As writers, we learn not to repeat words. We look for and cut out our favorite words when used too often. I have had many of my pieces end up with rainbow highlights as my writing partner pointed out the number of times I overused words. But there is one we cannot repeat enough.
Have you ever been reading a book and thought, “Wait a minute, this isn’t right.” The author has misrepresented a nurse, social worker, teacher, police officer, or someone else in a different line of work. We might overlook one mistake, but when misrepresentations happen repeatedly, we grow frustrated and have no wish to finish reading. Unfortunately, we also end up having no desire to recommend the book to our friends.
As writers, we have a responsibility to our readers. Nonfiction may have amazing moments to the point of being almost unbelievable, but fiction must be true to life.
Of course, if talking about a fantasy book, all rules change as we create our own worlds. When we design what has never been, we come up with something so totally unique readers don’t compare it to anything in real life.
But, when it’s an average fiction book, and especially if it’s historical fiction, all details must be accurate. Whether it’s about an occupation, a health issue, a part of the world, or anything else, we must present specifics correctly. The internet provides so much material from which to glean. We can no longer use the excuse of a lack of information.
Years ago, a friend recommended a book. I found it at the library and opened it with excitement and enthusiasm. The protagonist lived with type 1 diabetes (which I have) and had a high-level stress job. The deeper I went into the book, the greater my level of frustration grew. To make sure I didn’t overreact, I asked another type 1 diabetic friend to read it. The inaccuracies blew both of us away.
The writer who penned the entire novel, and who I’m sure spent weeks, if not months, creating and crafting, lost two readers. Neither one of us would recommend the book or the writer. If this writer could let one book go out into the world without proper research, they might do the same in others.
You see, though it may take two or more books to gain a follower, it only takes one full-of-mistakes novel to lose a devoted fan.
Bottom line: research, research, research. We can’t afford to lose readers because we don’t do our homework.