Questions I’ve learned to ask myself.

This year has been chock full of learning and growing as a writer.  I’m amazed my brain has the ability to keep absorbing considering how much I feel I’ve learned this last year. I guess it’s true that we really only use a small portion of our brains. So, you might ask, what questions have I been asking myself? Quite a few, but I’ll limit them to the writing craft. 😉

This year I’ve done A LOT of editing. I made a pledge to use the last four months of the year to completely finish the four first drafts I have completely finished. I did some editing earlier in the year, but I’ve noticed the more I do, the more questions I ask myself.

I’m sure these could work in just about any genre. The questions I’m asking have to do with world building, plot, general feasibility. Readers are savvy. Readers are all over the world. Some have traveled all over the world. I have to admit, I’ve only written stories based in places I’ve either lived or visited. Until I become more comfortable in my writing, I want that little extra comfort of at least having the basic visual of where the story will take place. But it’s those little details that will trip up a reader who either lives in that city or has been there often. And I don’t want little things, that are easy to verify, pull a reader from the story and not trust me as an author.

Here’s some questions that popped up during edits for Bradley’s Letter.

Where does the sun set in relation to the entrance of the Library of Congress and the Capital building?  Where’s the nearest Metro station? What time is sunset in December in southern Pennsylvania? How does a person do research in the Library of Congress? I’ve been to D.C., but I was only at the Capital building in the morning, so I didn’t know the answer to that one. Could I walk in off the street and go into the stacks of the LOC? Nope. I have to apply for a Reader Registration Card and there are limitations as to what I can take in with me. Nearest Metro? About 3 blocks from where I wanted my characters to enter the Library.

Here’s what my problem was in When Love Waits.

What is the schedule for an NFL player? Do they get any days off? What happens on travel days? How long are they at the complex during the season? I looked online for this information and could never really find the information I wanted. Granted, I looked before I had my blog and before I realized that players are blogging now. Luckily, I was able to get the answer from an active player and then talked to a friend who played football in high school. Between the two of them, I was able to get a better idea of how the day would go for a player and how they would feel at the end of a day. While the story doesn’t focus on the game aspect, knowing the hero’s schedule affected how my heroine could and would interact with him.

An unexpected find for When Love Lingers.

My heroine is starting up a bed and breakfast. I figured, with as stringent as inspections are for restaurants, there was likely something similar even if they were only providing a simple breakfast.  A food handler’s course and certification is required. Anyone running a bed and breakfast might have caught this if I hadn’t included it. I also read up on the order of construction during a renovation of a garage into a set of rooms. The little details can make or break the reader’s trust.

Google Earth has become an invaluable tool for me. As in Bradley’s, with the position of the sun, I also worried about going the correct distance. Is it three blocks or four from the nearest Metro Station to the Capital? Thanks to Google Earth, I can go to the over view and count the blocks. I initially had a longer scene where Elena talked to a friend during their drive from Bryn Mawr, PA to Washington D.C. My problem? I’ve never driven that route? What would the scenery be like? What’s the topography?  You guessed, I went to the program and used the handy dandy “Drive Route” feature and did a little two hour drive in about 15 minutes. Ultimately, the scene was cut, but at the time I felt much more comfortable writing the scene because of the little extra time I’d done to research.

I’ve read that only 20-30% (if I remember right) of everything we research will actually make it into the story. At first, that statistic really bothered me. Dang it! I want to use all of that information I found! What I’ve realized during the last few months of editing is that all of that research I did is giving me a better base with which to write. I’m more confident about my setting and can therefor concentrate on the story.

What interesting things have you researched? Did your information make it into the story?


P.S. If I ever make it into the Library of Congress to do actual research, I will have died and gone to heaven.


4 thoughts on “Questions I’ve learned to ask myself.

  1. I wrote a story centered in Philly and had to do similar site research to make sure I was getting the sections of town correct. One of the people reading it for me was from Philly, but she never commented on anything that would’ve been slightly off. She was actually excited to read and see places she’s very familiar with in the story itself.

    1. That’s awesome! I hope that if I do slip up, my readers will be forgiving. I didn’t get to explore Philadelphia near as much as I wanted. We hit the highlights – Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and the US Mint. Glad to know there are others concerned with those little details.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. What an awesome post, Melanie. You’re absolutely right! In describing things it really helps to have been there. When hubby and I visited Lewistown, I got all kinds of information–just little things–that changed stuff in story so it was more real, more specific. And understanding how things works is important because anyone who’s familiar with it (like the pro football player’s schedule) will be taken out of the story if we don’t do it right.

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