OH MAN, CAN THIS BE FUN.
For Rose’s Hostage, I read a plethora of forensic texts, some crime writing handbooks, and spoke with the FBI and a former criminology instructor of mine who was a police officer for many years. I love this stuff and I like to think my research made it sound a bit more authentic.
Calling some of these people can be intimidating, especially if you have a weird question. Be polite and explain why you would like to talk to them. I called the local FBI office and spoke with a very patient agent, but later I had more questions.
Turns out the FBI has an office in Washington expressly for research of this type. Write them a certified letter (return receipt requested) to show your inquiry is serious and you’re not just a crank. They will assign someone to help you.
I found everyone there to be extremely accommodating and polite. I hope the book gets published someday so their time and efforts don’t go to waste. If not, I can use what I’ve learned here to authenticate the next one.
I already wrote a post about credible websites here. If you’re using the Internet, make sure you aren’t getting second or even third-hand information from unreliable sources. Otherwise, readers who know will call you out.
Be careful research doesn’t take over your project. It’s far too easy to get caught up. I was looking up information about Victorian life for miniatures projects and ended up doing NO work and a lot of reading. Yeah, it was fun, but I don’t have a single finished dollhouse. YET.
I’m sure I’d have to make a name for myself before I can penetrate the deeper recesses of research. Some dink writer no one’s ever heard of isn’t likely to be allowed into the autopsy room, for example, unless I’m on assignment. But that doesn’t stop me from seeking information on any subject I care to write about.
I hate: rejection.
Yes, everybody hates it. It’s part of writing. Get over it. If you’re too scared of rejection to submit, it’s a dead certainty you’ll never publish anything.
The gold standard of rejections is one that contains editorial critique. You probably won’t get that from a literary agent. They’re too busy and screeners will send you a form letter, unless you actually get a manuscript into their hands. I’ve gotten it from journal editors and smaller publications. It means they thought enough of your writing to take actual time to give you some advice.
Don’t worry too much about getting one like this: “YOU SUCK, GO CRAWL UNDER A ROCK AND DIE.” That won’t happen. A true professional will not do that to you. They might really, really want to, if they get something absolutely ridiculous, but they won’t.
If someone does that, write them off as an idiot and never submit to them ever again. Then go back to writing. It will make you feel good to watch it get better and better.