I wrote for the AWP Writer’s Notebook about my experience doing historical research for REVERSING THE RIVER, my novel set in 1899 Chicago, about to be released on the Great Jones Street literary app (free to download for Apple & Android!).
The piece is called “Eight Things This Fiction Writer Learned about Historical Research,” and here’s an excerpt:
Number 1: The concept of “enough.” Perhaps the most important thing that the writer should remember is that one single word: “enough.” There is “enough” research when you’re writing fiction. You’re not going to learn everything about your time period, and, frankly, you don’t need to know everything: you only need to know “enough”—enough to tell your story in a believable way. You’re not writing an authoritative history; you’re writing a STORY. People are reading your book to see what happens next to your characters, not so they can understand trends in Elizabethan England.
So, beware of historians. Historians think you should know everything. You really only need to know “enough.” I know what kind of carriage my character Lucy rides in and what the road is like, but I don’t know if there are still posts to hitch up horses in the street. I don’t know if rich people in Chicago preferred black horses or brown horses. Sure, it would be nice to know those things, and if I did, I might throw the information into the story, but it’s not relevant and it’s not necessary....
And here is the rest: