BOOKS, BROWSING, AND BEGGING: TIPS AND TRICKS TO KEEP FROM DROWNING IN INFORMATION WHILE WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION
By John Winn Miller
For Strand Magazine Blog
The legendary American sportscaster and writer Red Barber once said, “Writing is easy. Just sit down and open a vein.” As I and any other historical fiction writer can tell you, that is an understatement.
Not only do we have to write an engaging story with lots of action, suspense, and romance, but we have the added burden of hundreds, if not thousands, of eagle-eyed readers, scouring our work like homicide detectives for the slightest anachronism or historical inaccuracy. The only defense against being embarrassed is a sometimes-maddening chase down one rabbit hole after another in pursuit of an elusive detail, otherwise known as research.
I’ve written three World War II-era novels–one published, one sold, and one in progress–and while I’ve come to enjoy the research, I’ve had to learn some tricks to keep track of that mountain of information. I was determined to be specific and historically accurate about everything from what people ate to what brand of watch they wore to how they treated diseases and even to how sailors steered a U-boat.