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This is the first in a series of posts on the importance of doing research when writing.We all know that when we write non-fiction, we have to do research. Chances are, we've written those types of papers in high school or college, complete with footnotes and bibliography.

Research is important in all types of writing. This inaugural post explores the reasons why research is so important.

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Good research establishes your credibility as a writer. Taking the time to do your research shows a prospective client and your audience that you take writing seriously and that you pay attention to detail. Prospective clients are turned off by sloppy research as well as sloppy writing. Readers of prose do pay attention to the details. If you don't do research and your readers notice that you're making mistakes with factual information, not only will they stop reading your book, they won't recommend it to their friends.

Consider the case of author James Frey. His memoir, A Million Little Pieces, came to national attention when Oprah Winfrey featured the book as a selection for her book club. The book was a best-seller that recounted the story of Frey's alcohol and drug abuse and criminal past. It was later revealed that Frey made up much of his story.

Not only did Frey have to apologize, his credibility as a writer was ruined. He could write another factual book, but the damage is done. He will always have this incident following.

Even small bits of research matter. Credibility is much more than not making things up. Authors who make mistakes can suffer damage to their credibility when they don't take care of the small details. In this case, not avoiding little mistakes will send the message that the writer is sloppy and doesn't care.

One or two mistakes will not make or break a writer. However, if not careful, little mistakes do add up. When they add up, that's when the damage is done.

Bad research or no research can do serious damage to your reputation as a writer . Not only that, if you're writing for a client, you could do serious damage to their reputation. You also run the risk of opening yourself up to lawsuits.

A client can sue you if your copy contains errors that end up hurting their business. A client can also get sued if the copy you wrote for them contains errors that hurt their business. If word should get around that you aren't careful with research, it can cost you clients.

The devil really is in the details. Details matter. It matters in both fiction and non-fiction pieces. In fiction, those little details are what brings a story, a character or a setting to life. In non-fiction, the details matter in establishing credibility and making your argument or demonstrating your point.

Once example that research and details matter in fiction is in the setting. The setting of your book is as important in illustrating your characters as their motivations are. Settings are handled most effectively when the writer shows his or her readers a "sense of place". Sense of place is those little details that make a place come alive. Two writers who effectively show a sense of place are Willa Cather and Laura Ingalls Wilder. Both authors engaged their readers by using those small details of their settings to make the place come alive. In fact, Wilder used this so effectively, I fell in love with the Great Plains as a girl, sight unseen.

If you are writing a story and you've never been to the place you've decided to set your story, you will have to do research. However, it is possible to become bogged down in research, especially when writing about a real place. A writer has to find a balance between getting the details right and finding time to write the story.

You can take artistic license with some places, but not too much. One problem you might come across is that of the reader who actually lives in the place where your story is set. Some people won't mind if you take liberties; others don't like it. If you find yourself in a position where you are taking more artistic license with a real place than doing research, you might want to consider inventing a fictitious place.

The advantage for a writer of using a fictitious place is that you can base it on any place you want and make up your own details.

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Posted in Photograph Post Date 11/24/2017


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