Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The Value of Research

The Value of Research

I was just reading Kristin Lamb’s blog and in her advice to writers, she was emphasizing the importance of researching the material you are writing about in order to avoid advertising your ignorance of your subject to your readers.  She cited a passage where an author wrote a story that involved guns but because of the author’s ignorance about guns, the author said something that was grossly inaccurate and impossible!   I can relate to Kristen’s frustration with the author ignorance. 

I once was reading a book (by a well known author) who wrote a novel that involved ranching and farming.  In her novel, this author frustrated me not once, not twice, but several times with her ignorance by talking about “castrating cows” and rounding up cattle from a distant mountain pasture in the space of a couple of hours and of shooting bear with a “shotgun” (without even the mention of slug shot). 

 Now as a long-time farmer, I was ready to pitch the book across the room just like Kristen did whenever the “castrating cows” and those expeditious cattle drives were mentioned.  That author obviously had absolutely no knowledge of farming or ranching and gave no consideration to the fact  that someone with a farming or ranching background might read her book and catch her glaringly obvious faux pas.
I know that it is difficult to have a working knowledge of every subject but is it not possible to just go generic and just say “castrating cattle or even livestock”?  The specific word “cows” could thus have been avoided and the author’s obvious ignorance camouflaged. The specific time lapse of the cattle drive could also have been simply avoided without detriment to the story.  

Research takes time and effort but sometime it is time well spent and Kristen had a good point there.

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