To Source or Not Source

Screen Shot 2018-05-01 at 10.39.00 PMWhether you write historical westerns or modern, contemporary ones, most of us need to do some sort of research. Whether it’s a certain cell phone app exists or the year a treaty was signed, a writer should always have the facts right.

In today’s internet age, we have answers at our finger tips. We are able to simply Google a question (or, heck, speak it aloud into our phones!) and oodles of responses pop up. By now, many writers are able to spot a fake or unreliable online source, or know to check several others to have corroborating evidence, or even to email the person who keeps the website live to see if they can shed more light on a topic.

But the truth of it is, some of our digging comes from tried and true periodicals, newspapers, and books. (Raise your hand if you remember – or still do – checking out a ton of books on a topic before or during a book writing!) And some of our sources may even be oral.

The question then becomes: do you offer a reference, index, glossary, or bibliography in your book? Do you give sources? Do you tell people where you’ve learned details, and where more can be found? Or do you weave your tale, allowing seamless fiction and fact to flow together? How do non-fiction writers prefer to offer their notes?

There’s no right or wrong answer, but a lively discussion all the same!

— Sara Dahmen, blog coordinator

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One Response to To Source or Not Source

  1. brigidamos says:

    I think if it is fiction, it is best not to list sources. You want to create the illusion that the story is being told by someone from a historical time period, or someone with special knowledge of the subject matter or setting. I do a huge amount of research for my historical novels (and actually need to downscale that, since I’ve only written two over a 24-year period! I think it is best to save the description of research for blogs, talks, etc., unless there is something the reader really needs to know. You are right about the internet. It is very useful, but should be relied on with caution. For one of my books, I spent hours and hours taking notes in a historical library in Nevada City, California (no, I could not check out those sources). Sometimes I think I was crazy to to all since I am not an historian, and I have not made any money from fiction, but it is actually a happy memory, and all that research got me through a tough period in my life.

    Liked by 1 person

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