Monday, April 4, 2016

Writing Research: When Do You Need an Expert Reader?

Research is an inevitable part of writing. This is more obvious when you're writing in a genre like historical fiction, where you have to find out what life was like or which historical figures you can include in your novel. Or maybe you're writing science fiction set on a spaceship, and you need to get your facts straight about the way space travel works (or plausibly may work in the future).

But even the most contemporary of contemporary novels will require a certain amount of fact checking. For example, let's say your contemporary YA is set in Boston during December. You'll need to make sure you don't set any scene that needs to take place in the daylight after about 6 pm—because anyone who's ever been there will cry foul otherwise. Or what if you plan to include a character from a different cultural or religious background to your own? You'll need to make sure you get any specific routines and rituals correct.

Great, you say to yourself. I'm really good at research! I'll go to the library and check out a whole bunch of books. I'll do internet searches. No problem.

Hang on, though. It's important to keep in mind that there's only so much you can learn from books and the internet. When you're writing diverse characters (and I sincerely hope you are!), there's no substitute for having someone read your work who has experienced those circumstances/diversities. Sometimes known as a "sensitivity read," this is one of the best ways to make sure you're getting the details right.

Where to Find Expert Readers
The ideal scenario is to be hooked up with a local large, diverse writer's group. Who better to help you check over your work than trusted beta readers with whom you already trade work? But since this isn't a reality for a lot of people, here are a few other places to look.

  • Online Writer's Groups: You're far more likely to find a wide variety of life experiences amongst a large group of writers, and some of the largest can be found online. You can find these groups through participating in contests, frequenting forums like the Absolute Write Water Cooler or Agent Query Connect, or reading websites and blogs focused on the type of writing you do.
  • Social Media: There are tons of opportunities to find sensitivity readers and experts through social media channels. You can get hooked up with writers' groups on Facebook (many of which maintain an "areas of expertise" or similar document open to member contribution) or crowdsource information via Twitter.
  • Absolute Write Story Research: There's a dedicated area in the Absolute Write forums that deserves a special mention—the Story Research section. This is a place where knowledgeable experts in a whole range of topics drop in and answer questions about everything from medical science to Russian language to the way the FBI used the internet in 1998.
Do you have any other sources to find expert readers?

No comments:

Post a Comment