Tips and Topics for Writers #1- Research

Post #1 Researching True Crime and History Books

Over the years, I’ve edited a lot of history and true crime titles. There are a few common mistakes that first-time, and even seasoned, authors make.

Today, I’d like to discuss one of those.

Everyone in publishing understands the amount of time and effort it takes to research a history or true crime title. Let’s just say, it’s a lot. But, the digital world is slowly, but surely changing the landscape of that. Now more than ever, we have an abundance of sources at our fingertips. If a reader was so inclined, they could inundate themselves with sources outside of your manuscript.

However, that presents a unique challenge for the writer. You must provide a thoroughly researched manuscript, but with a balance.

Tip number 1 is “Don’t Fall Too Much in Love with Your Research.” Now, a caveat is that this pertains to your writing, and not the actual research. You can and should research the tee total heck out of your work.

But what I mean here is about your writing. You are the editor, in essence, the god of your manuscript. You decide what information to give a reader and what to hold back – what they need to read and what they don’t.

And that’s a power that requires balance.

You cannot overburden your reader with information that isn’t germane to your main topic. If, for example, you are writing a true crime story about a particular murder, getting too deep into the history of the town or city in which it occurs can quickly become a distraction.

Readers need to trust an author. That’s your ethos. They need to believe you’ve researched this enough to believe you and engage in the story.

Let’s be honest here. When we read, we’re a little lazy. In that, I mean we expect the author to tell us what we need to know. If a reader wanted to do all the research about aspects tangential to your main story, they definitely can. And they don’t need us for it.

So you must only give them what they need. Long stretches of tangential history that isn’t directly related to the story will take the focus off your main topic, confuse readers and potentially bore them.

As Elmore Leonard says in his 10 Tips for Writers, “Leave out the parts that people skip over.”

All of this is to say, you can’t burden a reader with too much information, especially if that information isn’t directly related to the main story.

The example I used earlier is having a large section where you break off from the main story to explain the history of the city. Here’s the problem: the reader didn’t grab the book for the history of the city. They bought it because of the true crime story or the history of the particular topic.

I know the research you’ve uncovered could be fascinating, newly uncovered and amazing. However, everything has its place. And this isn’t that place.

Keep your manuscript focused on your main topic as closely as you possibly can. Save the extra research for the next book!

It is crucial to ensure that you stay focused on the topic and do not deviate from that too far. You don’t want your reader to lose focus.

You can always save that great extra research for the next book!

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