Friday, February 14, 2014

As an organic writer, how do you approach research? I find I learn things off research that become major story elements, and yet, I have no idea what to research until I start writing the story.

I find that research and writing feed off each other. Early on in my work on a book, I’ll visit the location and keep my eyes open for things that grab my attention. I do this with the premise of the story in mind.

Never lose sight of the story’s preeminence in the balance of research and narrative. It’s easy to wow people with facts. Emotionally moving them with the story is the much more vital--and more difficult--task.

For example, while I was working on my current manuscript for Checkmate, I knew that I wanted to plant the story in Charlotte, North Carolina. So, last year I visited the city and took a history tour. While I was there, I learned that there are abandoned gold mines that thread underneath Uptown Charlotte. No one seemed to know where they were, but apparently they’d been built in the early 1800s and were never filled in.

Fascinating. That led me into researching to see if I could locate any historical documents that told the location of the mines—and I found one. Then, as I worked on the book, I kept in touch with experts on the history of Charlotte, asking questions as I moved forward with the story.

It’s a give and take of uncovering the story as you discover more about its elements. You’ll be tempted to over-research—and that has happened with me. I believe it’s best to work from your premise, grab hold of intriguing facts that relate to it, then move forward and keep researching as you write.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Ask the Author, 2014

Hello Fellow Authors,

Just a note to let you know I've submitted my current manuscript for Checkmate to my editor, so I'm ready to return to Ask the Author to answer your questions about the craft of writing.

I do have questions on the back burner, but I will eventually get to any new ones I receive. You can click on the "email me" link in the right column to submit your questions.

And please, especially if you're new to this site, read the previous questions and answers. You may already have your question answered before you even ask.

I look forward to hearing from you.

--Steven James