Author Cooperation

Posted by on Apr 15, 2015 | Comments Off on Author Cooperation

Author Cooperation

This week we take a look at the importance of cooperating with and showing respect for other authors and for factual information, whether you write non-fiction or fiction. Build a reputation for accuracy, as well as respect for the truth and your fellow authors. 




Wandering Wednesdays

Last week my entire writing schedule was preempted by an email from a writer I have never heard of. He had contacted a cousin of mine through a genealogy site and was told I was the expert on the family history. I was on my guard, but the encounter turned out to be pleasant and productive for both of us. Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, there is a degree of research that has to be done to make your storyline accurate. Sometimes your writing will require reliance on another author’s material.

This writer is working on an article about a man who played a huge part in one of the most horrific episodes any family could endure—a multiple murder that happened 98 years ago. I have been researching this for most of my life. I did not want to share private family details that will make my story different than all the others out there. My cousins and I have made pretty substantial financial investments in our research. However, I wanted to show professional courtesy to another writer.

Many inaccurate versions of this aspect of this three-sided story have been published over the years and I don’t want him to write another one. So after consulting with a couple of cousins, we arrived at a solution. I explained in a respectful manner why I could not give him the “whole scoop.” However, I made his life easier by sending him public information he could find if he made a research trip to the area, or searched the internet. Another writer did that for me in the beginning of my serious research and I appreciated it very much.

In return for my limited information, he sent me four newspaper articles I had never seen before. I now have some new details to look into. Because he understands my reasons for not sharing private information, he offered to share anything else he comes across and to send me his article when it is published. Best of all, he promised to treat my ancestors with respect. As authors, we should show others the respect that we would like to be shown ourselves. In order to do this, it is often necessary to cooperate with each other.

Even when I researched my novel, I needed to authenticate information. There are a couple of people who have beenReading books invaluable to me. They made my novel accurate in ways I could not have foreseen. As I begin moving toward a new project based in history and personal opinion, and colored by the passage of time, it is essential to find and authenticate as much information as possible. Making it accurate includes determining which facts are the same in all accounts, which are unique to other participants, and which are exclusive to my family’s experience.

If you are writing fiction, you have some leeway in the accuracy of things. You are imposing fictitious characters or stories onto actual places, people, or events. As long as you have a disclaimer that the events, characters, and places are fictitious, though they may resemble things in reality, you are safe. Take note though, even fiction may sometimes require permission to use certain references. Check and double-check your sources for accuracy, getting permission to use sensitive pieces of information.

Along another line, I had a Facebook message a few months ago from another fiction author telling me that the same couple that appears on my book cover also appears on her book cover. She apologized and said she did not mean to copy me in any way, but she wanted to warn me. They were too far into the process to change. I thanked her, and respect her for doing the right thing. This is another example of professional courtesy.

Things that are written down are taken to be fact by most people. No matter what genre you write, some things must be accurate and will hurt you in the long-run if you don’t do your homework. Homework often equates with leg work, time, money, and delays in your publication timetable. All of these details are worth it, if it makes what you write believable and accurate. You gain the reputation of being a reliable resource, as well as garnering the respect of your readers and colleagues alike. Just like we were all taught as children, sharing and cooperation can go a long way toward making life more pleasant and more productive.

© Copyright by Norma Gail Thurston Holtman, April 13, 2015

About the author:

Norma - LoMD 2014Norma Gail’s debut contemporary Christian romance, Land of My Dreams, set in Scotland and New Mexico released in April 2014. She has led weekly women’s Bible studies for 19 years. Her devotionals, poetry have appeared at, the Stitches Thru Time blog, and in “The Secret Place.” She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, FaithWriters, Romance Writers of America, and the New Mexico Christian Novelists. She is a former RN who lives in the mountains of New Mexico with her husband of 38 years. They have two adult children.

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