My husband recently sent me a New Yorker article titled Suffering Souls: The Search for the Roots of Psychopathy because he knows I've been interested in this form of mental illness and its origins.
While we writers know now how to search for information regarding the projects we're working on — whether articles, essays, fictional characters, etc. — we should take the next step and as a matter of habit put out a call for information we need. The request could be simple, such as, "I'm looking for anyone with experience showing dogs in dog shows," or more specific, like "I'm working on a novel that takes place in Chicago in the late 1970s and want to include a scene at Wrigley Field, but I only went there a few times and don't remember much. Are any of you Cubs fans and if so, did you attend games at the stadium? What do you remember about those experience?"
The advantages to putting out a call for information are numerous:
• The array of networking sites now available allows us to reach a lot of friends and acquaintances quickly. Where before we might have had to email people individually or post "seeking information on the following subjects" on our websites and hope people happened upon the requests and responded, we can now shoot one email to a lot of people. A few of these networking options include Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and GoodReads. You can also create an author webpage with a corresponding bulletin board — perfect for posting information requests and connecting with your readers — through such services as WritersSpace.
• Humans love to help one another, especially if they know their expertise is sought and will be appreciated.
• When you draw in other people, they feel they have a stake in what you're doing and are likely to follow your progress, offer encouragement and form the beginning of an audience for the finished product.
• Why do all the work yourself in an isolated way when you can call others to your cause?
Here are a few more ideas for where you can post information requests:
• the print and/or online version of your local newspaper (or professional journal, hobby newsletter, etc.). Here's an example.
• the bulletin board of an organization that pertains to the type of information you seek. Here's an example.
• a forum visited by the age/gender/educational background of the people you think may have the experience you want and who may be intrigued by your inquiries.
Do you have more suggestions? Let me know.
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