From where do you root? Many people want to know the roots of their family, evidenced by the success of such websites as Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org. For authors who write autobiographies, biographies and other nonfiction genres, having correct, verifiable data, enhances their reputation with editors, and incorrect data may ruin or damage it. Who wants to waste time reading something written by an author who has proven to be unreliable? Even people who read fiction expect accuracy from the author writing about historical events or scenes based on actual places. Because of that, I added an “AUTHOR’S NOTE” to my novel (UNDER PRESSURE-MOTIVATIONAL VERSION by Mr. D.). After reading part of it, a prison guard said to me, “That is not correct. The B.O.P. does not have TASERs, and SORT wouldn’t have been the one to respond.” He then went on to explain which emergency response team would have responded to the situation I wrote about in a scene using my literary licenses. (Please go tohttps://www.smashwords.com/books/view/353812 to read my definition of literary licenses in the Author’s Note, which I only use when writing fiction.)
RESEARCH: Researching is important in any form of writing for publication. Using numbers and statistics to support a position or hypothesis makes a paper appear authentic and often keeps a reader interested: Writers get the numbers and statistics through research. When an author uses accurate data, the reader becomes more assured that he or she can trust and rely on what the author writes and that the author knows the subject matter. As most people should realize, all sources of information are not reliable; especially, the volumes of information now available at the touch of a few keystrokes on a computer. Numerous blogs and other forms of media contain incorrect information from unreliable sources, even some websites that the “Curious” frequent for medical information. Reliable sources are vital for a writer to succeed in the highly-competitive, nonfiction, magazine market. For instance, some editors will reject an article if Wikipedia is the source of information, since credentials are not required and a person may post information believed to be true but is not. (Wikipedia does contain a lot of good information for researchers to use.)
Seasoned writers search various sources to determine which information to use to effectively relay the message they want to convey to their readers. Several methods exist for finding information on most topics. Old School tactics include interviewing those with personal expertise in a field of study, or going to observe a process or event as it is being conducted, rather than sitting at a computer screen surfing the Deep Blue Web. By an author interviewing someone qualified to speak on the subject, or by watching and listening to learn, they may observe or detect something not mentioned in a written document or other source. Nevertheless, other methods of information gathering comes from reading reference books (almanacs, good dictionaries (biographical and geographical sections), encyclopedias, yearbooks, etc.), or books written by those knowledgeable on the subject; searching for related articles in periodicals (e.g., magazines, journals, newspapers); going to a library to speak with a librarian, or going online to search on-line catalogs and other on-line databases. The majority of librarians can offer additional advice on navigating the web or other sources for collecting information to use.
The Internet has become the main source of information in today’s world, but writers must beware of the source and check to see when the site was last updated, and whether anyone claims authorship and lists their qualifications for writing on the subject. Equally important is the domain name in the URL (the address of the computer). The domain name in the URL indicates the purpose or origin or the website. Here is a list and brief explanation of some meanings:
1) “.com” is commercial, usually trying to sell something;
2) “.gov” is a government site, which may help to update or inform people about events or activities, like bills pending in Congress, or other public information;
3) “.org” shows it is a non-profit organization (an NPO may be wholesome, or may not be, as some scams are operated under the guise of providing something worthwhile or for the betterment of society); and
4) “.edu” for education (probably the most reliable for information overall).
Even researching for family history can be difficult and misleading. Author Christina Hamlett makes a valid point in an article she wrote about researching, which mentioned obtaining information from Ellis Island Records: the information listed is based upon the interpretation of the port authorities who may have had to guess how to spell the name of an immigrant, and that some immigrants may have intentionally listed false information; e.g., changed names, marital status, or from where they came. She lists several valuable websites for authors to further the search beyond the typical websites that the majority of people will go to when searching from where they came. These sites allow anyone to dig deeper to find family roots or information about a person of interest:
Census Finder: www.censusfinder.com
Census Records: www.censusrecords.com
Cyndi’s List: www.cindislist.com/categories (select Genealogy)
Dead or Alive: www.deadoraliveinfo.com
Death Records Online: www.myheritage.com
Ellis Island Records: www.ellisislandrecords.org
United States Vital Records Information: http://vitalrec.com/index.html
“Consider the Source: Fact-Checking” by Christina Hamlett, Writer’s Guide 2014, $23.95, Writer’s Publications,www.writersbookstore.com. (Most links used in this article come from her well-written article.)
She also lists several websites for checking facts and historical data writers may want to use to verify the accuracy of their primary source of information for an article, blog, book, or essay. She cautions, “Whenever you decide to incorporate recent or historical dates, never rely 100 percent on your own memory.” Great advice! Memories fail and all human brains malfunction on occasion when storing and retrieving memories. Try these links for verifying data accumulated during your research:
The Fact Checker: www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker
Historical Timeline: www.historicaltimeline.com
Animated Atlas: www.animatedatlas.com/timeline.html
This Day in History: www.history.com/this-day-in-history
ROOTS OF WRITERS: Perhaps the roots of some writers run all the way back to Moses and the Ten Commandments and writers of the best selling book in history: the Bible. “The Gutenberg Bible … was the first major book printed in the West using movable type. It marked the start of the ‘Gutenberg Revolution’ and the age of the printed book in the West. …. Written in Latin, the Gutenberg Bible is an edition of the Vulgate, printed by Johannes Gutenberg, in Mainz, Germany, in the 1450s.” Wikipedia.org, updated 10/22/2014 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gutenberg_Bible). A copy did not reach North America until 1847; available for public viewing at the New York Public Library. The last sale of a complete Gutenberg Bible occurred in 1978 for $2.2 million, and is now kept in Stuttgart (Clausen Books Gutenberg Bible Census (http://www.clausenbooks.com/gutenbergcensus.htm). The estimated value of a complete copy ranges between $25-35 million. The author of that one has bragging rights! Too bad he could not stick around to see the fruits of his labor manifest into something so valuable and miraculous.
For another notable piece of history about the printed Word, according to the Dictionary of Modern English, Wordsworth Edition, 2005, “[t]he edition of the Bible known as the Authorized Version ([was] first published in 1611 under the aegis of King James I) ….” Lots of readers prefer the King James Version of the Bible, or other variations of it. Going back farther than that, Socrates (ca 470-399 B.C.) and Plato (ca 428-348 (or 347 B.C.)) also made their mark in history long after they had lived, with their volumes of published philosophical ideals taught in the academic arena to this day.
The devoted and meticulous writers are a special breed of writers. All writers are not created equal: It takes an internal overdrive and determination to produce exceptional prose. To quote Brandon Royal from THE LITTLE RED WRITING BOOK, $16.99, Writer’s Digest Books (2004), “Most people hate reworking their writing. It is human nature. The pressure and agony of writing is one reason why alcohol has been humorously dubbed ‘the occupational hazard of professional writers.’ It is not the writing per se, but the rewriting and redrafting process that can drive a person to drink. Worse is the reality of knowing before you began to write — no matter how well you write — your writing will require revision.” For instance, before I began writing this little piece of writing, I knew it would take revising several times to get it “close” to the way I truly wanted it before submitting it for publication. What I did not know was that I would be revising it for at least twenty-times (I lost counts days ago), long past the date I had planned for its completion. If I had not stopped drinking many years ago, so I could grow up and become somebody, I would have probably gotten drunk and clicked to send several days ago, rather than to continue to wrestle with the words on this computer screen. Knowing I will never get it to the level of perfection I prefer, I will eventually just say well-enough, and click send to be done with it so I can move on to the next project. So much is the life of the writer. We write and write and write until some of us run into the occupational hazard known common to our craft. Jack London was one of the best writers around, but history tells that it was that occupational hazard that lead him to his end; therefore, I need to keep a clear mind so I can write until I can’t write anymore. I’m a work in progress.
To wrap this collection of words back around to the same line of thinking that it began, as I learned writers should do, I conclude with this: Writer or not, does anyone truly know from where their roots run? In particular, all of those writers who write in the many different styles and genres, which include so many ideas and topics that no one could ever effectively count them all before something new popped out of some writer’s mind and onto the pages of a book or computer screen. Anyway, maybe some writers came from another planet or from some place far away; especially, in considering the plots and stories in books and movies these days that stretch the imagination. Who knows from where they came? ANSWER: Only those with a reliable source.
Wayne T. Dowdy was first published under a pseudonym in 2003. Later on he decided to become a professional writer. He then took a college-accredited writing course through the Long Ridge Writers Group where he graduated in 2008. He has since been published numerous times in magazines and newsletters, mostly under a pseudonym. His most recent major projects include ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN (https://www.createspace.com/5040976), and the novel UNDER PRESSURE-MOTIVATIONAL VERSION by Mr. D. (https://www.createspace.com/4325313). Get the paperback versions at Amazon.com, CreateSpace.com, and other online and offline bookstores. For a limited time, purchase an eBook of the essay collection by using Smashwords coupon code SP43N for a 75% discount off the $9.95 list price. Visit his author’s page at Smashwords.com (https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy). Read more of his writings by adding “Wayne T. Dowdy” in your favorite search engine.