The Non-Google Research Tool That Makes Writing Easier

    “‘Google’ is not a synonym for ‘research’,” says novelist Dan Brown.

    If you want to be a serious writer (and don’t we all?), sooner or later you’re guaranteed to hit a brick wall.

    To get beyond the brick wall, you are forced to do some … (sound of ominous music) research.

    I think novelist Allan Leverone (Parallax View) spoke for most writers when he said:

    “I hate research. … When I’m writing, I would much rather be writing than researching. I want to learn enough about a subject to ensure that you, as a reader, are not forced out of the story by a lack of realism in the writing.”

    One of my best friends, a prolific writer who churns out new chapters every week, doesn’t shy away from brick walls. She’s found a great way to tackle research painlessly. In fact, she hardly ever asks Google for help.

    Instead, she uses a smart technique that works like magic — and has an exciting extra benefit. More on that in a minute.

     

    How do you get answers?

     

    If you’re anything like me, you probably run straight to Uncle Google if you need research help when you’re writing. You know the drill …

    Save Document. Open Google Search window. Type in question or keywords. Begin clicking links, reading, and taking notes.

     

    What’s wrong with that method?

     

    Most of the time, nothing at all.

    A quick Google Search works perfectly about 80% of the time. You know how that 80/20 rule works, don’t you? It’s the 20% that will drag you down.

    Part of the 20% is that Google searches come with their own baggage, including:

    • “Sponsored Results” (gee, thanks!)
    • Thousands of possible sources
    • Threaded discussions on private forums (“You must be a Member…”)
    • Distracting side trips to read ‘related’ information

     

    Google’s Achilles Heel

    One more thing. Search engines like Google, amazing as they are, still have an important shortcoming:

    They aren’t good at answering complicated questions.

    We writers love to paint ourselves into tricky corners.

    For instance, when Leverone was working on Parallax View, he wanted to describe the dark depths of The Kremlin. How the heck do you research that? Not many writers can afford to travel to Moscow for a personal tour. If you try an Image Search, almost every photo is from the outside. Now what?

    Closer to home, author Teresa Burrell recently needed to learn all about the mysteries of strip bars for a scene in her upcoming novel. That’s a dicey keyword search, and could easily lead to a host of sites that would not give her the information she wanted.

    So, if you can’t — or don’t want to — go there in person, what should you do? (Hint: My friend and Ms. Burrell both used a similar approach.)

     

    Wait, why not just wing it?

     

    What if you just make stuff up? There are times you can get away with that, and even times when you should. For instance, respected writers create fictional locations near real places all the time.

    If you use real places you’ve never visited, one of the most common errors you can make is with the climate.  Does it rain much in Tucson in June? How cold should Seattle be in January? If you simply make educated guesses about these details, real residents of those areas will catch you on it.

    Or maybe you figure you’ve seen enough murder mysteries on TV to bluff your way through settings and procedures. Keep in mind, however, that real cops read books too — and those folks are trained to spot mistakes.

    You have to be careful about skimping on the research. Your readers will come from all kinds of places and backgrounds. Make an important misstep, and it can put a gaping dent in your credibility.

     

    Help… I’m stuck in the bathroom!

     

    Last month, I came across a surprising goof by an established author. It happened in the middle of an otherwise wonderful novel, in a pivotal scene involving the main character. In a nutshell, the male protagonist helps his new girlfriend fix the broken bathroom door, in the process meets her young son, and eventually becomes intimate with the girl.

    Doesn’t sound terribly tricky, does it?

    Unfortunately, the writer had only a vague idea of what could go wrong with a door and how to fix it. Equally unfortunate (for him) was the fact that I am an experienced carpenter.

    Anyone who’s ever tried to fix a door knows that drilling quarter-inch holes isn’t part of the plan, but that’s what this writer had his character do.

    For me, the novel’s bubble had burst. The author’s unexpected mistakes zapped me right out of the story and made me question everything else he had earlier described. This small error made me doubt what I’d thought were brilliant details about forensics and police procedures. Maybe another reader with a background in lab work found some ‘broken door’ errors of her own in that story!

     

    How to avoid this happening in your writing?

     

    Back to my prolific writer friend who doesn’t depend on Google alone for the answers. How do you think she might have handled that bathroom door-fixing scene?

    Easy– she would have asked me (her ‘fix-it friend’) for help. I’d have handed her some practical ideas in about five minutes. I’ve seen her pose problems like these to her network of buddies dozens of times, with amazing results.

    When you need answers to tricky questions, ask your network for help.

    Tap into the power of your friendships, using social networks like Facebook and Twitter.  You will be amazed at the breadth of knowledge your online contacts have at hand, and how quickly they can deliver that information to you.

    Last month, I was writing a short flashback scene. I wanted my heroine to reminisce about a time thirty years earlier.

     

    Cue up That ’70s Show

    To make it clear that her memories were set in the 1970s, I needed specific details of the era. Try Googling “What do you remember about the ’70s?” Now let me know when you’re done sifting some of the 21 million search results.

    Instead, I followed my friend’s advice. I reached out to my network. Just one short post on Facebook to see what my contacts there could recall from the 1970s. One hour — and over 180 replies — later, I had enough information for an entire novel set in that decade!

    Jim Bessey

     

    You can work it too!

    Your question doesn’t have to be as broad as mine for this method to work well.

    When Teresa Burrell was investigating strip clubs for her book, she specifically wanted to know more about lap dances (seriously!). She picked up the phone and started asking her male friends for the inside scoop. Not only did Teresa find out more than she ever wanted to know, but she had fun learning the details. Wouldn’t you love to have transcripts of those phone conversations?

     

    Why does this work so well?

     

    It turns out that people enjoy helping writers get it right.

    We all love to feel like experts at something. For instance, isn’t it fun when you can tell a lost driver exactly how to find Aunt Millie’s Bed & Breakfast?

    Maybe you know how to shoot skeet, or how to prune a rosebush, or how to find a cheap used Corvette. Each of us knows something interesting, or knows someone who knows.

     

    Never underestimate the power of networking.

    For example, you now know that I’m a knowledgeable carpenter; but did you know that one of my best friends is a deputy sheriff? Just imagine all the cool insider knowledge he could offer for your next thriller!

    All you have to do is ASK.

    The best part is, it’s fast and fun — for both you, and the people who help you!

    You can do it by email to a group, on Facebook like I did, on Twitter (might need a hashtag), or Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn — wherever your friends gather in force.

     

    Did I mention the exciting extra benefit?

     

    When you reach out for help and answers, your circle of friends will become more invested in your writing. They will want to read it! This curiosity and interest extends outward to include anyone who participates in your conversation, even people who are only watching the discussion.

    People you’ve never met, friends of your friends, can be drawn in simply because they have the expertise you seek. When you ask for help, you can end up making new friends, creating larger networks of people interested in what you’re doing. They will be far more likely to read and share your articles, to buy and promote your novels, and to trust your recommendations.

    New friends, more readers, improved sales and more – grab this non-Google research tool as soon as you can!

    Have you uncovered any surprising mistakes in your recent reading? Or ever made a mistake yourself?  Or have you used your network for research? Share your experiences in the comments below!

    About the author

      Jim Bessey

      Jim Bessey gives away prize money in monthly writing contests on his blog SoWrite.Us.com.

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    • Nice article once again.

    • Thanks for reading, Ojo.

      I’m not sure about search engine visibility, but it certainly could happen depending upon the circumstances. If you see interesting results like this, would you let me know please?

    • WoW! Jim, thanks for sharing. When it comes to research, I’m Uncle Google’s best friend, 🙂 But now, I know better, I’ll call it social media – networking research. Hmmm, I discover that this method will also help to increase the visibility of your article on search engine results. 🙂 Thanks Jim!

    • That is too funny, Rebekah!

      I don’t think Brown has to spend much time reading writing advice these days. He’s probably too busy concocting wild conspiracies on deadline for his next novel.

      Obviously, unlike many of us, he could easily afford to visit any accessible location he chooses to use in his books. Seems to me he’s long past the stage where he’d need to “make stuff up” for lack of research.

      Thanks for finding and sharing that related article, Rebekah.

    • Rebekah Jones says:

      Hey, Jim, did you see this article about Brown’s new book? http://social.entertainment.msn.com/blogs/blog–author-dan-browns-feet-in-the-fire-in-the-philippines

      Kind of funny if it’s true he’s never been to Manila. Maybe he should read your post before he writes his next book! 🙂

    • Susan Kuhn says:

      Such good advice! It’s not just us and our screens anymore….it’s us as the vast and shifting networks of relationships we cultivate through social media. Great post.

      • “Just us and our screens” was reality back then, wasn’t it, Susan?

        We probably got more actual “work” done every day, but our lives are certainly richer for the friendships we can now cultivate around the world.

        Thanks for reading!

    • Yoshiko says:

      Jim, this is really a great piece of advice!
      I am a translator but I do have a share of research to do when working on a project.

      I had a similar experience with a movie: A couple was in the first class of an airplane and their seat numbers were wrong (it starts with A on the left side of the aircraft, like 3A, but in the movie the order was 3B and 3A from left). I used to work for an airline company. This fact just threw me off, showing a lack of attention by the screenwriter.

      Thank you for the great post!

      • That’s a great example of Detail, Yoshiko!

        Funny, because it sounds like just a little thing; but it would have been so easy for the writer to get it right.

        Your observation proves that people DO notice these little mistakes. Make a few of them, add them together, and you can end up looking silly, even lazy.

        Isn’t there an entire website somewhere dedicated to noticing errors like that in the movies? Not my kind of hobby, but I’ll bet you could learn a lot by seeing what sorts of errors other writers have made.

    • Jim, what a great post:)

      I have been really impressed by the help that people are willing to give on social networking. I am generally uncomfortable ‘bothering’ people with my questions, but find that it is getting easier. People are very generous with their time, which is a pleasing surprise to me.

      Besides, it is fun to get a wide variety of ideas from people that you can’t possibly connect with in person on a regular basis.

      Thanks for the reminder to keep up with the networking.

      • Thanks very much, Rhonda.

        I was reluctant to “bother” my friends, too, and then blown away by their desire to help. Shows you that there’s more to Social Networking than posting Cat Videos and political diatribes (did I use that word correctly?).

        Now that I’ve met you, Rhonda, I’m intrigued by your post’s title. I’m an ardent cliche-hater, so I’ll just have to pop over and read. Sounds interesting!

    • I love this – my favorite kind of information… so easy to grasp and so simple you want to slap yourself for not having done this all along. You’re so right about the extra bennies as well! Great way to get friends interested in your projects.
      Well done. Hope to hear more from you on this sight.

      • Thanks for the love, Nikki!

        I feel the same way. It’s the old “why the heck didn’t I think of that??” syndrome.

        Looks like you’ve got some serious thoughts on weight loss, but what I really want to know is — where did you get that awesome hat? Although it wouldn’t look as good on me as it does on you, it might help improve the apparent height of my forehead! (think “hair loss” vs “weight loss”…)

        Thanks very much for reading and commenting, Nikki.

    • Dan Frost says:

      Great idea. I’ll use it, as far as it goes.
      BUT, research is always a problem.
      Good research, a larger problem.
      People with correct answers, an even larger problem.
      Friends on any social media have limited knowledge. They Google too.
      They aren’t smart of they wouldn’t be my friends.
      Where do I find expert knowledge of specific subjects?
      What to do?

      1. Seek: ask specific question (everywhere).
      Check answer.
      2. Dig deeper.
      Seek: ask about previous answer (s).
      3. Keep digging on all answers.

      Repeat 1, 2 and 3 until you have an expert answer.
      There’s no quick click fix answer on Google or anywhere else.
      Forget that.
      Journalism 101 = ask the question, then check the so-called factual answer, check the alleged answer of the so-called fact , and then check the supposed facts of the alleged so-called answer.

      Post your correct knowledge, the so-called factual research, with its alleged answers on the internet.
      Someone will find something wrong with it.
      The end.

      • You make some great points, Dan.

        Yes, always cross-check and double-check. An active Social Media thread with multiple participants helps to cull the bad info out along the way. I’ve seen that happen in real time.

        Let’s face it; the topic under consideration matters. Ask a Math question, and you should get a concrete answer. Ask about military operations in Third World nations, and be very cautious about the information received. Same goes for medical questions, too — you need answers from people who are qualified to reply.

        You’re right about the power of posting answers so other folks can poke holes in them, too. It’s essentially the same process in action. Thanks for your insights, Dan!

    • Jim, I do so agree with you – writers create a little bubble of a world for their readers, and when something pokes a little hole in that bubble, the whole thing pops! (I have the same problem when I notice a grammar error).

      I think that people love to be asked about something they know – how flattering! Who doesn’t like to talk about their own subject?

      And I have a difficult time getting the info I need from Google… recently I was looking for info about how to fix the warped cabinet door in the kitchen… gee, who do I know that I can ask about that?

      • I agree with you about those grammar goofs, too, Carol.

        That’s probably why some of the most commented-on posts here and elsewhere have word usage as their theme. I don’t mind the occasional misplaced “whom” or “its”, but when a writer makes a particular type of error repeatedly I just can’t take it!

        Now, about that warped cabinet door… I can offer you two solutions: 1) Replace it (yeah, duh!) and 2) Remove the door from the cabinet, take off any knob or handle. Lay the door on a solid, flat surface in the summer sun, back-side-up. Lightly mist it with plain water (just damp). Add weight to force the door flat — small, cheap pavers from a garden store work fine. Simmer until un-warped. If #2 fails, see #1.

        Hey, who started this idea, anyway? -smile-

    • Eva says:

      Great idea. I’ll admit right now, I write fan fiction as well as original fiction. In both instances, I’ve used my network of folks to pick their brains about everything from wormholes (sci fi shows) to police work (my original novel). And you’re right–it’s also an excellent way to start some buzz and interest about your work. When people help, they’re invested and want to see how you used the knowledge they shared.

      • Great to hear from a writer who’s used this method with success, Eva.

        I love your range from cops to wormholes! Have you ever had a contact feed you information you later found it was incorrect? Have to figure it would happen now and then.

    • Hey fellow Audience Biz Masterclass student!

      Being in the field of online marketing, it’s easy to forget that other people use Google for things like researching a book. I love the idea of reaching out to your network. Not only do you learn stuff about them, but you involve them in your world, too. So totally excited to be a writer in my next lifetime. Preferably the lifetime where I’m also a trust fund baby. 🙂

      • I wonder how many writers actually are trust fund babies, Felicity?

        That would certainly make the journey less arduous. From what little I’ve seen of them, though, those uber-rich kids seem to prefer death-defying hobbies — like jumping off of 1000-foot cliffs wearing bat-suits. Maybe writing a book would be too much like “work”?

        I do see Internet Marketers using this method all the time, too. “Ask the Audience” was a smart move long before “Millionaire” hit the scene. Thanks very much for taking the time to stop by, Felicity.

        I hope everything is going well for you in your business.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Hey Jim,

      Funny how a technical mistake in a novel can turn you off to the whole book. As writers we really need to avoid those kinds of mistakes. Social sites have really opened the door to so much on the web. Where the search engines fail us our social contacts can come through for us.

      I’ve used both Facebook and Twitter to get some pretty complicated questions answered, so why not use it in your research too.

      Thanks for the insight.
      Elizabeth 🙂

      • You’re absolutely right, Elizabeth.

        I have a whole batch of “buried books” in my Kindle that I’ll never finish because the author simply didn’t do his or her research, sometimes on some pretty basic stuff. Funny how lazy research is often accompanied by indifferent editing, too, isn’t it?

        Yup, “complicated questions” are the ones we have trouble getting easy answers for on Google or Bing. Good to hear that asking your network has worked for you in the past. Now you can try it just for fun now and then, on the less serious topics!

    • Ellie says:

      Great article. I especially love the part about the 2nd level of our network … we really do have access to a LOT more than we realize!

      • I forget about that “math” effect all the time, myself, Ellie!

        I sit at the computer thinking, “hmm, who do I know who knows that??” — when chances are it’s someone’s sibling, boyfriend, cousin or coworker who might eventually toss in the answer.

        Thanks for stressing that point, Ellie.

    • Great post. It’s such common sense, but despite that I have found myself caught in the Google web (it’s just so easy). I had to laugh as i read because it reminded me of those times that I’ve gotten myself into a knot about information before (as a last resort) asking friends or family and getting a clear answer. Thanks for the great reminder.

      • Yes, Debra!

        We often seem to think of asking friends only as a Last Resort — even when we’ve had great results doing so before. Funny, isn’t it?

        I have to admit that I’d seen my friend post her questions no less than three times before I finally realized just how smart she was. Of course, somebody always seems to reply, “why don’t you just ask Google?”

        Thanks for chiming in, Debra.

    • Jim, you’re so right! Only I didn’t quite realize it before now. OK, once maybe:

      When i started getting these (strong and ongoing and persuasive) nudges to dedicate my work to widows, I went to Google in order to learn more. A lot of confusion and not quite as much information as I had hoped for came out of that. Without really thinking about it, I also started asking around, questions I never asked my network before. Surprise, surprise: they knew some of the answers I couldn’t find elsewhere!

      This keeps on happening, but it’s usually without me planning to make it happen. Which is why I tend to forget how helpful it can be!

      Thank you so much for shedding a different light on the power of networking, and for the reminder!

      All the best,

      Halina

      • You’re tackling a sensitive area, aren’t you, Halina?

        Interesting that the search results you found were confusing. Maybe your topic is too broad or deep to allow for easy keyword searches. That makes the help you received from your network all the more valuable.

        I’ve always heard that when people are diagnosed with cancer, for instance, they are amazed at how many of their friends and coworkers have been affected in some way by that realm of diseases. You don’t know until you express a sincere interest.

        I hope your quest goes well for you, Halina. I’m sure there are a great many women out there who might appreciate your help. Thanks for your kind words.

    • Jim,
      Great article. Really it is the case of “you don’t know what you don’t know.” By accepting that there has to be more information out there and seeking other sources you will do yourself right!

      • I like “you don’t know what you don’t know,” Mike.

        Sometimes the things we think we understand are just plain wrong. In a book I read back in February, the author had a driver check his “review mirror.” First time I saw that, I figured it was a typo. By the third time, I realized the writer honestly thought he’d named that device correctly.

        I’ll bet most of us have little quirky things like that, Mike. So you’re right — it’s well worth getting some help from our friends, even about things we’re “pretty sure” about! 🙂

    • There seem to be all kinds of level of specificity–which, as you point out, is not always the best option. Brainstorming is tricky business.

      • True, Mike.

        Brainstorming can produce as much useless info as it does helpful ideas. You have to do some sifting, maybe some cross-checking to be safe. Thanks for reading!

    • T. L. West says:

      It is funny that you write about this now, as I have recently been thinking about how to get information that isn’t easily supplied by a search engine. I consider myself to be rather adept at finding answers via the Internet, but sometimes it just does not provide the details you need. I have considered asking friends and family to share their knowledge, but must admit that I have been hesitant to do so. I am still new to writing to an audience, and am still anxious about what people will think. In fact, I have only told a few of my closest friends and family members that I am working on a book. I am trying to have more confidence in my own abilities, but believe that I will get there with hard work and time. However, I really like your suggestion of using a social networking post, which would allow users to comment only if they wanted to. This takes some of the pressure off of a face to face, or one on one request.

      • I’m so glad you found this idea useful, T.L.

        It’s interesting how shy we can be about sharing our works-in-progress with family and friends. We’d like to believe those closest to us would be our best first audience — but what if they don’t like it? It’s probably easier to accept critical responses from people we barely know, isn’t it?

        Using social networks does take the pressure off. And, who knows, you might find a great critiquing partner who lives hundreds of miles away. Good luck with your book, T.L.!

    • Jim you’re so right about how a bad detail can yank you out of your book or movie.

      As a former cop, I see action movies that show the hero using a snub-nose 38 gun (which is only accurate at about 2 feet) like a sniper rifle. It turns the multi-million dollar blockbuster movie into a low-grade cartoon.

      I hadn’t thought of using forums for insight.

      Do you think they’re equally as good for testing your writing?

      Thanks,

      Mark

      • Cool that you’re a former cop, Mark!

        I’m sure lots of Law Enforcement folks find many dramas and movies downright funny at times. What was your job at the time?

        Yeah, forums are another strong resource! Long before FB and Twitter, I formed dozens of friendships in forums on Writing sites. Some of the conversations we had in so-called “cafes” (for casual non-topic discussion) ventured far and wide, and went on for many pages. What fun!

        As for testing, I’d say absolutely. My earliest forays into Peer Critiques were in members-only forums. We all “knew” each other, so the back-and-forth was constructive, but civil. The forums here in the A-List Blogging Bootcamps also offer a fine opportunity for getting feedback on your writing.

        So, Mark, when I need some “cop details,” can I count on you? 🙂

    • Wonderful post Jim! I’ve always turned to my friend Google when doing research and have never thought about asking my network for help (except for that one time when I was writing about the Blitz in London during world war 2 – then I asked my Grandma!) Google definitely has its limitations. Thanks for the tips!

      • Hey, Clair, thanks very much for dropping in!

        I have a pretty good idea of how busy you are – hope it’s all going gangbusters for you.

        You make another excellent point that I didn’t visit: the vast wealth of information held between the ears of our elders. My dad is 83 this year, and it’s incredible to consider everything he’s seen and done over the decades.

        So, how are things going for you, Claire? We should do a Skype call sometime soon, and compare notes, perhaps do something collaborative.

    • Jenna says:

      I always like to read the acknowledgements of the book. There is so much evidence your advice works as authors thank professionals who helped them and Uncle Harry who explained how to remove a broken lightbulb, or some equally unusual bit of information that found its way into the book.

      • That’s a great point, Jenna!

        I’m always amazed when writers thank DOZENS of people who’ve contributed to their books. It’s proof that not all authors are introspective loners slaving away in dark dens surrounded by cats.

        And, it’s a solid reminder of the value of friendships, even casual ones. Not to mention the value of “gratitude” as a virtue.

    • Ann Hinds says:

      Jim, if you were inspired by Glory, than my thanks goes to her and then to you for posting it. I never gave it a thought and I have lots of interesting friends who would love to share with me. Genius idea to use social media as a research tool.

      • And I know just to who to consult when I want to know about teardrop trailers (and lots more), Ann!

        You certainly DO have some “interesting” friends, Ann. I know some of them, at least enough to be willing to ask them for help.

        Yes, Glory is my actual inspiration for how to make this method work well. She’s fantastic, and asks the coolest questions. Her posts always make me wonder, “Wow, what the heck is she writing about now?”

        Thanks much for your kind words, Ann. I hope you’re doing well. Are you camping during the holiday weekend at all?

        • Ann Hinds says:

          No, I am flying to Tennessee to do a week of family history research with my cousin and to see everything we can see in 8 days. However, we are going to do decoration day. Since it’s the original memorial day, we are going to my great grandmother’s grave to decorate and spend some time with her. We are pretty excited. No camping this time.

          • Kim says:

            Ann, I see from your comment and your blog that you are headed to Sneedville, TN. How exciting to track down relatives!

            We just traveled to the Knoxville area in February and visited three great museums. One in particular may be of real interest to you: Museum of East Tennessee History. In addition to being a great museum, they also keep records that they make available to the public.

            Jim-My apologies for link dropping, but I couldn’t resist being able to share information that may be helpful in Ann’s search. 🙂

    • Rebekah Jones says:

      Great post, Jim! Thanks for the tip!

      The Dan Brown quote worked for the point you were making. BTW, I actually know someone who believes Brown’s Da Vinci Code contained accurate details! Seriously??!! LOL

      • Thanks, Rebekah.

        I hope you find this method as helpful as I do. If you decide to give it a try, let me know what you think of the results, please.

        It’s funny about Dan Brown. When I chose the quote I thought, “respected and rich author” rather than “wacky conspiracy-theory guy.” I can’t recall offhand which of his books focused on Masonic lore, but that one pushed m over the edge for credibility.’

        Let’s face it, the guy is a master storyteller. His novels move fast and they’re engrossing. As my Great Aunt Ethel used to say, “We should all be so lucky!” (ok, she never actually said that. But she seemed the type…)

        What are you working on this month, Rebekah? Something awesome?

    • Everyone, meet Glory (my Writer Friend).

      Glory, this is Everyone (awesome writers, all).

      Glory, you are my inspiration. I absolutely LOVE the way you “get the conversation going.” Some of your Help Me! threads have become epic posts that go on for hours, even days.

      The cool part is, I’ve never seen you do it gratuitously. You always have a serious question, often tricky or difficult; and you always end up getting the answers you needed, even if some people do give you a little flak for asking. They’re just silly.

      Thank you, sincerely, for teaching me how to turn my online friends into Amazing Research Assistants. While it might seem a little obvious once you think about it, I’m sure I’m not the only one who had never made good use of my contacts this way.

      Have you ever ended up getting bad advice or wrong answers using this approach? Or is do other friends end up “correcting” the misinformation before you put it to use?

    • Some people get annoyed with me for all my questions and they will say, “Just google it!” They just don’t realize I need real people answers, even if they are wrong and mere opinion. And I do so love getting a conversation going! So, yes, Facebook is my research because I have a wealth of “real people” knowledge there for the asking. Love it, Jimmy boy!

    • Nice tip, Jim! It’s so easy to treat Google like a cyborg extension of your brain; sometimes I forget that the people around me are a rich resource, too.

      • Hey, Sophie – thanks so much for reading!

        You know a lot of writers because of the work you do. Have you ever been surprised by the crazy and diverse things your contacts know about?

        Writers who dig into freelance writing really need to have a broad range of knowledge and experience in order to land the cool jobs and make the big bucks, don’t they?

        Speaking of networking, I’m pretty sure I know who to ask whenever I have questions about Freelance Blogging! Plus, I just love it when you cuss and stomp your foot, Sophie! (big smile)

    • Jevon says:

      I can relate to this in my writing. My latest novel is about a king who gives up everything for love, but I have never been a king, nor do I know any. Even in my fighting scenes, I had to be careful since I found out after watching a documentary on history channel that a human cannot swing a sword hard or fast enough to penetrate armor, something that you see all the time in movies.

      • See, Jevon, YOU just taught me something!

        I didn’t know about that sword and armor argument, and I’m a huge Game of Thrones fan. Thanks to you, I’ll watch more closely next episode. Guys are always doing ghastly things with swords on that show.

        You wouldn’t have to know a king to learn more about royalty from your friends. Maybe one of them is absolutely bonkers about kings and castles and related lore.

        In what era did you choose to set your novel? There’s so much intrigue to work with as you navigate the centuries. How did you decide?

        • Jevon says:

          It’s actually based on the 8th century of Europe, I’m guessing similar to the time Game of Thrones is based on. But it’s actually a science fantasy fiction, not historical fiction, and that genre is usually based on medieval times.

          • Well, that sounds like big fun, Jevon!

            We’ve all seen so much written about the Middle Ages, that delving back a bit farther can be fresh and mysterious at the same time.

            I’m actually not sure what the intended century is for GoT. It has some paranormal aspects to it, and dragons, too! In the end, like all great stories, GoT is driven by its characters and their conflicts.

            Best of luck to you with your novel.

    • Forget that Dan Brown wrote that quote. Wisdom is wisdom. This is an awesome post! I spent many hours on Facebook a year ago catching up on what things were like in my hometown when I was a kid. I discovered that I really did grow up under a rock, and do I ever have lots of color for my memoir! I know of no other way I’d get that stuff!

      Read this post and heed.

      • Now you’re making me blush, Sharon.

        You don’t seem like the sort of person who tosses the word ‘awesome’ around willy-nilly. As opposed to, say, my two teenage sons. For them, feeding the dog a biscuit is ‘awesome.’

        I, too, am stunned at the power of FB to reconnect me with the people and places I grew up with. Honestly, I might have more friends among my original high school classmates NOW then I did way back then — even with people I barely knew during those brief yet never-ending four years.

        When you wrote your memoir, did you find that you were able to include and quote old friends by name? If you did, I’ll bet that adds another whole layer of richness to the result. Did they ask to read your work when you were finished?

    • Mombert says:

      At a family gathering,, while talking with my niece ‘s BF, discovered he wanted to go to work for a large company And e is highly experienced, I happened to personally know the Only recruiter for the company. I will call my friend & fax her resume over to her! God says, “Ask and you will receive “…..your advice is right on target!

      So, my door needs a new thing at the bottom that fills in the space from the outside bottom of the door. The dog chewed the rubber part That is around that metal piece & it’s separated from the door . This a door that goes out to my back yard.

      Now, where do I find some to replace this & do I just need a handyman?

      WHERE IS A man when YOU NEED HIM…?????

      Ps, good blog.

      • Wow, Mombert, sounds like your niece’s BF was very fortunate to have spent time with you!

        I know how droll those awkward “I’m looking for work” conversations can be. Bless you for going to the trouble to help him, even at some (small?) risk to your own reputation.

        Now, let’s talk about your door problem.

        “Bad doggie! Bad doggie!” Oh, wait, don’t ever discipline your dog *after* the fact — they don’t have a clue what’s making you mad. (I’m a dog lover, please forgive my lame doggie humor there)

        Real answer is you don’t need to be male to fix that seal. It might even be fairly easy. Take a picture of the damage from a couple different angles, then trot off to the nearest hardware store (even Home Depot will do). One of the guys (or gals!) there will be able to advise you. The part itself is pretty cheap.

        I’m going to get more fix-it questions here, aren’t I, Mombert? 🙂

    • Kim says:

      A simple and effective approach to research. Thanks for the idea!

      • You’re entirely welcome, Kim.

        Don’t hesitate to try it next time you’re stumped. It’s amazing to discover how smart and worldly your friends actually are. You never know what sorts of cool things you can learn about people you thought you knew well.

        If you do try this approach, I’d love to hear how it goes for you, Kim.

    • Congratulations on a great post Jim.

      It’s so true that sometimes the most effective answers are right under our noses – and yet we for some reason insist on overlooking them.

      It’s *spooky* to think how much access we all have to expert knowledge if we just make the effort to tap into it. Good stuff!

      • Your kind words mean a lot to me, Gary.

        I know you’re a respected WTD guest author, and I’m always impressed with your insights.

        Interesting, isn’t it, how we writers aren’t the least bit afraid to “spam” our friends with links to everything we’ve ever written (well, we do, sorry!) — and yet we’re reluctant to “bother” our online contacts to ask them questions they’d be thrilled to answer.

        Now that I’ve finally gotten over that shyness, I’m learning first-hand just how helpful people can be.

        Speaking of helpful, my thanks go out to you as well, Gary!

    • Dan Brown must reread his book The Lost Symbol where Langdon (or some other person involved) uses his fancy smartphone to go onto Google and look up something really ‘noetic.’ He does make things up. In The Da Vinci Code he makes his characters run from the Louvre to the Opera House in a short space of time. You cannot run from the Louvre to the Opera house without dying of fatigue or a heart attack along the way. It’s all uphill too! (I lived in Paris)

      • Well, Fiona, now you and Sarah are going to force me to read Brown’s books all over again!

        It’s a good thing I didn’t say anything about how mistakes like those might hurt your book sales, huh? Not to mention the sale of movie rights, etc.

        Sometimes the story just plain trumps the foolishness, I suppose.

        You notice continuity errors in movies, too, don’t you Fiona? 🙂 Thanks for reading!

    • Sarah says:

      “‘Google’ is not a synonym for ‘research’,” says novelist Dan Brown.

      A little ironic to use a Dan Brown quote when making a point about research, no? He’s the king of making it up/using dubious information and then claiming his books are historical.

      • Sarah, you almost made me spit coffee on my keyboard! 🙂

        I used his quote because it was perfect for this post, but never pondered Brown’s passion for “making stuff up” — great catch!

        Now, if I only had a nickel for every dollar Brown has earned from his “historical” fiction…


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