M is for Mistakes

atoz [2015] - BANNER - 910

This will be a short post, because I need to ice my knee before I go to bed.  Yes, I apparently hurt myself–the doctor said I pulled a muscle.  No, I don’t know how.  And, he said no stair-climbing before I go to London.  Of course, the elevator at work is broken.

What mistakes can you make while researching?

Not starting early enough

If you have a deadline, this is the kiss of death. Your work will suffer.  You won’t be able to produce your best work.  Anyone who has pulled an all-nighter to write a paper that’s due the next day knows what I mean.


Image:  Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

Even if you don’t have a deadline, writing a book takes time.  You don’t want to be sick of it before you even finish.

Wasting time with the wrong sources

Figure out who you need to talk to or what you need to read before you get started.  I’m having trouble with this because the background for my protagonists is so broad.

  • The 1960s (I was alive but too teeny to remember it)
  • American Midwest (this part is easy)
  • England (not so easy but not so hard)
  • Wealthy English people (I don’t know any so I’ll have to fake it)
  • Theater and film in London and Hollywood (waaaaaaay too much information)

Taking your sources at face value

Anecdotal research is fun–who doesn’t like sitting round with your sources, perhaps drinking and eating, and recording their tales and stories?  In some cases, you’ll only have the anecdote and nothing else.  For fiction, you might get away with a tall tale or two.  You can adapt the story and plop that thing right into your narrative, and if it’s believable, it makes no difference.

Thanks for the beer, mate; everything I just told you was a huge lie.

Thanks for the beer, mate; everything I just told you was a huge lie.

Image:  stockimages / freedigitalphotos.net

You should absolutely double check what anyone tells you.  That person might have it wrong themselves, and worse, one or more of your readers could know it.  They will not hesitate to tell you that you’ve got it wrong.

Not verifying information

Verily, this goeth with the previous admonition.  Get thee hence and check out thine info, lest ye make a fool of thyself.

Sorry, I was reading about Elizabethan theater earlier and I got carried away.

Not using enough sources

Don’t just use one book or website.  You’ll miss a ton of good information, and you won’t get the whole picture.  No single source can ever cover every nuance of a subject.  Besides, different perspectives may give you a whole new angle for your story.

Not knowing when to stop

You stop when you feel as though you can write your scene and it will come off as authentic.

How the hell do I recognize when it’s authentic?

How the hell do I recognize when it’s authentic?

Image:  stockimages/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You’ll know.  It will make sense, and your characters’ actions, dialogue, and motivations will have a realistic feel.

Besides, if you spend all your time doing research, you won’t have any left for writing.


Related link:

The 10 Stuff-ups We All Make When Interpreting Research

4 thoughts on “M is for Mistakes

  1. Yes, I remember pulling my first and only all-nighter writing an English paper. As it was, I hadn’t procrastinated as much as I put off major editing to the last minute. This snow balled into writing whole segments over completely. Once and never again…

    • I remember the first time I did it too. The paper actually turned out pretty good, considering I got absolutely NO sleep whatsoever.

      On Wed, Apr 15, 2015 at 8:56 PM, Graphomaniac – Elizabeth West wrote:


  2. The internet can offer some great info for research but you can’t rely on just one website. I find that a lot of times the same misinformation just gets duplicated from one website to another.

    Take care of that injury!

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

    • That’s absolutely true, Arlee–best to verify it from several sources.

      I’m trying—the timing on this is terrible. :P

      On Wed, Apr 15, 2015 at 10:06 PM, Graphomaniac – Elizabeth West wrote:


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