Liar Liar Pants on Fire
Finally, you are ready to write your book. As you well know, one of the first things you must do is get all of your facts straight. This is an educated, internet world, and it only takes a second for someone to check your facts, so you better do your research!
When I wrote my first novel ‘My Navy, the voyage of a submarine cook,’ I learned this the hard way. Since I was a cook, I was pretty much an expert on cooking in a Navy galley. But, my readers were not cooks, so I had to keep that in mind.
Another research issue I had was the technical specifics of the ships I was on. If I made any mistakes, you can bet mechanics from all over the world would be letting me have it.
How to skin a cat…
If you are going to write a book about how to skin a cat, then you best know how to skin a cat. If you start writing things that aren’t true, you are going to lose credibility, and that’s not a good thing for an aspiring writer.
Let’s say you are writing a book about tree’s, and you touch the topic of the California Redwood forest. You write that the California Redwood lives twice as long as any other tree on the planet. That sounds good, but if you google it, you will see that the Bristlecone pine tree lives just as long, and so do some other trees.
What you have done in your book about tree’s, is shown that your facts are flawed. If I was a tree lover, I would probably close your book right there and be done with it. I certainly wouldn’t spend money on another of your books.
All of this can be avoided if you just took a minute and did some research. Writing a book today is unlike any other time in history… you literally have all the knowledge in the world at your fingertips.
If you were writing a book about the history of Ireland a hundred years ago, you would surly have to fly to Ireland and do you research. The book would most likely take you several years to write. If you were writing that same book today, you could write the whole thing in less than a year without even stepping outside of your home.
Clay Westfall – the president of Alabama
So, let’s say you are writing a book called ‘Clay Westfall, the president of Alabama.’ Now we all know this is nonsense, but I will use it to make my point.
Who is Clay Westfall? When was he born? Where was he born? Just these three questions should keep you busy for a while. If this book was fiction, then you would have to put Clay Westfall in a setting that would support an everyday man being the president of Alabama.
If he was born in 1905, then Clay would have to be in that kind of setting, an era of mostly horses and wagons. If you have Clay smoking a pipe in the morning listening to the radio, we have a problem. The first radio news broadcast in the United States was on August 31, 1920. Busted!
That’s just the easy stuff… if Clay was the sheriff of Beulah Alabama in 1931, you need to learn about Beulah Alabama. Since the Beulah Post Office closed in 1906, I am guessing the town was never big enough to warrant its own sheriff.
Bottom line… do your research. It’s all right at your fingertips.
The story of me…
When you are writing and autobiography, you would think it would be an easy thing to do. That’s not always the case. You might find even though you are an expert on the subject matter, you still need to dig.
The word on the street today is that all autobiographers lie. The argument is that the only reason that people write autobiographies is to boost themselves up in their own life. It’s kind of like editing a do over for yourself.
I have written two autobiographies, one about my Navy career and the other about my spiritual walk with the Lord. Now the Navy book does have a few embellishments, but they all have to do with pirate tales and ghost stories. That’s what one would expect from a book about the sea.
When it came to the facts about myself, I was brutally honest. I told of things like when I failed qualification boards, and making big mistakes in my career. If I was trying to puff myself up, I certainly would have done it there. Besides, my mother has read both of my autobiographies, and she was there so she would be the first one to call me out. I am sure that there are many authors out there who are just as honest with their autobiographies. Besides… my mom thinks I’m cool.
Make sure when you write your autobiography that you fact check yourself. When you say stuff like ‘my hometown was the biggest town in Vermont’, make sure you are right. You should write you story proudly, but sometimes that can blow up the facts a bit. Remember, when writing, integrity is everything.
The joy of research…
You know what I discovered when writing my first fictional story? I learned that in doing my research, I found more facts than I knew what to do with. Once I started digging into the new facts, I thought of much more colorful directions to take my characters, and it didn’t matter who googles me!
When you are checking your facts, read through the first page of answers. In my book ‘the silver sower’, I needed one of my characters to have a gun shot wound, which is OK, I guess. But when I googled different wounds and person can survive with, I saw a post at the bottom of the page talking about rear-end wounds. I decided right then that a butt wound was exactly what my chief of police needed to make the story right!
So, write your story, and do good research. I promise you that you will be very pleased with the results… (true story).