‘Excuse Me, Can I Ask You Something?’

So. What a full on weekend. I only managed to get 250 words down on my work in progress – which is a good thing seeing as it’s the most I’ve written in a while. I’ve committed to writing at least 250 words a day which I think is a reasonable goal. Lets see if we can stretch it to 500 words!

Ok. So. Saturday night. Late Saturday night. I was happily typing away when I had to stop for a second. I was in need of some information to help establish a scene so I gave myself a 10 minute research break (managed to stay off Pinterest! Ha!) but when Google, Bing and Wikipedia couldn’t answer my question I was left to ponder: how far can unpublished writers take their research?

For example; if I was writing a book where my protagonist practices in medicine or the law would I visit my local hospital or law firm to interview the professionals? Asking them for help, promising full acknowledgement when my book becomes published?

Would they take me seriously? Or would they think I was some nutter who should stop wasting their time, wondering if I have ever heard of a thing called the internet?

When you read the acknowledgments of a book,ย more often than not there are quite a few pages dedicated to professionals who have lent their expertise and guidance to the author. Helping their writing journey, making sure the characters stay true to form as possible.

Think about it. Google is a magnificent search tool but how much better is it coming straight from the horse’s mouth?

Would people we approach feel safer if we were published authors? I mean, anyone at any given time could be ‘writing a book’. Why would they take us seriously if we have absolutely nothing to show for our work?

Or do we cut our losses, get our library cards out and spend 4 hours a day in the research annex trying to decipher jargon that only a professional would be able to interpret?

How far have you taken your research? Was it only limited to books and search engines or have you approached the qualified? What was their reaction?

About Virginia

Writer, reader, crossword puzzler and conspiracy theorist.

17 Responses to “‘Excuse Me, Can I Ask You Something?’”

  1. Thank you for the link. I think for unpublished authors getting expert knowledge can be a daunting task. However, when I researched my simple guide to self publishing, I discovered that most ‘experts’ are more than happy to take the time to speak with you. In particular, a large organisations MD spent over an hour on the phone just talking me through the steps that his company takes. Sure, an hour doesn’t seem like much time, and yes, ultimately they got free advertisement, but it was provided on the basis that someone cared enough to ask. Never feel daunted to ask, I did encounter those that didnt want to help, but those that did take the time made it a much more pleasurable task – and I will never forget their help.


    • Hey, no problem ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for your comment, it’s refreshing to hear that there is positivity in asking a person for research. I think I need to do it because what I want to know are specific things, not a generalisation that google can provide me with. Thanks for following my blog ๐Ÿ™‚


  2. I am a HUGE proponent of the library. Several reasons. 1. I spent a huge amount of time in one because my mother was the director of our local library. After school was often spent in the stacks reading. 2. They have plenty of hard copy to borrow or copy. 3. The research librarian. Indispensible. 4. Other folks visiting and programs. Never know when something might be relevant. 5. Some have historical society rooms, a great thing for period pieces. 6. It never hurts to get up and go out! Sometime away from the keyboard can be a great thing.


    • I definitely get cabin fever from being in front of the computer for too long (don’t we all…?) And the problem is, there is just too much information on the internet. Way too much so one specific little thing that you might be looking for turns into some sort of mammoth quest for survival. I leave with nothing. Just frustration. I’m going to start using my local university library – lovely Anna, one of my followers suggested this a couple of comments ago. I have never thought of that and I love the idea.


  3. If you have access to a college library, I suggest you start your search there. But don’t shy away from asking real people questions! Anne Lamott wrote a great piece in her book Bird by Bird about researching the old fashioned way- by picking up a telephone and calling people. I agree with what Ellie said- you’d be surprised how helpful people are willing to be. After all, who doesn’t love talking about their expertise? If you’re looking to do some research somewhere in between the interwebs and walking into a hospital, lawyer’s office, etc, why not try to find an expert online? Send a few emails. Perhaps there is a writer out there who is/used to be a doctor who could help you out.

    Just my humble advice. Best of luck!


    • Flicking an email – good idea. I guess to me I’d feel like I was interrupting their busy work schedules. But you’re right, people do love talking about what they know. And funnily you mentioned it, I DO have access to a college library – I live in a major University town here in Australia. In fact, it’s just down the road. I didn’t think of using the university as research. I suppose even the students might be able to answer a few questions hey. Thanks for the advice, I appreciate it ๐Ÿ™‚


  4. P.S. Love the meme!


  5. I can see it now… “and a special thank you to Google without which this book would not have been possible…” ๐Ÿ™‚ This is something I haven’t really thought of much. So far I’ve always been able to find what I need online and in the books I own. I hope you do a follow up post and let us know how you made out finding the information you needed.


    • LMAO thats too funny – but probably very true! I found a link today believe it or not (after I wrote this post) via Bing and it was exactly what I was looking for. I think I will approach a professional although I’m a little apprehensive only because the information I am after is about psychiatric evaluations and criminals. Pretty full on subjects. Will definitely do a follow up post ๐Ÿ™‚


  6. Thank you for the link. I enjoyed the read.


  7. I’m a firm believer in crazy amounts of research, and if you can actually experience what it is you’re researching, definitely go for it! In the long run, it’s going to help your writing. If you sound like you know your stuff, readers are going to pick up on that. If it’s something you can’t experience first hand, research like hell – books, websites, watch documentaries, whatever you can do. Writing is such an amazing journey… just go with it!

    On a side note, I was trying to look up on Google how one might describe the smell of burning hair. (Yep, really. Burning hair.) It’s strangely something I’ve never experienced. I couldn’t find any solid adjectives other than a general “gross.” So, I plucked a few hairs outta my head and burned ’em.

    You know what? It IS gross.


    • Hahaha, that’s hilarious – but great. It’s probably something that I would’ve done too. The general consensus of writing is to write what you know but if I did that I wouldn’t have a very exciting book. Not to say I lead a boring life but I love gripping novels with murder, whodunnits and the like. I believe I can write this but yes, you’re 100% right there – research is key.


  8. Ian Rankin tells the story about when he was researching his first novel there had been a murder and he kept going to the police station to find out about the investigation and how things were going. One day he asked, “Are there any suspects?” They said, “Just one” Rankin asked, “Who is it?” And they said, “It’s you. You keep asking suspicious questions.”



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