Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Research Tips for Writing What You Don't Know by Jennifer Slattery

Have you ever been typing away on your WIP and come across a need for a tidbit of information that seems illusive? Author Jennifer Slattery provides a few tips to keep you from panicking. -- Sandy

Jennifer: I think writers would be awesome trivia pursuit contestants. Well, if the questions were completely random and less on pop culture or musical history and more on all those strange things that have never crossed most people’s mind. Chances are, those topics never crossed our minds, either, until necessitated by our story world.

Of course, the biggest questions just happen to come when we’re midway through our story, the most inopportune time for sure. And every once in awhile—often, actually—we hit a question whose answer evades us, no matter where or for how many hours we search. Then panic arises as uncomfortable questions flood our brain, like: What if I never find the answers to this? Will I have to start my story over completely? Or worse, abandon this plot thread all together?

We’ve all been there, most likely numerous times! Here are some things I’ve discovered:

1. God’s always got the answer, and yes, sometimes that does involve gutting an entire novel. But revisions are simply part of the process, and things always get done. So, when a complete rewrite is in order, I simply need to remind myself that everything is fixable and I’ve done it before, so I can do it again. Besides that, God’s still sovereign over my career. That plot hole didn’t surprise Him. It didn’t throw His plan for me for a loop. To the contrary, if He allowed the struggle in, He’s using it for a good, hope-filled purpose.

So, I take a deep breath, pause to turn to Him in prayer, then get to work. Because fretting, about it is a waste of time and energy.  

2. There are numerous people out there willing and able to help me. I just need to locate them. I’ve talked to insurance agents, medical personnel—including an organ procurement coordinator and hospital chaplain, mental health professionals, soccer players, El Salvadoran translators, prison guards, restaurant owners, and many, many more, and I’ve found there’s nothing like chatting with a real-live person to get the creative juices flowing. Plus, as I share my ideas, they can let me know which ones won’t work, something I may not discover on the Internet.

3. I must keep a detailed notebook, because chances are you won’t get a contract on the book you’re researching now until a few years later, long enough (and with enough other stories in between) that you’ve forgotten many of the facts and details you spent hours upon hours tracking down. You know what that means, right? Yep. You’ll have to start over, only on a deadline this time, or, if you had a deadline during draft one, on a much tighter deadline.

What about you? What are some ways you find information on things you’re unfamiliar with? Or do you try to avoid the unknown and write only what you know instead? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from each other. 


Jennifer Slattery writes soul-stirring fiction for New Hope Publishers, a publishing house passionate about bringing God’s healing grace and truth to the hopeless. She also writes for, Internet CafĂ© Devotions, and the group blog, Faith-filled Friends. When not writing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband.
Visit with Jennifer online at and connect with her on Facebook at

Abandoned by her husband for another woman, Tammy Kuhn, an organ procurement coordinator often finds herself in tense and bitter moments. After an altercation with a doctor, she is fighting to keep her job and her sanity when one late night she encounters her old flame Nick. She walks right into his moment of facing an unthinkable tragedy. Because they both have learned to find eternal purposes in every event and encounter, it doesn’t take long to discover that their lives are intertwined but the ICU is no place for romance….or is it? Could this be where life begins again?
Intertwined, part of New Hope Publisher’s contemporary fiction line, is a great reminder of how God can turn our greatest tragedies and failures into beautiful acts of love and grace. Readers will fall in love with the realistic characters and enjoy the combination of depth, heart-felt emotion and humor that makes Jennifer’s novels so appealing. Readers will be inspired to find God in every moment and encounter in their own lives!

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