What are the most important resources for writers? (Magazines, books, websites, etc.)
This week’s topic piqued my interest as I do a lot of research for my historical books and short stories. I am a pedantic person with a sharp eye for detail and I pay a lot of attention to detail. As a result, when I undertake research it is thorough and I check the fact patterns to up to ten different sources to ensure my work is as factually accurate as possible.
Modern people are generally well educated and readers of historical books about specific wars or periods are often knowledgeable about the factual details of those times. I believe that any factual errors in a historical novel undermine the entire novel and even the author’s writing as a whole.
When writing While the Bombs Fell, a fictionalised biography of my mother’s life as a young girl growing up in a small English town during World War II, I had to do significant amounts of research. Not only about the timing and nature of major military events like the Battle of Britain, but also about the everyday events that occurred in my mother’s life. I had heard her stories many times during my life and was familiar with their content, but when I sat down to write about something like the family wash day, I realised that while I knew her mother used a copper and a galvanised wash tub and then made use of a mangle and I even knew what they looked like, I did not know details such as where the coal went, how many times the washing was rinsed and whether the settings on the mangle could be changed to accommodate different thicknesses of clothing and linen. As a result, I found myself doing far more extensive research on everyday items than I had expected.
I am currently experiencing the same thing with my book, A ghost and his gold, about the Second Anglo Boer War in South Africa. A huge amount of research is necessary to ensure the locations of towns and battles are correct in terms of the maps at that time.
I use the internet extensively for my research and favour certain website. I do like Wikipedia because it gives all the sources of its information at the bottom of every article so it is easy to discover more detail and check the facts provided. The UK government websites have proved themselves to be reliable as to fact although they do present the British perspective. That is reasonable, but I am trying to present both sides of the story in A ghost and his gold and unpack the reasons why both sides felt the way they did towards the other which had far reaching relationship and social consequences going forward, so I have had to dig a little deeper. I have found that personal diaries from that time, of which there are many from both the English and the Boer perspective, as well as more than one master’s degree theses about that period have been very helpful.
For purposes of my stories and books I have also used a number of newspaper articles from the time, maps of battles and railways as well as more obscure sources such as cook books and even Emily Hobhouse’s report to the British Government on conditions in the South African camps. I have visited sites about the memorials, graveyards and museums about some of the concentration camps as well as made personal visits to Mahiking (previously Mafeking) and Irene farm, Jan Smut’s house and Irene Village in Gauteng, South Africa.
This describes how I go about my research for a book or story. What do you do?
Find out what other writers think about this here: Inlinkz party
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