Tuesday, June 24, 2014

TUESDAY TIPS: Phone a Friend

TWO DAYS AGO, I answered an e-mail and explained how a diver would replenish the soda-lime scrubbing material in a diving rebreather. At the same time, a friend of mine in Palm Bay (a city not far from me in Florida) was detailing how a particular type of evidence would be collected from a crime scene. Meanwhile, in Virginia, a third friend was explaining how to do a tracheotomy using found objects, and yet a fourth friend (this one in California) was answering someone who wanted to know the differences between English and American libel laws.
   Oh ... and all of the people I talk about above are bestselling novelists.
   We are all members of a private Yahoo group, composed of more than 200 novelists scattered around the world, all with at least three books published by conventional, advance- and royalty-paying publishers. 
   Because the group is extremely active, we email one another daily, as well as getting together for the occasional retreat. And because we know each other well, we get to know one another's backgrounds. Several members, in addition to being popular novelists, are very successful physicians or attorneys. One is a retired police detective. Another is an actor. Yet another is an architect, and one is one of the world's greatest authorities on quilting. 
   And one service we provide our peers in the group is a sharing of that knowledge base. 
   So, as I am a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer (two steps above an instructor), as well as an NSS-CDS Full Cave diver, and a closed-cell rebreather diver, I tend to be the go-to guy whenever someone is writing a scene that involves scuba diving. And virtually everyone in the group has some area of micro-knowledge. One just published a book on how to do portrait photography ... of dogs.   
   True, much information is easily Googled today, but that's a two-edged sword: much information on the Internet is also incorrect. So by asking people we trust, we get solid information that helps us maintain the crucial reasonable suspension of disbelief with our readers.
   Point is, what we do on a wide scale basis, just about any writers group or critique group can do on a smaller scale. Get to know the people in your writing circle, and get to know them beyond the superficial level of what they write. 
   You may just discover that the medieval armor expert you're looking for is actually the blank-verse poet who sits next to you on Tuesdays.

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