Friday, January 02, 2009

Saved by research


When people ask me what the best part of writing is, I always say, "Research."

For the uninitiated, those who hear the word research and immediately think of hours spent in high school or college poring over dusty tomes and making notes on 3" x 5" cards, let me assure you that that's not what I mean at all.

Well, occasionally there might be dusty tomes. There are rarely (at least in my research) 3" x 5" cards. Mostly there is the chance to learn -- and often very interesting people to learn from.

The dusty tomes have their place. As does the internet. Research is vastly easier in the internet age than it was when libraries had a finite number of books and an even more finite number of hours during which you could use them.

With the internet open 24/7, it's much easier to learn -- as I did last night -- which plants flower in Manhattan Beach in the summertime. It's also useful to check on the flow of traffic, to pore over Google Earth maps and decide where my hero might want to live and what's nearby.

It will even help me with some of the things I need to know about lawyers. But not enough.

And that's where real live people come in handy.

The Prof's cousin is a lawyer. A very patient lawyer. A lawyer who doesn't mind (or if she does, she hides it well, which is probably one thing that makes her a good lawyer) being asked questions about lawyers.

And a good thing, too, as if I hadn't asked questions, I'd have alienated the entire legal profession with this book. As it is, she has saved Christo from being disbarred more times than I can count. One of her emails a couple of days ago said plaintively, "Are you trying to get him disbarred on page one?"

Well, no, I wasn't. How was I do know he couldn't do what I wanted him to do? It didn't seem 'improper' to me.

Color me wrong.

Why am I just discovering this now, you ask? I asked the same question a few days ago myself.

Well, because in this book's previous incarnation, while Christo was a lawyer, much of the action did not take place in a lawyerly realm. It took place elsewhere. On the beach, in the house, in Brazil.

It still takes place there, but not so much. Now there is a workplace involved (at the editor's request). Thus there are clients. And where there are clients, there are cases, lawsuits, details that have to be right. Or else.

There is life beyond this romance and it's in the workplace because that's where the editor wants it. I don't think it's a bad idea. But I understand far more clearly now why I didn't put it there in the first place -- I know damn all about being a lawyer.

So it's a good thing we have a lawyer in the family -- even the very extended family.

This is, I am learning, part of the reason these revisions are taking so long. It's like I've had to go to law school to write the damn book. Interesting to be sure, but not exactly what I'd planned to do over Christmas vacation.

The thing is, you will probably not notice it when you read Christo's story -- because, hopefully, I will have got it right.

You would primarily notice if I got it wrong. Then you would be throwing the book across the room and saying, "I'll never read that woman's stuff again. She can't be bothered to do the research."

Well, I can. And I have. And I hope it's right now. But I will surely hear about it if it's not.

I just need to go away now and get back to work so I can get this out of here sometime in the next few days. And then I may need to explain to the editor why some things take longer than others.

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