Write What You Know and What You Can Research


Writers are often told to “write what you know.”

My novel, Playing the Game, covers many business issues facing the toy company where the action takes place, including product creation and development, marketing, customer relations,  manufacturing and other supply chain problems, personnel issues, and legal concerns.

Many readers have asked me how I knew all that, particularly those readers who know I spent most of my career in support divisions. I have several answers for these readers.

First, I did know a lot about this type of business, even though I never worked for a toy company. I worked for a consumer products company for many years. I learned enough about product development and marketing and sales of my company’s products to apply the terminology and issues to another product.

Also, I had exposure to plastics manufacturing and have watched injection molding machinery operate as described in my novel. It doesn’t really matter what product is extruded by this equipment—it operates the same whatever comes out the back end.

Of course, the personnel and legal problems described in the book were my daily existence for many years. My problem here was writing various scenarios that were realistic, but not identical to any cases I worked on. After so many years, I’d about seen everything!

Beyond what I knew, however, I found that research these days is a mouse click or phone call away.

I needed to do medical research. I found information on traumatic brain injuries online and also by talking to a doctor I know. I needed to know how the police process a crime scene, beyond what I had gleaned from reading and watching police procedurals, and talked to a former cop friend.

Occasionally, I had to stop writing to research a particular plot point. For example, when the injection molding equipment breaks down, I needed to know what kinds of problems it might have caused in the product. Once again, the internet came through, and I found out enough to muddle my way through a two-page scene. Readers of the novel who have supervised injection molding production haven’t complained.

I probably made some errors throughout the book—and they are my errors, no one else’s, if they are there—but I hope I got it mostly right.

You can find Playing the Game on Amazon and on Barnes & Noble, both in paperback and in ebook format.

Writers, what has been your most difficult research issue?

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2 Comments

Filed under Playing the Game, Writing

2 responses to “Write What You Know and What You Can Research

  1. This post is linked to Make a Living Writing
    Linking to the HOST

  2. Sara, I write a lot of opinion articles for a social research polling site, so I know how important research is most of the time. To answer your question, I think picking which research material to use is sometimes the tricky part. Some research material is abundant and some is sparse.

    I like your advice, though, about picking a topic (for a novel) where you have unlimited resources to research from. Is your husband a doctor, or a nurse? That would be a good reason to write a medical, suspense novel. The inside information you could get would be priceless and make your story more attractive, interesting and authentic-sounding.

    Good advice!

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