don’t work seriously on their book because they ‘need to do their research first’. Yet one person I know spent weeks researching the suffragette movement and the resulting information was used in only one paragraph of the finished book. Yes, it’s important give the reader confidence that they know their material, but it’s more important to finish the writing.
everything. I don’t do any research. Life is too short. To be a
convincing liar, facts don’t help. What you need is vocabulary, the
ability to use words with confidence. This came home to me when I was
in the Judean desert, before I wrote "Quarantine," which was set there
but 2,000 years ago. I went not to research but to see what the desert
was like so I could tell informed lies. I had a Bedouin guide with me,
with his gun on one hip and his mobile phone on the other. We slept out
one night under his jeep, and in the morning, he said "Jim, how did you
sleep?" I said "Oh, I slept like a log."
I saw his eyes
narrow, and I looked over his shoulder at the desert stretching away
with, certainly no logs, and at best about 600 meters away, a little
skimpy thorn tree. I knew this hadn’t worked. He spoke better English
than I did, but the English didn’t work. It was badly researched
English; it didn’t travel. So I said "How did you sleep?" And he said,
"I slept like a donkey. I slept like a dead donkey. If you’d have
kicked me, I wouldn’t have woken up." I thought here is the answer.
This is how you persuade a reader that you know your subject and are
inhabiting that culture. It’s not about research. It’s all about
turning your logs into donkeys. I just love that trickery."
Something I found with the WW2 book (which I plan to finish real soon…) is that the research didn’t help make it more plausible. People believed the things I’d made up, but always questioned the situations and events based on fact. The research made the book less believable.
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