If you are wrong about something obvious, people notice. That is why research in writing is essential. People will call you out for inaccuracy in your book. They will remember at the end of your book that there were unforgivable mistakes, and if they review your book at all, they will let others know. Worse, they won’t read anything else you write.
Cringe-Worthy Editing Mistakes
I’ll never forget, as a teenage reader working my way through a Stephen King novel, when the character turned on the radio to hear a song from the band “Arrowsmith.” Or when, as a younger editor, I was stumped over how to rewrite a vital scene in a novel that incorporated a mechanical garage door and motorized trucks into something happening in the 1870s.
Of course, it is the duty of a good editor to catch anachronisms, misspellings of real-world locations and people, or factual inaccuracies. But you will make your writing stronger and your editing process simpler by confirming these easily-Googleable things yourself
Writing Tip of the Day: Perform a round of fact-checking edits.
Research in writing and editing
can should be its own step. Once the bulk of your manuscript is written and you’ve performed a round of line edits and edits for consistency and style, read through the entire thing again and make notes to yourself about (or highlight) things that need to be confirmed. Then, work your way backward, from end to beginning, and address only the items you’ve commented on.
Some things to keep in mind to confirm:
Spelling of real-world locations, people, technology, documents, texts, companies, and other nonfiction stuff.
Historical and geographic accuracy. Confirm that you’re not placing anachronisms into your text, especially if it’s historical fiction. Make sure that buildings or bridges (or roads or monuments) were built by the year of your novel; make sure that you don’t introduce technology before it existed; make sure that characters in your setting realistically have access to items mentioned — like an architectural design, a plant in the environment, or a design of clothing.
If you describe the details of any business or technological process, you’ll need to confirm the exact spelling and usage of tools, technology, and references. Even if you describe the cursory elements of something complex, check all your information.
Quotes. If you quote from a real-life person, book, or film, or especially from the Bible, you’ll want to check your exact wording and reference. If you’re paraphrasing, don’t use quotation marks, because the reader expects that with quotation marks comes exact wording.
You can't skip the research in writing
I mean, I guess you can. But then, expect to pay more for a thorough edit. Because your editor will do the research for you. So ultimately, the research can’t be skipped.
A good editor should always help the writer avoid looking foolish, and there is no quicker way to make both the writer and editor look foolish than a correction that could have been made after a two-second search online.
Chances are, even when you perform this fact-check round of edits yourself, you will miss information that seems common sense or automatic to you. An editor who really is working for you and your best interest won’t let that missed information make its way to the reader.
So that’s my second writing tip of the day: find yourself an editor who truly works for you and the best interest of your manuscript. You won’t regret it.