Do your research! (part 1)

I have been reading quite a few e-books lately. Mainly because I find it rather convenient to take my Kindle to work with me, but also because I am thinking about self-publishing one of my own novels. It seems that no one else wants to publish it, so why not?

But I’ve found that the reason why some of these novels have never been picked up by a publisher is because they have been shoddily written. Bad punctuation, grammatical errors and typos abound in the self-publishing world. Many of these authors could really use a good editor.

(Blatant self-promotion time – consider Garnet Services for your editing needs!)

But sometimes the problem lies in the research the author has done – or in some cases, failed to do. I ran across one instance in particular in a trilogy called “The Institute Series” by Kayla Howarth. This is a rather interesting spin on both the post-apocalyptic and superhero genres, and is certainly worth a read. But one instance really bugged me, and it’s something that is such elementary knowledge that the author really should have picked up on it.

In one scene, a character is holding a shotgun. A few pages later, the character swings the shotgun around and fires… a bullet.

Sigh….

OK, for those that don’t see the problem here, a shotgun is not a rifle. Or a handgun. They don’t fire bullets, or anything of the sort. You see, a shotgun fires shot (hence the name), which are tiny spheres or particles of metal which are packed into a shell with the gunpowder and other explosive material. Sometimes shotguns can fire other material – such as rock salt or beanbags – but they don’t fire bullets.

Admittedly, the series – and possibly the author – takes place in Australia. Given the draconian gun laws in that country, the author may not be aware of the way shotguns work. She may have never even held a shotgun in her hands.

But overlooking something so simple can lower the credibility of yourself as an author. For example, let’s say you have your police detectives come across a murder scene. Judging from the look of the body, the coroner determines the victim was killed with a shotgun blast. If the police detectives then begin searching the body for exit wounds, or looking for a bullet embedded in the walls… well, these detectives probably shouldn’t even be on the force. And if you have your detectives find a “large-calibre slug” fired from said shotgun deep in the doorframe, don’t be surprised if your readers decide to read something else instead.

If you, as an author, aren’t sure about something, be sure to take a moment to look it up. With the Internet, there is a wide variety of resources to choose from. Admittedly, some are better than others (especially with the raging debate about “fake news” going on right now), but it’s worth your time to do the research and make sure all your facts are correct.

After all, the only time you want your readers laughing at you is when you’re writing comedy.

 

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