Tuesday, March 22, 2011

It Takes a Village to Research a Book

I took the scenes with guns, or mention of gun-related things in them, and copied them into a separate document, with page citations. It fit into a letter-sized folder. My expert, B, took it without comment, and I expect he'll be able to return it in a week or so with useful comments in the margin. It's a topic he's always eager to talk about and apply to games, so I don't feel out of line here.

I printed out all the scenes with horses anywhere in them, and the pages fit into a circuit-board box big enough to mail a manuscript in, assuming anybody still mailed complete manuscripts.

W, my horse expert,'s eyes got wide with dismay when she saw it. I assured her she'd be able to skim a lot of it, and that if she found I'd given her more than she could chew I'd use my writing contacts to find somebody else. I'm asking a lot of her and I know it. She may not get them back to me till May, and I have no business asking her to hurry.

It's always better to use your own experience, if you can get the experience to use it; but short of spending several months riding horseback around the Hill Country, getting the manuscript vetted for accuracy is the only thing I can do to ensure that my ignorance doesn't spoil the book for someone like W further down the road. W has herself complained that you can always tell when a fantasy was written by someone who had never ridden a horse, as the mounts all behave much like bicycles or cars. She agrees with Diana Wynne Jones's explanation in The Tough Guide to Fantasyland of why fantasy novel horses are, in fact, vegetables. She also always has two or three creative projects going herself, so she has the right mindset for critique. But it's still a massive job and she has a lot going on already.

It behooves authors to be generous to our friends and to cultivate those creative people we meet into friends, as we may have to call upon them for services such as these at any moment, and for non-writers, it's a hard and bewildering job to vet a manuscript intended for professional publication. I don't think that'll be a problem this time, but we'll see.

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