I do a lot of writing. So much that you don’t see here, and honestly I have no idea when I’ll have things to share (though if you’re willing to put up with all my goofy reblogs on Tumblr, I do share things there from time to time).
I also do a lot of reading. Fanfiction, ebooks, physical copies of fiction. I read constantly. And occasionally I help people with editing.
Over the weekend I was beta-ing a fanfic for a friend of a friend. It was good- the dialogue was sharp, no grammatical or spelling errors. But it was an alternate universe set in a coffee house, and it was clear that she didn’t know the ins and outs of a coffee house.
And world building is really important. Look at your favorite stories. Odds are the reason they’re your favorite is because you can immerse yourself in the world of the book. Harry Potter? Wouldn’t be nearly as interesting if you couldn’t feel the wonder that Harry felt visiting Diagon Alley.
A big part of it is research. If you’re creating a fantasy story or sci-fi, you get to make up the rules. But if it’s set in the real world (or the history), then you should do some research. Think about the cop shows where you watch them blatantly ignore the basics of law. How many episodes before you start wondering if anyone they arrest gets convicted when they go in front of a jury? (I’m looking at you Hawaii Five-O)
In the case of this fic, I suggested she spent the afternoon at a coffee house and try to chat with the baristas, or Google up demonstrations for how to make drinks. Because as good as her story was, the elements that she got wrong about the coffee house pulled me straight out of it.
(Yes, she did give me permission to write about this provided I didn’t mention her name)
I love research, frankly. It’s why I’ve gone to maritime museums, natural history museums to sketch bird wings (and zoos to do the same). I’ve spend countless hours in libraries, and have folders filled with notes. Don’t get me started on my bookmarks. And it’s all been worth it.
So if you’re writing fiction, do your due diligence. Your readers will thank you for it!