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Overcoming the fear of getting things wrong.
Nevena Georgieva
Posted: Sunday, October 6, 2013 10:33 PM
Joined: 2/9/2012
Posts: 438

Last week, I sat down with Random House editor David Ebershoff, who also happens to be the bestselling author of the historical novel The 19th Wife. When I asked him what the most challenging part of navigating two different time periods in the book, he said:


Learning. I was not a specialist in 19th-century American history or the origins of the Mormon Church before I wrote this book. I was intimidated by how much I needed to learn and anxious about getting things wrong. All writing is about confronting a fear, or fears–and so I faced those fears and pressed ahead.


I thought that was pretty inspiring! How about you, guys? Do you ever fear that, despite all of the painstaking research, some small inaccuracy might slip in? How do you conquer that fear?



BC Coordinator


Mimi Speike
Posted: Sunday, October 6, 2013 11:01 PM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1014

Sigh. By doing more research, I'm afraid. And by constructing a detailed timeline. My plot has to play out in a very short window of opportunity. My fantasy depends on a handful of historical figures being (plausibly) in the right place at the right time, roughly, the year or two prior to Mary Queen of Scots being executed. I'm constantly looking for how I've screwed up, what people will pounce on.


I figure that I have a certain amount of leeway. My hero is a talking cat. But I'd like my scenario to not be out and out impossible.


--edited by Mimi Speike on 10/7/2013, 12:56 AM--

Posted: Wednesday, January 22, 2014 4:50 AM

  I completely agree. Research and learning  about new ideas, places etc can be very intimidating to say the least. 

I've struggled with that one myself.  Especially since my mystery series touches on some sensitive topics. The research I did  revealed some shocking things and shook me to the core of my being and changed  the way I view those topics.  Sometimes research opens  our eyes to things we don't want see, but once we do, it changes us forever. 


D J Lutz
Posted: Friday, January 31, 2014 6:23 AM
Joined: 4/27/2011
Posts: 130

I don't necessarily have a fear of getting things wrong, since I am pretty much convinced I will do so without much effort. That said, like the other posts have said, more research is what I count on to reduce the amount of "wrong" in my writing. The Internet is a great tool, however you get what you pay for. At one time, there was a Wikipedia entry that (very scientifically, I might add) explained how the horse used for television's Mr. Ed show was actually a zebra. The entry was pulled after a few days, but I saw it and spent an hour or so trying to rationalize the science used in the claim. Lately, my policy is to write what I (actually) know and if that isn't possible, go find out first hand. If my killer is using a pistol, he/she will use a Baretta 9 mil semi automatic since that is what I have used for years. If I choose to give them a Glock, or worse yet, a revolver, of which I know very little, I will really need to go to the gun range and test drive them. How else will I learn revolvers do not have safety switches?
Mimi Speike
Posted: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 8:53 PM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 1014

I do a ton of research and I am very afraid of getting details wrong in my sixteenth century fantasy. I intend to supply disclaimers in the chapter notes to fudge questionable assertions, something like, This is a fairy tale, for Chrissake. Give me a break.


Here's an exciting fact that I just found out today: pencils were invented in England prior to 1560. The graphite was used to line cannonballs, so the item was a bit of a military secret. But my Spanish captain, working undercover for Francis Walsingham, would have had access to the useful tool, and Sly, on board his ship, would have been able to get his paws on the marvels. One of the problems that have been bugging me has just been solved.


Another piece of the puzzle has fallen into place.

Posted: Monday, February 24, 2014 5:00 PM
Joined: 10/15/2013
Posts: 78

Two ways actually.  As has been mentioned already I just do more research.  If I hit something that's unfamiliar or I think isn't real/accurate enough I jump online and get into some reading.  Usually it's just to confirm what I've already put in but often times it's because I know what I've written or assumed simply isn't the case.


Secondly I just boldly go forward and wait to be corrected.  I'm an admitted "know it all" and have a bit of an ego when it comes to just knowing stuff.  Fortunately this has only come out in my favour - for now.  It has, though, come back to bite me in the past on some things.  When I dive into my cyberpunk novel this fall there will be MUCH more research going on.  Same for any historical fictions.

JCW Stevenson
Posted: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 7:50 PM
Joined: 2/24/2014
Posts: 19

Research, research, research. When I run out of sources to learn from, I'll contact an expert in whatever field it is and ask them.


Wikipedia is a great place to start, though using the content is fraught with danger. Rather, the links and references at the bottom of each page is an excellent start.  Google Scholar is another good place, though my university days have taught me that published and peer reviewed papers are not as reliable as I would have thought.  For every paper on any given topic finding a solid conclusion, there is another with an opposing conclusion, using essentially the same data.  Again, the references are the more important research point.


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