Sunday, October 28, 2012

Writing Equals Constant Research - Guest Post by AM Jenner

I'm quite excited to have AM Jenner here, stopping on a rollicking blog-tour to talk about writing. So, without further ado, I'll hand over the reigns. Expect me back early next week with a perhaps long-overdo tech post, of which we've been light as of late.


Fourth stop on my international blog tour, Bayside, New York. Thanks so much to
Leonard Suskin for hosting me; it’s good to be here.

Every place I go, I always stop along the wayside to learn new trivial bits of
information. As an author I never know when I may need to use them in a novel. For
example, I may never need to know that the strings on a harpsichord are plucked as
the keys are pressed, rather than struck with a hammer like a piano. On the other hand,
someday I might need that piece of information.

The old adage about writing is to "write what you know". I both agree and disagree
with the statement. I have seen writing friends spent years researching various topics
for a book they want to write, but they never seem to get down to actually writing the
book. In my mind, this research is simply wasted time. They have spent many years
looking up obscure facts they will never need to know in order to write the story they
desire to write.

On the other hand, I have read books which contain technical details that are
incorrect. If I am in a position to recognize that this particular detail is incorrect, it throws
me out of the story. If too many details are incorrect, I have been known to set the book
aside and not finish it because it is too frustrating to read so many inaccuracies, even in

Good writing strikes a balance between the two extremes. An author has to have
done enough research in the field in which they are writing about in order to appear
knowledgeable enough to those readers who know better. At the same time, they do
need to actually write and finish the book, or, no matter how technically perfect it is,
nobody will ever get a chance to read it.

The way I approach the situation is this: I simply begin writing, following the outline I
have, and listening to my characters. If I come to a situation where I'm not quite sure of
the right way to do a particular thing, I make myself a note that I need to research that
particular thing. Then I go on writing until the first draft is complete. Sometimes, the thing
I thought I needed to research ends up not being important, and is removed from the
manuscript during the first revision. If I find that I do actually need that particular piece of
knowledge, this is when I do the research.

For example, when I was writing Fabric of the World, there were several camels
involved in the story. There were also many horses involved. I found that I had to do
research on which animal was better for what applications in a Sahara-type desert.
When my main character got on his camel for the first time, I had to do research on

how a camel gets up from a kneeling position so that I could properly describe the
movements and sensations my character experienced. Additionally, there was over an
hour of research time spent learning the exact mechanics of the mating practices of
camels. However, there was no need for me to become an overall expert on the subject
of camels in order to glean the few small pieces of information about them which I
needed for my novel.

Likewise, if I am writing a techno-thriller where a computer goes mad and tries to
take over the world, I need general information on the capabilities of various computers,
rather than an in-depth knowledge of how to build and repair computers, and what
makes them work.

If every writer only wrote about things which they had a deep understanding of, it
would hamper them severely in their ability to write fiction. In writing fiction, although it is
extremely important to make sure that information presented as fact is correct, there is
an even higher priority to ensure that the story gets told.

All writing has a purpose. That purpose can be to inform, to entertain, or to invoke
a particular feeling. Good writing does more than one thing at a time. Great writing
incorporates all three goals at once. Great writing cannot be accomplished by an author
ignorant of facts and who refuses to do research. However, if an author is spending
so much time on research to become an expert in a given field that they never write
their story, then they’ve gained that knowledge for no reason and their time has been
wasted, because the story goes untold.


The Siege of Kwennjurat is the second book in the Kwennjurat Chronicles. Alone in Kwenndara, Princess Tanella cares for the refugees from war-torn Jurisse, while she worries about her loved ones’ safety. Her new husband Fergan is two days away in Renthenn, coordinating the business of two kingdoms.

Kings Jameisaan and Fergasse join forces in Jurisse to pursue the war against the Black Army. They know Liammial hasn't played his last card, and are willing to give their lives to protect their people and their children.
Who will triumph and claim the throne of Kwennjurat?

A M Jenner lives in Gilbert, Arizona, with her family, a car named Babycakes,
several quirky computers, and around 5,000 books. A self-professed hermit, she loves to interact with her readers online. Her books are available at, as well as most major online retailers.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the information. I always wondered how much research is needed for a novel, and I now have a much clearer grasp of what is required. Leonard, your site looks very interesting and I'll probably spend more time here getting to know you.

    Becky - a Salt Lake gal!