April 28, 2017 @ 11:22 PM

Seven sensible steps to success as a writer
Step 4. Researching your topic

The idea and the style may be terrific. But unless the writer also has a solid understanding of the subject, the book can still end up a shambles.

Hence the importance, before putting the first word on the page or screen, of researching your topic thoroughly. It's true of fiction and even more so, in my case, of literary non-fiction.

If a reader tosses your book away with the remark that ‘This writer doesn’t know what he (or she) is talking about’, you’ve wasted your time. The whole edifice you've elaborately constructed with fine words and profound thoughts will start to fall to the ground in the mind of your reader.

One small illustration will suffice. A military historian friend was once sent a draft manuscript in which a family was clustered around a radio in the lounge room listening to news of the Gallipoli landings in 1915.

No. There were no home radios until at least the later 1920s. If the incident were left in the finished book, the whole artifice would quickly crumble. As it does when you read a novel based on real people you’ve researched, where key names and events have been altered ‘for literary purposes'.

If the reader is to maintain the necessary 'suspension of disbelief', as a bridge between the page and the mind, I think it's essential that the supporting structure not be undermined by 'facts' that are known to be unsound.


Next: 'Historical Faction'



Photo: Sydney Harbour Bridge Wikimedia Commons