The Fun of Fake Research and How to Avoid It

We know what we believe and no pile of facts or expert opinions will propel us out of our comfortable Lazy-Boy of certitude.

But we are missing one of the greatest joys of writing: research.research in times of Fake News

Even if you disagree with every fact you uncover, research is fun, researching for a book or article can become the project itself, every bit as agreeable as an afternoon spent on Pinterest.

Oh look, puppies!

I teach a class on critical thinking and writing so much of my rant about research and the veracity there in, is to prevent students from  quoting urban legends or common wisdom, or FOX news.  Yes, you say, still seated comfortably, perhaps pulling a beer from the cooler embedded into the chair arm, but research is just for academics, I write fiction, no need to research, it’s my world building against yours.

That was BG.  Before Google.  In the happy past, women knew their place, white men made a living wage tightening wing nuts and  fiction writers used to be more or less exempt from research, it was our world after all, get over it.  But like the wing-nut tightening business, the industry changed.     

Everyone can look up everything.  Which means that you, the author, need to be more diligent with your facts and claims and yes, do more research, which will lead to the problem stated above, the more you love the research, the fewer words will end up in your final book.

So we have two challenges:  You need to do research, but  the research will quickly take on a life of its own through no fault of yours (puppies).

What to do?

  1. Haul yourself out of the recliner.
  2. Limit the research to three credible sources.
  3. Look for consensus and then just write from there.

Credible?  How the heck can I know what is credible?

Ask a couple of questions about the site, or journal, or white paper you’ve just encountered on your digging search:

Commercial or Academic? 

Is the information you found   just advertising copy?  Double check against another site to be sure.    

Links to corroborating sites.

Look for links to other sites – often academic and legitimate sites cheerfully link to more information or to deeper sources.  Flow the links from  one site to the next to next.

For an academic paper your goal is to find the original sources, kind of like finding the source of the Amazon.  Sometimes it feels like it takes that long as well but it’s worth it, just to be very clear.

Can you find the original article? ( I’m looking at you Huffington Post.)

Dig deep and find the original article or journal rather than just believing, and quoting, the first time you see the comment.   

Yes, you can start with Wikipedia

Believe it or not, as much as academic denigrate Wikipedia  Wikipedia isn’t a bad way to start  your research.  Just don’t end there.  Ever.  Yet, the OED was essentially crowd sourced, and Wikipedia is gaining legitimacy.  However, I’m still a fan of digging deeper.

Contact the author.

Is there an email?  Can you contact the author of the web site or journal article?  Can you ask them a direct question about what you need to know?  Probably. Give it a try. You know yourself that you love to be considered an expert in your field, give that compliment to another author, they may respond with   great information.   

Or did the author of the web site post  a selfie  wearing a colander covered in tin foil? A professional tip: don’t reference that site.

If you are writing  fiction, you may want to write the novel first, then research only what you need to research. That will help narrow your search and allow you time to actually write, rather than  just research as fun as it is.

Oh, and did you know you can create pin boards that track your research, discuss your work in progress and are all about your book?   Sorry.  Now you’ll never get that book started . . . But aren’t the puppies cute?  Make a Pinterest board.

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The Agent Pitch

How to pitch to an agentI had requests to post the notes from the workshop I just gave for Agent’s Pitch Day.  Here they are.

Congratulations, you are here to move your book forward – this is exciting and a wonderful opportunity. And nerve wracking.
I am here to help you make the most effective use of your five minutes with these lovely agents and publishers.
They are here to find great ideas, great books and great authors. Remember this is a business. They want to be able to sell you and your book to it’s specific public.

They are looking for the right fit.

So know, right now, that this isn’t a beauty contest. This is not a win/lose activity. If there is a fit – celebrate! If there are no fits, you’ve learned valuable information and can make more choices for your book publication life later this afternoon. After dinner. Maybe after a bottle of wine.

Here, from Andy Ross, is what these Agents and Editors would rather not hear

• Reading from Note Cards
• Presenting a memorized talk
• Explaining the entire plot of the book
• Telling the agent that this is the next best seller
• Telling the agent that your book will make a great film.

Here is what we will help you with.
• Figuring out and delivering what your book is about which is different than the plot
• Delivering that essence of the book and your platform in a few words.
• Expressing why you are uniquely qualified to write this book – your qualifications.
• Creating an answer for promotion.

Don’t worry about perfection, that’s not the point

Agents are here because they want to see you in person, so as much as you can, be yourself.

Just in case you end up before an editor who did not list your subject in their “want” list, talk to them anyway. Use your 5 minutes to ask them what they are looking for. What is selling? What genre is hot and what is the up and coming genre? Do they know anyone who would be interested in your book?
Tell them a bit about your book anyway.
Breathe.

What is the book about?
Social justice?
Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll?
The clash between expectations and reality?

Rather than list off plot points in chronological order, what is the book’s essence?
There is a reason films cycle around a single idea or protagonist. We can say, Oh Spiderman, and we are done.
How can your idea and book fit into that tiny frame?

Who are you? Have you won awards? Hiked through the desert?
Do you have a massive Social Media following?
Why are you uniquely qualified to write this book?

Platform, this is the overall reason you wrote a book. Platform is also something on which to build a promotional campaign.

Elements of a good pitch
Hi my name is XXXX and I have written a novel based on my experience doing or being XXXX the novel is about a boy, a girl and social enlightenment and will appeal primarily to female readers who buy both e-books and hard copy novels. I already have a following of 10,000 on my blog of the same name. Would you like to hear more?

Hi, my name is Catharine and I’ve written a YA Science Fiction Time travel book series Future Girls featuring female heroines who escape to the past to change their future. I am passionate about delivering the message that teens can change their future by what they do right now.

I am a college professor with two degrees in English and am growing my Facebook Instagram and Pinterest following using both organic and paid advertising in order to increase interest in these books.

To learn more.
Visit us on iTunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
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When Your Characters Go Rouge

From our upcoming book –
Don’t Write Like We Talk
What we learned from agents & authors, publishers & poets

Why characters matter, Catharine BramkampYou have your character all figured out. You’ve even created the hero according to last week’s suggestion of deconstructing the characters in a comic book

Some authors identify their characters by zodiac sign.

Some write extensive backgrounds, time lines, favorite pets, the parent’s story.

We write long biographies for every character who appears in the story.
All of this work can be excellent exercises, and valuable as you flex your writing muscles; however, most writers will confess that their characters, the good characters, are not so easily controlled. What many of us have discovered: as soon as you think you know everything about your character and as soon as you sit down and think, well today my character will drive to the store fight a dragon, and fall in love with the prince — they suddenly will not cooperate.

Like children, fictional characters are strangely resistant to The Plan. You remember the week after your precious bundles of joy showed up? You created the ultimate calendar of success based on the 98 books on child rearing you  read during the last nine months.  You tracked to the hour  developmental benchmarks.  You wavered between placing the child in the advanced  Yellow Tiger class or holding him back for another six months as a Blue Bear.

You delivered multiple children to multiple lessons:  piano, trumpet, bongo. You spent months of your life driving  to band, ballet, tumbling practices. You  spent hours cheering from the side lines during little league, soccer, la cross.  And what happened?  At twenty, your precious bundle announced he wants to be a chicken farmer, an option markedly absent from the Goals List (subtitled Acceptable Careers Mom Thinks You Should Pursue).   

Fictional characters will do much the same thing. Characters in your story   or novel will just blurt out comments, pursue the villain down unmarked streets and race so quickly away from your expectations that you have no choice but to just hold on for the ride.

Take notes along the way.
As traits and details about your characters emerge, just keep track.
Create a running reference list chronicling his coffee preference, her favorite drink, what she hates, what he’s afraid of.
Remember to note her eye color or if she starts flipping back her hair when she’s stressed.
These notes will help with consistency as well as keeping your hero and heroine on track, not your track of course, but theirs.
The picture will emerge. Sketch it out as your character comes into focus.

Someone needs to farm those chickens.   

To learn more.
Visit us on iTunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
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Why Your Characters Matter

“First, find out what your hero wants. Then just follow him.”

~Ray Bradbury

Ask me about a favorite book – and I’ll describe the heroine.

We often, if pressed, remember key points of a plot, but what really sticks in our heads are the characters.  We remember the who over the how, and before the what.   

Do we love Jane Austen’s books because of the  intricate plots? Not really.

The story? Please, we know the story. What we love are the characters, the strong women who get into trouble because they blurt out what they are thinking, the handsome hero who is just misunderstood, the spunky friend for whom we wish as much happiness as we wish for the heroine. We may not relate to the plot, but we certainly identify with a well developed character.

Listen to what you say when you play a movie for the fifth time, it’s not

about the plot or the story — you just want to see the hero or heroine again.

“I love him.” You murmur under your breath.

That said, how on earth do you do it?

One way is to open a comic book. (Bonus, the trip to the comic store can be called research.  You’re welcome.)

Comics have great heroes.  Take a look at three or four heroes and deconstruct them:

What motivates them?Why characters matter, Catharine Bramkamp

What do they look like?

What are their tags?

What is their super power?

Their kryptonite?

Love interest?

Why do they wear a mask? (Think of this metaphorically for your own heroine)

As simplistic as is sounds, just taking a look at Iron Man, Batman, and/or Cat Woman can give you a strong idea of how to create an equally strong character.

Once you have your character, start throwing obstacles at them, and watch what they do.

To learn more.
Visit us on iTunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
Or just follow me on Newbie Writers Group on Facebook
And Instagram #catharineBramkampWriter
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First Step towards Writing a Book

Don’t Write Like You Talk
What I learned from agents & authors, publishers & poets

Clients often ask, what are the steps to writing a book?

There are steps and there are steps.  Writing is personal and interesting and quirky. That is why there are so many books about writing, that is why there are so many suggestions, that is why I’m part of the problem.Article on the first step to writing a book

When you are stuck writing – and if you’re reading this, you are, mosey over to Pinterest.  There are countless Pinterest boards devoted to writing – from pithy quotes to fabulous infographics on how, what, who, colors, better words that “said”, better words that “you”.  A nice selection of information and help.  I have Pinterest Boards on writing so you can check them out. But I’m not the only writer on Pinterest.

In case those  nifty infographics do not inspire –  here is the first basic writing step.

(Just to continue the metaphor – no one learns to walk without falling down. A lot.

Remember that as you take those steps towards your writing project.)

Step 1 – start small with embarrassingly low stakes, goals and expectations.

I’m not kidding. 

Examples of good first step goals.

  • Today I’m going to think about my writing for ten minutes while standing in the shower
  • This month I will write for 1/2 hour.
  • I will stop talking about my novel (since I suspect my friends are bored with the plot already) and instead write down all the ideas that I like to discuss when well into my fourth handcrafted stout.

You may think, that’s just insane, those aren’t real goals, I have never seen an infographic listing goals like that.

Yes they are. Any activity that gets  words out of your head, out of your summary speech for the academy awards which you know by heart, and onto paper, is a good activity.

Start there – take an initial step, clutch the back of a chair for support.  Then tune in for additional steps right here.

To learn more.
Visit us on iTunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
Or just follow me on Newbie Writers Group on Facebook
And Instagram #catharineBramkampWriter
And Pinterest Catharine Bramkamp
The theme is, Catharine Bramkamp

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