The Importance of Cross Referencing Your Sources

Disclaimer: I am not being paid to mention any books or products in this post. All examples are included purely because they are relevant and/or cool.

The other day I was reading some articles about the book we are reading for book club (I know how nerdy that sounds: I literally gave myself bonus homework for book club) and I came across an article with a misquote in it. In the book, the author, who was new to management and looking for guidance, mentions that all of the management books he read lacked any real substance. In the article, the author quotes the book’s author as saying the books he read were key to learning how to manage effectively.

It may seem like a relatively innocent misquote, but it got me thinking: If I had just read the article instead of the book I would have gotten my facts wrong, and in turn, I might have inadvertently passed that false information on if I went on to discuss that book with other people.

Many people seem to think that just because you are writing fantasy you don’t need to do a lot of research: You are literally creating your own fantastical world, so you don’t need to ground it in facts or real life. However, even the most fantastical world needs to make sense, and that is where research comes in. All worlds need to be believable, and even if the reader doesn’t see most of the world you still need to flesh it out enough that it feels real.

Say you are writing a book with a Roman flavour to it and you want to know more about how such a vast empire managed to stay on top of everything for so long. You might turn to a source such as this, which talks about that exact subject. You know that a solid, extensive and well-maintained road system (or magic equivalent, such as J.K.Rowling and her Floo network) is key to keeping all the various factions under control.

Google is real life magic. You can literally find anything you need by just typing in your query and asking. That being said, not all Google searches are equal, and a well-structured query is much more likely to give you the results you need with a minimal amount of sifting. For most of us Googling something is so ingrained in our everyday life that we don’t really think about it, but if you want to improve your Googling skills there are free, self-directed courses that can help you.

If you are looking for something a little more academic or detailed you should turn your attention to Google Scholar. Google Scholar works like regular Google, but restricts its results to scholarly literature. This makes it much easier to find high-quality peer-reviewed articles, and avoid articles like the one I read for book club.

That being said, a good thing to remember is that if something seems off it likely is. Good research is an excellent way to check that the information you receive is accurate factual. As my one professor loved to say “Don’t just cite some random person’s blog. Find an actual article.”

If your focus is more on Science Fiction scholarly articles are a huge blessing. In particular, try and find articles that provide a meta-analysis on the subject you are researching. This will help you weed out outlying studies and save you the time of comparing different studies that aren’t necessarily looking at the exact same problem or asking the same question. When looking for meta-analysis articles look for articles that mention the phrase “systematic review”. This will help guide your research towards articles that you may find more beneficial.

Long story short, always do your own research and verify things that seem off. And don’t just go to some random person’s blog and hope that their facts are correct.

Happy writing!

 

NaNoWriMo Update – Day 30

Today is the last day of NaNoWriMo, and I’m actually really sad it is all over. Yes, I am definitely looking forward to a full weekend of not-writing, but doing NaNoWriMo was a great way to motivate myself and make some solid progress on my novel.

I’m still only about 80% of the way to being officially done my first draft, but I’m feeling really great about all of my hard work and what I managed to accomplish. My story is chugging along nicely, my protagonists are evolving, and the end of my first draft is finally in sight. I can’t wait to see where the rest of this story takes me.

I’m fading fast, and today I added just 949 more words to my novel. Still, that brings my total word count up to 79,924 and my NaNoWriMo word count up to 54,222.

 

NaNoWriMo Update – Day 29

Today was another long day, but a good one. After finishing up a bunch of paid writing for various clients I hammered out another 1007 words. This brings my novel’s total word count up to 78,975 and my NaNoWriMo word count up to 53,273.

These last few days have been exhausting, and though I have really enjoyed doing NaNoWriMo I’m also looking forward to this weekend when I plan to do absolutely no writing what so ever.

Out of curiosity I checked my FreshBooks today and tallied how much time I had spent on my novel. Now, I am the first to admit that I did not keep the best records for this project so my tally is imperfect at best. I came up with the initial premise for this book on May 14, 2018. Interestingly enough I crafted my three main characters, and the basic storyline, as a throwaway example for this post.

I haven’t tracked all of the time I spend thinking about my novel while doing things like commuting, washing dishes, or doing laundry or other housework, and I haven’t tallied the countless hours my boyfriend and I continue to spend discussing and dissecting my book. But, as a rough tally, I have currently spent 140 hours on this novel. I didn’t start tracking my hours on this until last August, but even then it doesn’t seem like that much time. Even if that 140 hours only happened in the last four months that is still only 35 hours per month, or about 1.17 hours per day (assuming an average of 30 days in one month). NaNoWriMo definitely skewed those numbers, but that isn’t the lesson I’m getting at.

I hear so many people say “Oh, I would never have time to write a novel” and to be perfectly honest I use to be one of them. My goal isn’t to shame people for not putting in the effort. Instead, I want to show you that just a little bit of time each day really adds up. Even half an hour per day really adds up over time, so if you have that great idea and want to turn in into something then go for it.

Give yourself the gift of 30 minutes of writing per day and see where it takes you. I promise the journey will be worth it.

NaNoWriMo Update – Day 28

It is the home stretch and I am fading. Over the last week or so I’ve had a ton of client work to do, and since I have already hit my 50,000 word goal for NaNoWriMo my own writing has taken a bit of a back seat. Still, I added another 977 words today, bringing my total word count up to 77,968. I wrote 52,266 words in the last month, not counting the thousands of words I write at my day job.

My characters are still working through some heavy personal stuff, and honestly, I’m having a lot of fun writing this part. It’s like Festivus with the Airing of the Greviences except that each of my three protagonists is taking stock of themselves and unearthing their regrets and other personal baggage. It’s very refreshing to get it all out in the open.

NaNoWriMo Update – Day 27

Today I forced one of my characters to confront some of her emotional baggage. Literally, in fact. These next few chapters are going to profoundly change my characters in ways they never imagined, and I can’t wait to see the people they become because of this experience!

Today was another heavy planning day but I still managed to add another 836 words to my novel, bringing my total word count up to 76,991. As part of NaNoWriMo I’ve written 51,289 words.

NaNoWriMo Update – Day 26

I know I hit my 50,000 word goal last night, but I still want to earn my 30 day badge so I am going to continue to add to my manuscript over the next few days. Today my protagonists are continuing to have a rough time. Not only are they still in a bit of a bind but now they have been separated, and need to both find each other and reach their next goal. Unfortunately for them, powerful forces are working against them.

Still, more terrifying than being lost and alone in the wilderness is the fact that each of them is going to have to look deep within themselves to find the answers they need. Introspection can be scarier than even the most terrifying dragon.

I only added another 361 words today, but I also did a lot of planning today so I don’t really feel that bad about it. My total manuscript now sits at 76, 155 words and I wrote 50, 453 of those for NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo Update – Day 25

Well, it is official! Today I crossed the NaNoWriMo finish line! I wrote 2739 words and my novel is officially 75,794 words. I wrote 50,092 words as part of NaNoWriMo and the entire experience was amazing!

Unfortunately I’m probably only about three-quarters of the way done my first draft, but I plan on continuing at my current pace so hopefully, I will be done soon. That being said NaNoWriMo really helped me stay motivated and encouraged forge ahead.

NaNoWriMo Update – Day 24

Today was a bit of a slow writing day, but those happen. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how best to convey the current events in my novel. Since I have three protagonists I have structured the book in such a way that the point of view switches between characters each chapter. I try and keep things fairly equal so that each character gets an equal voice. However, the character that was next in the rotation is currently experiencing… unforeseen consequences of her actions which had the potential to make her a less-than-reliable narrator.

Luckily, I think I managed to convey to the reader all of the information they needed in this chapter despite my character’s current narratorial disadvantage.

I managed to add another 1524 words to my novel today, bringing my total word count up to 73, 055! I’ve written 47, 353 of those words as part of NaNoWriMo, putting me at 95% of my monthly writing goal. I’m really hoping to hit 50,000 words before the end of the month, and at this pace I think that is entirely possible. I’m also hoping to actually finish the first draft by the 30th, but if writing a novel has taught me one thing it is that a good story cannot be rushed: My novel will take as many words as it needs, and that may require some additional time to write them.

NaNoWriMo Update – Day 23

Today was an excellent day. I was incredibly productive (I got a lot of client work done, I added another 2410 words to my novel and I even tackled some work on the domestic front. Today I reworked a scene that I had already written (but that desperately needed to change in order to fit in with the rest of the story) and I honestly love this new version.

It not only has more depth to it but it feels much more real. My protagonists have encountered someone that has challenged a lot of their preexisting notions about the world, and have (mostly) managed to get themselves out of the bind they put themselves in during the last chapter.

I’m pleased to say that my total word count is now 71,1531 and that I wrote 45,829 words as part of NaNoWriMo. I’m officially 91.7% of the way to my 50,000 word writing goal and I feel amazing.

Like every writer my biggest fear is writer’s block. When I started NaNoWriMo at the beginning of the month I was absolutely terrified that I would get part way through and have my well of words run dry. Luckily that hasn’t been the case, but I definitely attribute that to proper planning more than luck.

NaNoWriMo Update – Day 22

Today turned into more of a working-out-some-details day then a writing day, but I still managed to add another 1015 words to my novel. My protagonists are currently in a bit of a bind, and it is going to take some personal sacrifices in order to get out of it.

My total word count now sits at 70,136. Of that, I have written 44,434 of those words in the last twenty-two days. It is truly magical to see my story come to life at my very fingertips. It is exhilarating to think that the first draft of my novel may actually be finished soon, and a bit bittersweet as well. I know once the first draft is done the real work begins: The endless rounds of editing and the metaphorical pounding of the pavement as you try and find someone who likes your work enough to publish it.

Still, I’m happy to be this far along, and though some days are better than others I have loved every one of them.