Learning While Writing

Terry Odell

Congratulations to Connie Williamson, who won a cool Windswept Danger magnet and a download of the book.

When I started writing, the first rule was “Write What You Know.” But aside from knowing any book I wrote that conformed to that rule would be boring as all get out, part of the fun of writing is learning new stuff.

In my first book, I looked up constellations that would be visible in the night sky at the time of year and the place my characters would be gazing at them. (Never mind that scene never made it to the book; if it had, it would have been right).

I write romantic suspense featuring hero cops and covert field operatives, computer specialists, pilots—none of which I know anything about. My heroines have been artists, decorators, social workers, cooks, cops, boutique owners—and I’m only slightly better “educated” in those topics.

But with the world only a Google search or a phone call away, we have access to volumes of information that will keep our books accurate. (Note I didn’t mention watching television as a valid form of research!)

I’ve learned about firearms and firefighting. What trees grow where. What you can and can’t learn from a cell phone. What might disable a private jet, and how to make sure it lands safely. Buzz words and jargon. What K9s can do.

Sometimes, you do “write what you know.” In Windswept Danger, I set the book near where I live so I knew about the climate, the terrain, the plant and animal life. In fact, I took the picture for the background of the cover down my street.

In the book I’m writing, I’ve got cowboys. I know that you should NEVER put a Stetson on a table brim down. I’ve got a cooking instructor. I’m having way too much fun researching recipes.

And, sometimes, the hardest part of research is knowing when you should have looked something up. The most common firearms mistake is thumbing a safety off a Glock. I learned that one before I made the mistake. All semi-automatics are not created equal. And, thanks to a sharp-eyed critique partner, I learned that not all cars come with manual transmissions, when she said the Highlander SUV I’d given a character only came in automatic. She saved me from an egg-on-the-face moment.

What about you? Have you learned anything by reading fiction? Did you trust the author, or go look it up to make sure they got it right?

I’ve got a cool Windswept Danger magnet and a download of the book to one reader. Contest runs through Wednesday, August 12th

You can enter by leaving a comment here, AND by entering the Rafflecopter contest. Just tell me something you’ve learned while reading for “pleasure.” And, for an extra entry, tell me about a blunder you’ve discovered while reading.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


The fine print:

No purchase is necessary. You must be at least 18 years old to enter. By submitting your entry, you agree to be entered into each Booklover’s Bench author’s email newsletter list. We will not share your information with anyone else, and you may unsubscribe at any time.

Winners will be chosen by Rafflecopter from all entrants for the prize. Winners will be notified by email. Booklover’s Bench authors are not responsible for transmission failures, computer glitches or lost, late, damaged or returned email. Prizes must be claimed within 5 days or they will be forfeited.