Wonders of Research


Research takes time.  It can be frustrating as in sorting good material from bad, informative, i.e. one learns something and enlightening in a way that changes one’s perspective.  It can even be really exciting.

As noted in an earlier post, I’ve started writing the first book in a trilogy that takes place during the early days of the U.S. Navy.  Again, the Internet is a wonderful tool.  However, one has to be careful in how it is used and not because there are sites with viruses and malware, it is because there is a lot of bad info in cyberspace.

For the Age of Sail series, I’m compiling a list of sources that will be for be handy for books two and three.  Since my publisher has cautioned me that readers of this genre will pick the book’s operational scenes apart because they are very familiar with how square rigged ships are sailed, the tactics used and how they function.  If for nothing else, the list of sources will tell readers where the information in the scene came from.

I should know because I pick apart movies and books that are historically and operationally inaccurate.  When I see/read these passages, the author or the movie loses credibility.  Yes, there is some creative license but when one is showing Japanese dive bombers during the attack on Pearl Harbor or at the battles of the Coral Sea and Midway, don’t show film of U.S. Navy SBD Dauntless’s.

Back to research on the Internet.  I found a file with a list of Royal Navy frigates and ships of the line in service between 1760 and 1825.  Ditto for the Continental Navy.  In it is a link to the ship’s history in Wikipedia that leads me to the bibliography and more potential sources.

The real treasure trove was on the U.S. Navy’s archives where there are twelve volumes titled Naval Documents of the American Revolution.

When I opened one, my reaction was OMG!!!  There are letters between political figures, members of the Continental Congress’s Navy Committee, officers as well as diaries along with sections from official reports and ship’s logs.

For me, this material is dangerous.  Not to my health, but to my time.  The documents are transcribed as they were written so the diction, spelling and syntax represents how they wrote 1776 and makes them hard to read.  Nonetheless, one can get so involved, hours go by.

The question is how does it get incorporate in a manuscript.  At the advice of my publisher, conversations between the characters are in modern syntax to make it easier to read.  That was a godsend because trying to recreate someone speaking in 1776 would be hard, if not impossible for me to write.

Researching has been both fun and exciting as I sort through the material.  Writing the first draft of Raider of the Scottish Coast is well underway but not done, so I need to get back to writing and researching.

Marc Liebman

November 2018

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